How to keep your child engaged while learning online
How to keep your child engaged while learning online

10 guidelines to help you as you encourage your child to stay engaged throughout these days of distance learning.

Compiled by Dr. Esther K.Myong, Ed.D. Middle School/High School Principal

1) Establish routines and expectations.

You may need to help your child establish daily routines and expectations.

We encourage you to set regular hours for your children's school work. We suggest students begin their studies at 8:30am and keep normal bedtime routines. It is important that Monday through Friday is still considered the "school week."

Your children should move regularly and take periodic breaks as they study. When we think of a regular school day, students are migrating from class to class, moving around the room with different activities, and sitting outside during breaks. Reminding your child to take mini-breaks as they would in a traditional school day will help them stay focused in the long term. It is important to do this early as some students may struggle with the absence of routine.

2) Monitor communications from your children's teachers.

Teachers will communicate with you through email, when and as necessary. Ask your child about the tech platforms that ICS uses. Encourage them to explain how Schoology, Google Hangouts, and other online learning platforms work.

3) Define the physical space for your child's study.

Your child may have a regular place for doing homework under normal circumstances, but this space may or may not be suitable for an extended period of time. Additionally, depending on your child, the designated space may need to allow for consistent monitoring of learning.

We encourage you to establish a space or location where your children will learn most of the time; however, flexibility for noise level may be required. Try to avoid having them alone in their bedroom all day as this does not mimic a school environment where they are able to converse and ask questions with whomever is available. The context they are in during this distance learning experience can have a big impact on their overall learning.

4) Begin and end each day with a check-in.

Consider beginning and ending each day with a simple check-in. In the morning, ask what your child is learning today. What are their learning targets or goals? How will they spend their time? What resources do they require? What support do they need?

This brief grounding conversation matters. It allows children to process the instructions they've received from their teachers, and it helps them stay organized and set priorities. Older students may not want to have these check-ins with parents (that's normal), but they should nevertheless. Try to establish these check-ins as regular parts of each day.

Not all students thrive in an online learning environment; some struggle with too much independence or lack of structure. If these check-in routines are established early, they can be extremely helpful to students who may tend to fall behind or begin to struggle.

5) Take an active role in helping your children process and own their learning.

In the course of a regular school day at ICS, your son or daughter engages with other students or adults dozens, if not hundreds, of times. These social interactions and opportunities for mediation include turning to a peer to exchange a thought or idea, participating in small or large group discussions, asking questions for clarification, collaborating on group projects, and countless other moments. While some of these social interactions will be re-created on virtual platforms, others will not. Human beings learn best when they have opportunities to process their learning with others.

Beyond the check-ins recommended at the start and end of each day, consider regularly circling back and engaging with their children about what they're learning. If you notice that your child is struggling, encourage them to contact their teachers for clarification and feedback. Remember that navigating difficult aspects of learning is all part of the learning process.

6) Establish times for quiet and reflection.

A huge challenge for families with multiple children will be how to manage all of their children's needs, especially when those children are different ages and have different needs. There may be times when siblings need to work in different rooms to avoid distraction. You may even want to experiment with noise-cancelling headphones (no music necessary) to block out distractions.

7) Encourage physical activity or exercise.

Make sure your children remember to move and exercise. This is vitally important to their health, wellbeing, and their learning. There is a wealth of research to support the claim that physical exercise promotes optimal brain development.

8) Remain mindful of your child's stress or worry.

It is imperative for you to help your children manage the worry, anxiety, and range of emotions they may experience. Difficult though it may be, do your best not to transfer your stress or worry. Your children will be out of sorts, whether they admit it or not, and need as much normal routine as possible.

9) Monitor how much time your child is spending online.

We do not want our students staring at computer screens for seven to eight hours a day. Yes, your child may need to have more access to technology than normal; however, we ask that you remember that most teachers are not experts in online learning and that this process will require some trial-and-error before we find the right balance between online and offline learning experiences.

10) Keep your children social, but set rules around their social media interactions.

Help your children maintain contact with friends. Please also monitor your children's social media use, especially during periods of distance learning.