5 Family Commitments for Distance Learning

After several months of distance learning, it’s clear that most students managed it, but the results weren’t great in most schools. With coronavirus infections rising again around the country, more distance learning is likely for many schools, despite the hope of a return to school buildings. While distance learning is hard, families can make a big difference in their student’s experience with five simple commitments. Do them, and you will find remarkably positive results:

  • Sleep and Food: We have found that working from home can be more intense, and more exhausting as a result. By establishing clear expectations around hours of sleep (at least 8!) and sufficient and nutritious food before, during, and right after the school day, you help your student make it through the day well-fueled.
  • A Safe, Comfortable, Quiet Place to Work: Most homes are not set up for students to work quietly and without constant interruptions. Students should have a functional and comfortable spot to work, likely a table or desk, with access to an outlet, strong Wi-Fi signal, and a way to close a door for quiet, concentrated work. Checking on your student at regular intervals, if possible, is helpful, as long as you are not interrupting them with non-school related requests.
  • Regular Movement: It’s easy for your student to sit for hours without getting up and moving around, and they might be tempted to use breaks to catch up on videos, social media, or gaming. You can help them by encouraging them to walk around the house, stretch or dance, and to go outside for some sun and fresh air during scheduled breaks, if it’s safe to do so. Keeping a break schedule similar to what they are used to at school will feel natural to them.
  • Reflection: By the time your student gets to the end of their day, they are likely tired and may not want to do more “school work.” That said, you can help them by getting them to reflect, even if only for 5 minutes, on their day. What topic or question was important today? Did anyone say anything particularly noteworthy? Did you create something that made you think? What was hard today, and what struggles did you leave unresolved? What are you thinking about tomorrow? 
  • Growth, not Grades: This last one is just for you as caregivers or parents, and it is to remember that your student is working on growing their knowledge and their skills. Some days go well and are rich in growth, and others feel like a disappointing loss. No matter what, as you support them, keep in mind that they are working on growing into a capable, successful young adult, and resist the urge to press them for short-term “successes” like grades. (We would all do well to remember this message even after distance learning ends.)

Remember: distance learning is different, and most people haven’t done it enough to be good at it. Getting better at learning and growing in this mode takes time and practice. These five simple commitments for better distance learning will ensure your student has the best chance to learn and grow, even in difficult times.

This post follows a previous one that addressed specific actions by students to improve their experience in a distance learning setting.

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