A young girl enjoys online learning from home.

Creativa Images/stock.adobe.com

A Year Into Online Learning, How Do We Get Things Right?

How can parents get their children back on track?

Parents may be the primary educators of their children but in these eternal winter days of remote education, many feel increased weight to that 24/7 mandate. They must ensure their children actually log on daily and fully engage in online classes - resisting endless distractions like Roblox. Students must self-motivate, complete assignments on time and avoid the “COVID slide.” But families can take practical steps to improve students’ academic performance and outlook - and enrich their learning experience even after return to the classroom. 

Create a comfortable learning environment

Start with a comfortable, quiet learning space whether a dining table, desk or sofa and coffee table. Declutter unnecessary items and add inspirational items from animal posters to world maps. Study with natural light for added health benefits. “Having a dedicated home learning space can help develop your child’s creativity, sharpen their focus and increase their motivation to read and learn,” says an article in Austinlocal.com. “Think about routines and consistency.”

Be camera ready

A USA Today article advises students to actively interact with teachers and classmates and participate in breakout groups to bridge the digital divide. Miami-Dade County Public Schools distance learning webpage tells students to check daily all online platforms. And parents should call 305.995.3000 if they need a mobile device and/or internet access. They are encouraged to monitor district communications and grades, discuss assignments with children, visit the Parent Academy and communicate with  teachers and counselors. They can also get support from the Department of Mental Health Services or Miami-Dade Public Library System's free tutoring.

Provide emotional balance

Kids need to recharge the spirit through physical activity and play, whether digging worms in the yard or painting a sunset. “It’s important to let your child have some time of their own by choosing a subject that they are interested in learning, or encourage them to go outside and get some fresh air. Learn to play an instrument, paint or draw or engage in physical activities!” states Austinlocal.com. The Children’s Trust offers the StayHome.Miami website with a variety of features and resources.

In USA Today, Kentucky senior Gabriella Staykova reports more time for side projects like national Student Voice. “A fast internet connection, a comfortable and quiet place to study, a stable home life and a history of high grades helped her to adapt this year.”

Look on the bright side

Enjoy the break from the daily classroom drama, excess homework and standardized test prep. In the Atlantic article “School Wasn’t So Great Before COVID, Either” Danielle Del Plato notes the pandemic spotlight on developmental needs like exercise, outdoor time, conversation and even sleep. Despite worrisome academic regression, the article cites the upside of less stress, reduced workloads and more flexible schedules. And some students are doing “unexpectedly well,” according to the Hechinger Report, “in part because it has been easier for them to remain focused on learning.”

So to maximize virtual learning, ensure that children sleep more, embrace the routine and explore meaningful enrichment. As Steve Mintz, the author of Huck’s Raft: A History of American Childhood, states in the Atlantic article, the pandemic gives students “opportunities to grow and develop in ways that would have been impossible in more ‘normal’ times.”