We’ve been forced to change our lives in profound ways over this last year — even the way we educate our children. Kids learning online is suddenly the new normal for many parents. If you’re struggling with this concept, don’t worry, we’ve put together some helpful tips to make this journey a more pleasant one for you. First let’s understand the difference between remote learning, distance learning and online learning. Remote learning and distance learning are often referred to as one and the same.

Although both remote learning and online learning occur on the computer, there are distinct differences between them. Let’s take a closer look so you can decide how these options will work best for your family.

Remote Learning vs Online Learning

When you compare remote learning vs online learning you’ll notice that neither option is a bad choice. It just depends on the method that best suits your family dynamic and your children’s learning styles.

Remote learning: The basic goal of remote learning is to recreate the classroom environment. Students log in at specific times, just as they would attend classes in school, and take part in lectures, presentations or group activities with their classmates. It is a highly regimented learning method that best suits students who prefer structure.

Online learning: Flexibility is the key for online learning. Students can log on when it’s convenient for them or when their parents have scheduled them to start classes. Depending on the tools you choose, the online experience includes interactive activities, videos and student-paced lessons all in a multimedia environment. The flexibility makes it particularly beneficial for working families and students who prefer independent learning.

How Does Remote Learning Work

Remote learning basically mirrors classroom learning except the kids are at home rather than in-person. The school system creates the remote learning process using an online “course-hosting” platform such as Zoom, determines the schedule and length of time that your kids will be “in class” and sets the expectations for the school year. Parents and kids just follow their instructions.

Many school systems will combine live and recorded lessons, independent and collaborative tasks that support classroom instructions and brainstorming sessions. The classes start at specific times using a virtual classroom environment. Your children must log-in on time and stay for the entire class. Assignments are usually handed in via the online platform.

What Are The Pros and Cons of Distance Learning

There are some challenges and benefits to distance/remote learning. Once you review them, you’ll get a better feeling for how this educational method will fit your family dynamic. Let’s start with the advantages of distance learning:

  • More like classroom learning
  • A strict schedule that promotes accountability
  • Teachers grade all the assignments
  • Easy accessibility with a computer, tablet or laptop
  • Online interaction with classmates
  • Extended periods of time in front of a screen
  • Problems using the school’s online platform
  • Not enough flexibility
  • May interfere with the family’s work schedule
  • Unclear instructions from teachers

As you consider these pros and cons, you should also focus on how kids learning online will impact your household. You may need to cut your working hours or work from home if possible, participate in your kid’s schoolwork, share the chores, run errands at different times and more. Luckily, there are other resources that will help you and your children meet these challenges and thrive outside the classroom.

Tips on How to Help Your Student Thrive With Distance Learning

This is definitely a tough time for parents, kids and teachers. Anxiety levels are high, especially for parents who have little or no experience in teaching. If you’re in that boat, don’t lose hope. The following tips will provide you with the support, tools and confidence you need.

Additional tools parents can use: We mentioned remote learning vs online learning earlier. Yes, they are different, but you can still use online programs as an additional support system. For instance, Time4Learning is a web-based tool that you can use as an after school skill builder, a learning tool for kids with special needs, or as an engagement program for kids who get easily distracted. It offers:

  • The flexibility to use any time day or evening
  • An automated system that teaches, grades, and reports for you
  • Animated lessons that explain difficult concepts using humor, and instructional videos
  • An easy to use platform made just for kids
  • Self-paced lessons so students can learn comfortably and without stress
  • An online forum where you can chat with other parents

–  Activities/virtual playdates: If your kids have hobbies, give them time to focus on them. Take walks during lunch breaks, play silly games, listen to music, set up virtual playdates, or sit and have conversations. All these things will break up the day, give your kiddos an outlet to destress, and get in some physical activity.

Time management: It’s important that your children understand their school schedule. Make sure it’s printed out and displayed for all to see. Each day you should review their activities and their assignments. Regardless of grade level, all kids should understand their responsibilities and the time they have to fulfill them.

Consequences: You should be up front and clear with your students about the consequences of not doing their schoolwork. This may seem more personal for you now because your kids are learning on your home turf, rather than at school.

Create an organized space: Your child should have an “official” school area where they do their studying. Older kids can be tasked with this job but make it a big deal for your younger kids. Create a special place, decorate it, organize all your school supplies close by and make it fun.

Overcome anxiety: Talk with your kids about their worries and fears. They shouldn’t keep their feelings inside. Empathize with their feelings and share your thoughts. If they miss their teachers, set up a time to have a one-on-one discussion if possible.

Free resources for your kiddos: There are tons of free resources online. A quick Google search will reveal cool websites from Ideas to Steal, New York Public Library Resources, Schoolhouse Rock (remember that show!), Virtual Tours of Museums, The Known Universe and more.

Managing screen time: It’s nearly impossible to manage screen time if your school system insists on holding school hours for 4-6 hours a day with few breaks. If your children are struggling with this scenario, be sympathetic, talk with their teachers and administrators and realize that there are no great solutions right now. If your child wants to play video games after their schoolwork is complete, it may not be a bad idea if that relaxes them.

Communication is key: During these unprecedented times, it is more important than ever to ensure you communicate regularly with your child’s teachers. Whether your child is struggling with a subject, having a hard time keeping up with assignments, or anything else, keeping in touch with his or her teachers will allow everyone involved in your child’s education to work together to help your child succeed.

Manage distractions: Is the video game console tempting your child throughout the day? Are they doing remote learning in bed and dozing off? Is there a TV in their learning area that might catch their eye during lessons? Make sure you manage any distractions by setting ground rules and keeping all devices turned off to ensure your child is staying focused during class time.

Make time for reading and math: Since these tend to be the subjects where a lot of students fall behind, it’s important to devote extra time to them. This should be a consistent practice pre-, mid- and post-pandemic. If your child is on the younger side, set reading goals early on, read with them on a daily basis, and make sure they nail down their math facts. If you have older kids who prefer to watch TV, try to get them books of their favorite shows or movies to see if it wakes up their inner bookworm.

Now that you’re facing the new normal, remember that you’re not facing it alone. There are millions of parents who suddenly have kids learning online at home. Yes, it’s stressful, but it will also be rewarding once you get accustomed to the challenges. Remember, take deep breaths, talk with your children, use every resource that is available and find your working rhythm. Things will get better.

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