We are in an unprecedented time in modern history, with a shift to virtual learning required for the very health and safety of our communities. In many ways, recent technological advances have been preparing us for this shift, with students becoming more and more adept at using smart devices and more schools incorporating technology into the classrooms via smartboards and apps. But moving to entirely online courses with children studying from home has not been the norm for American society. The question remains, how do we successfully navigate these uncharted waters?
1. SET A SCHEDULE AND A LEARNING SPACE
While the “school day” will look and feel different from a traditional day spent on campus, one thing should remain constant: students should follow a schedule. This helps set expectations, provides a comforting routine, and frames the day to eliminate the all-too-dreaded “I’m bored!” If your child’s school has not provided a set schedule, consider designing one that best suits your family’s needs. You could try this one from mom Jessica McHale that has been circulating on social media.
In addition to following a schedule, it’s important that children have a distraction-free zone for their learning. TV, pets, social media, or even siblings can distract even the most studious of students. Find a quiet place in your home and add a desk or table with all the necessary supplies on hand (no school-work while sitting on a bed). The more the environment feels like school, the more children will take learning at home seriously.
2. LIMIT SCREEN TIME AND GET CREATIVE
Because content is being delivered digitally for the near future, students are going to be on devices for a portion of each day. But that doesn’t have to mean that students are using technology all day. Once the lessons have been given by teachers, encourage your child to power down their devices and seek down time entertainment elsewhere. Read a book, write and mail a card to someone special, or get out the art supplies and make a fun, creative mess. The point is to stimulate other areas of the brain by doing something other than staring at a screen.
3. GET OUT! GET MOVING!
A breath of fresh air is a necessity for surviving these coming days at home. Take a walk, enjoying nature and reconnecting as a family. Encourage your kids to ride their bikes, run around in the yard, or go on a nature scavenger hunt. If it’s raining (again!), practice some fun yoga moves or use online resources to get moving.
4. KEEP COMMUNITY-BUILDING, THOUGH AT A DISTANCE
While it’s not the time to be scheduling playdates or participating in team sports, practicing social distancing doesn’t mean we cannot be social. This is where technology does come in handy. Use FaceTime or make a phone call to reconnect with family and friends. You can even schedule that social time into your child’s day to prevent feelings of isolation. And, when you get outside for a walk or to play, be sure to wave hello to your neighbors. At Mount Paran Christian School, a daily devotion and morning meetings connect students with one another, using Zoom meetings or Google Hangouts.
5. ENJOY FAMILY TIME
Many parents have found themselves working from home, which is new for many. But, this time at home can be a gift — a chance to connect with one another. Involve your children in preparing meals, play a board or card game together, or enjoy a special family movie night. Count this time as an unexpected blessing from God to take back at-home family experiences, free of busy schedules and outside commitments. Re-engage and strengthen relationships with your kids; the opportunity is now.
6. EXTEND GRACE AND PRACTICE PATIENCE
Most teachers and schools have never taught in a digital format to the extent that we are now experiencing. And, schools have had little time to prepare and determine how best to deliver content to their students. No doubt, there will be many hiccups along the way, from sharing bandwidth at home, to technological glitches, to some students lacking technology to do their work. Parents will at times get frustrated with their children who need something in the middle of an important work call. Siblings will argue and get on each other’s nerves. We’re human and imperfect and bound to mess up. This is the time to practice patience with each other. To assume that everyone is trying to do the best they can. Remember, we’re all in this together — even if we’re apart.
Whether planned or unplanned, virtual learning is here! Parents and teachers alike can make the most of this opportunity for continuity of learning in any circumstance.
TIPS FOR TEACHERS
While teachers and administrators have had to turn traditional classroom instruction upside-down seemingly overnight, it’s not impossible to successfully shift to an online learning environment. Mount Paran Christian School (MPCS) has learned a few things as the school has made the transition to virtual learning while off-campus due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19):
For more ideas for teachers, consider “What Teachers in China Have Learned in the Past Month.”
Amber Irizarry is the Communications Content Specialist at Mount Paran Christian School, with a Master's Degree in Communications. She is enjoying daily family walks — looking for birds as painting inspiration, bugs to watch, and rocks to collect.
To learn more about the Virtual Learning program at Mount Paran Christian School, click here.