Is it us or does online learning feel even harder after the Holidays?  It could be the short days not allowing as much outside time, it could be that we no longer have the Holidays to be excited about, it could be not knowing when we might get back to school, or we could just simply be OVER IT!

A quick poll of the kids at Club suggests that the novelty has worn off; they are finding it monotonous and don’t have the fun school stuff to look forward to like plays, recess with friends, field trips and guest teachers.  School is about so much more than just the ABCs and sadly it is the ‘much more’ that many kids are currently missing.

However, there is good news.  Our teachers have started their vaccinations, the cases of COVID-19 are declining locally and the District is committed to getting our youngest students back into schools as soon as it is safe.  But that could still be a month and more away and in the meantime all our parents are still struggling with online learning – and even worse – next week is MAP testing!

So, while we acknowledge that we too are still on our learning curve for online school, we thought we would share the top tricks from Club staff.

  1. Create a dedicated workspace.

Set up a space in your home that is your child’s dedicated work area.  It should be away from distractions (TV, toys etc) and ideally separate from where they relax or recreate.  If you can, make it feel more school like.  Put the schedule on the wall, give them space to put out all their books and provide a chair and flat surface for their chrome book.  If the space in doing double duty – such as the kitchen table – then tidy everything away once school is over and at weekends and give them the opportunity to ‘leave’ school.

  1. Establish a routine.

Post the weekly schedule so you can both see it.  Make sure your child has had breakfast, is dressed and brushed teeth etc BEFORE the first Zoom.   Have the chrome book set up, headphones plugged in and pencil and paper ready for the start of the day. Set aside time for breaks and allow your child to fidget and get up and away from the computer regularly but at defined times – e.g. “We will complete the first assignment or zoom and then take a break before we start the next task”.  Have snacks on hand.  Have bathroom breaks outside of zoom times.  A fun parent and child art project is to draw out the school calendar and color code it so it is easy to visually reference throughout the day.

  1. Get comfortable with technology.

Take time to play on your child’s chromebook and learn how all the programs work and how to upload assignments.  Also learn how to check what outstanding assignments your child has.  Do this outside of ‘school time’ and without your child there so YOU learn how to navigate it.  Also make sure that if you don’t have access to a power outlet at your child’s work area, that you put the chromebook to charge overnight so the battery is full for the start of the school day.

  1. Talk to the teacher.

They are there to help and you cannot help your child if you don’t understand what is being asked.   Make sure you know the teacher’s expectations and that you are notified about any extra work projects or assignments that are not part of the regular schedule – such as the upcoming MAP testing.  How do you log-on to the test, when should you do it, how much time will it take? These are important questions you need to ask.  If your child is having difficulties with the work or the technology, seek the teacher’s help.  There are extra support staff that can help your child and even a referral service to the County Office of ED for students who are struggling.

  1. Include physical exercise in the day.

Recess is built into most schedules and use that time to get your child moving and ideally outside for some fresh air.  If you are busy working, encourage them to play outside for 10/15 minutes.  If you too can take a break, go for a walk up and down your road.  Children’s ability to focus and retain information is aided by physical exercise – so even some jumping jacks in the kitchen will help.

  1. Be patient.

Technology won’t work, the teacher will send the wrong zoom link, your child won’t get the task immediately.  All this will happen and you just need to not sweat it.  Everyone is doing their best.  And when working with your child, allow them to take the lead, don’t do the work for them.  It will take longer, but they are smart and will get there eventually.  Flexibility is key!

  1. Celebrate wins.

When your child completes an assignment – do a dance, make a noise, put a gold star on their good behavior chart.  Whatever you like – but make sure you praise them and that they feel good about doing the work.  The carrot works better than the stick and rewards are an important way to encourage and reaffirm positive behaviors.  Better to reward your child for completing their assignment (no matter how long it took!) than to chastise them for not having finished yet.  Younger children need immediate praise/rewards; older children can cope with a reward at the end of the day for full completion.  But the rewards must be timely and meaningful.  So for example – a gold star for every assignment in the day and then 30 minutes of TV at the end of the day as a reward.  Or for an older child, completing all the work in the week means that they get to choose the Friday night movie.  You can even exchange points for dollars so they can then buy something if its in the budget.  We’d love our children to want to do their work because they understand its importance and the value of education; but these are exceptional times and paying them might be a great solution!

  1. Keep perspective.

Every child is struggling (don’t believe your friend’s facebook posts – they are struggling too!) and even if you’re A+ child is currently getting Cs it’s OK.  Kids are resilient and they will bounce back; they will even make up for learning loss.  It is important to stick to routine and get as much done as possible, but it is also OK to accept that nothing is perfect and right now best attempt is good enough.  This will pass and soon everything will be back to normal.

HUGE thanks to Ashley, Ali, Nico and all the program staff for their input and AWESOME advice for this blog.