A few weeks ago a television station in Toronto asked me if I’d share some tips on how parents could help their kids stay engaged with remote learning. My initial reaction was to run for the hills – appearing on live TV is not my cup of tea. However my colleagues persuaded me to accept. You can see a clip of that segment here - I’ve included it in this post because otherwise someone on the marketing team would have ;-)
My tips are based on a wide variety of experiences. My role at Maplesoft requires me to speak with educators at all levels, and remote learning has been a hot topic of conversation lately, as you can imagine. As well, in my past life (i.e. life before kids) I was a high school math tutor, and now as a parent I’m in the thick of it helping my son navigate Kindergarten remotely.
So here are my 5 tips on how parents of elementary and high-school aged children can help their kids stay engaged with remote learning. If you have other tips, including suggestions for university students, feel free to leave them in the comments sections. And if these tips help you, please let me know. It will have made the stress of my appearance on TV worthwhile!
Tip 1: Look for the positives
These are unprecedented times for kids, parents and teachers. Over the course of the last 6-7 months, learning as we’ve grown to know it has changed radically. And while the change has been incredibility difficult for everyone, it’s helpful to look for the positives that remote learning can bring to our children:
- Remote learning can help some kids focus on their work by minimizing the social pressures or distractions they may face at school.
- Older kids are appreciating the flexibility that remote learning can offer with respect to when and how they complete their work.
- Younger kids are loving the experience of learning in the presence of mom and dad. My 4 year old thinks it’s awesome that I now know all the lyrics to the songs that he learns in school.
- As many remote learning classrooms include students from across the school board, this can provide kids with the opportunity to connect with their peers from different socio-economic backgrounds living across the city.
Tip 2: Don’t shy away from your kid’s teacher
While some kids are thriving learning from home, we know that others are struggling.
If your high school student is struggling at school, do whatever it takes to convince them to connect with their teacher. If your child is younger, make the connection yourself.
In my role, I’ve had the opportunity to work with many teachers, and rest assured, many of them would welcome this engagement. They want our kids to succeed, but without the face-to-face classroom interaction it’s becoming increasingly more difficult for them to rely on visual cues to see how your child is doing and if they are struggling with a concept.
So I encourage you to reach out to your kid’s teacher especially if you notice your child is having difficulty.
Tip 3: Get creative with learning
Another benefit of remote learning is that it presents us with a unique opportunity to get creative with learning.
Kids, especially those in middle school and high school, now have the time and opportunity to engage with a variety of different online learning resources. And when I say online learning resources, I mean more than just videos. Think interactive tools (such as Maple Learn), that help students visualize concepts from math and science, games that allow students to practice language skills, repositories of homework problems and practice questions that allow kids to practice concepts, the list goes on.
Best of all, many content providers and organizations, are offerings these resources and tools available for free or at a substantially reduced cost to help kids and parents during this time.
So if your child is having difficulty with a particular subject or if they are in need of a challenge, make sure to explore what is available online.
Tip 4: Embrace the tech
To be successful, remote learning requires children to learn a host of new digital skills, such as how to mute/unmute themselves, raise their hands electronically, turn on and off their webcam, toggle between applications to access class content and upload homework, keep track of their schedule via an electronic calendar, etc. This can be daunting for kids who are learning remotely for the first time.
As a parent you can help your child become more comfortable with remote learning by setting aside some time either before or after class to help them master these new tools. And since this is likely new to you, there are some great videos online that will show you how to use the system your school has mandated be it Microsoft Teams, Google Classroom or something else.
Tip 5: It’s a skill
Remember that remote learning is a skill like any other skill, and it takes time and practice to become proficient.
So remember to be patient with yourself, your kids, and their teachers, as we embark on this new journey of learning. Everyone is trying their best and I truly believe a new rhythm will emerge as we progress through the school year.
We will find our way.