Setting Up for Success
Make a space
Create a special, personalized corner of a room dedicated to learning, creating, and reading. Use a movable box or crate if space is precious. Let your child help prepare the space for school, even if that just means putting a decorated pencil box next to the device they'll be using. Getting the space ready will help them get ready to learn.
Set a routine
Little kids need more structure, so make sure to let them know what to expect. You can create a visual schedule they can follow. Older children can use a calendar, planner, chalkboard, or digital organizer to keep track of what is happening each day. Have them follow a routine as if they're going to school (getting dressed, brushing teeth, etc.) instead of lying in bed in their pajamas, which could lead to less learning.
- Go over what the school and teachers expect around online learning.
- Set some expectations of your own as well. When can your child expect to spend time with you? When should they avoid interrupting you? What can they do in their downtime? Come up with a list of "must dos" and "may dos" together to cover the essentials and activities of choice.
- If children are sharing devices with siblings, make sure they understand how the devices are to be shared, including who gets to do what on the device and when.
Keep them close
When it's hard for your child to focus, try to keep them close. Consider setting up nonverbal or one-word cues to help get them back on track.
Depending on your circumstances, it may not be possible to keep your child in sight all the time, but it'll definitely be harder to keep them on track if they're completely unsupervised. Try to make sure you or another family member has eyeballs on them as much as possible.
Encouraging Ownership & Effort
- Display work.
- Let kids hang up their drawings, writing, or other projects in your home. It shows them you're proud of their work and helps them value their learning.
- Even big kids like when you show pride in their work by bragging about their efforts and showing off their work. (But always ask before you post anything!)
- Give detailed praise. Instead of saying "good job," try giving specific details about your child's work. If they tried hard, let them know you noticed. Have they made progress? Used a new technique? In what ways are their efforts kind, clever, beautiful, or insightful?
- Also, encourage a growth mindset, which means reminding kids that it's not about being good or bad at something, but working toward getting better at it.
- Start from strengths
- Build a bridge from things your child loves to school subjects they don't love -- yet. If they love sports, find a graphic novel about soccer to spark interest.
- Presentation is everything.
- How you present an activity makes a huge difference in how kids feel about it. For little children, whenever you can, frame tasks as games to make them more fun. Need to sort the laundry? Challenge your child to a throwing contest of tossing clothes into the right pile. Or, let them use pieces of cereal as manipulatives for math problems and eat them when they've finished a problem.
- Sometimes tweens and teens seem to have a "bad attitude" that's really masking insecurity, boredom, or anxiety. They're often hoping we'll help them through it, even when it seems just the opposite. Staying calm, not taking things personally, and maintaining a sense of humor can go a long way.
- Use movement and humor.
- Sometimes we just need to move our bodies. Physical activity can lift our spirits and get our minds refreshed for learning. Try a lunchtime block walk or a 5-minute dance party to help everyone reset and bring new energy to the day.
- Finding the funny right now is helpful on every front, including learning and well-being. Be silly, make wacky connections, come up with crazy answers so your kids correct you -- whatever works!