Everyone kind of got thrown into this homeschooling thing, huh? Thanks, 2020!
We’ve been homeschooling for a while, with the intent of sending Sapphire to a special needs school this fall. Unfortunately, COVID had other plans! Because of that, we had to enroll her in an online school. Spoiler alert: it’s terrible.
7 Ways to Help Your Child Focus During Online Learning
Online school isn’t for everyone, but since many of us find ourselves here, navigating the “virtual school” waters, let’s talk about what’s helped make our days successful.
Dress for Success
I’m getting this tip out of the way first because it’s a bit controversial – and honestly, totally optional, but has helped us quite a bit.
As tempting as it may be in the homeschool or virtual school setting to roll out of bed, pour a bowl of cereal, and begin instruction in your bathrobe, it is important that you dress for success.
Your children need to know the importance of the education they are receiving. There is no quicker way to give your at-home classroom an aura of respect, than by dressing the part.
Clothing does not have to be formal, but it shouldn’t be sloppy, either. Similarly, your students should get ready for school in the morning by grooming and dressing appropriately to set the tone for the day's work. Expectation is one of the greatest factors in your child’s learning, and your dress reflects your expectations.
While there are days that we allow pajamas, it’s important to keep as much “normalcy” as possible right now, and dressing the part is one of the ways we do that. Everyone seems to enjoy it. If for some reason your family does not enjoy getting dressed every day, by all means, skip it! 🙂
Learning time should be focused and efficient. It is important to eliminate as many distractions as possible. As a homeschool teacher, it may seem impossible to get rid of all the daily interruptions that take place, from phone calls to door-to-door salesmen.
However, with a little bit of effort and preplanning disruptions to your class schedule can be minimized. To begin with make sure that you choose a room in your home with no TVs or inherent noise problems. To prevent disruptions in your class, hand a sign on the front door reading, “No solicitors, homeschooling in progress.” Also make sure to turn off the phone and put any pets outdoors.
Schedule, Schedule, Schedule
To create an efficient use of time and space in your home, it is vital to have a daily and weekly schedule. School hours should be set and regular so that students know what to expect and are prepared to learn. While schedules are important to the educational environment, don’t let them be your only focus. Unique teaching opportunities arise all the time that should not be passed over to keep to the schedule. These are some of the greatest joys of homeschooling, being about to adapt learning to your individual students.
The Proper Tools
The homeschool environment needs to have the proper learning tools just like any ordinary classroom. Beyond the obvious paper and pencils, students need tools at their fingertips to encourage inquiry and problem solving.
Every homeschool environment should have reference materials such as a dictionary, encyclopedia, atlas and internet. Hands-on learning tools are also important. Simple objects like dried pasta or building blocks can serve as aids to demonstrate math functions.
The homeschool classroom can always be improved with posters, letter cards, word walls, diagrams, and poems displayed for easy reference. Students are influenced by their surroundings. You can do this with virtual schooling as well. Take a look at what your students are learning, and print some resources off to either create mini “offices” for them, or to hang up on the wall if they have their own space.
Giving students a text rich environment will encourage them to read and the repeated reference to these different pieces of language will encourage understanding and memory. I always have a dictionary, thesaurus, and a few textbooks nearby so the kids can look up answers the “old-fashioned” way instead of Googling every single thing. 🙂
Everyone learns differently. Understanding your child’s learning style is important, whether you’re homeschooling or assisting with online virtual learning. If your child is an auditory learner, you may have different teaching methods than if your child is more of a visual learner.
Each child has their own strengths and weaknesses. It’s important to present information in a way they can understand and retain it.
Consider including things in your homeschooling area that will promote the learning capabilities of your child. Include photos, graphic organizers, and illustrations for the visual learner. Have audio books, music, and chants for the auditory learner. Provide physical gestures, models, and tracing sand for those kinesthetic learners. There are ways to encourage and incorporate all of your learner’s specific intelligences into your daily lessons.
If you’re virtual schooling, consider sending your child’s teacher an email to let them know you are here to support them (and your child) along this journey. They may have some ideas for you as well!
While you certainly have rules that your children follow in your home, you may want to create a more specific set of rules for school time. Having a set of rules that you develop with your children for their learning time is very effective.
When everyone knows the rules and why they are necessary, it is much easier to get compliance. Once you and your kids have decided on the rules and the consequences for following or not following the rules, take the time to write them down and post them where they can be referenced when appropriate.
Don't Forget to Take a Break!
As adults, we may be able to push through an entire day's work with few breaks, this is not ideal for children. In fact, it may be more beneficial to allow students regular movement breaks.
These breaks can be part of the learning process or more of a recess. Either way, physical activity breaks refresh students and give them energy to refocus on their studies.
This includes you, Mom (or Dad, or caregiver)! You need a break, too. Virtual schooling can be stressful for everyone involved. Remember to give the teachers, your kids, and yourself some extra kindness each day.