The New Norm of Distance Learning Must Be a Family Affair to Ensure Success

Photo from JumpStory


By now, you’ve spent the last few months trying to navigate educating your child at home.

Most school systems have closed for the remainder of this school year, and many have not yet finalized dates for reopening.

Veteran homeschoolers know that there are ups and downs, but there are ways to keep your children motivated and engaged – for the love of learning.

Some experts have labeled the recent changes in education as “crisis learning.”  Parents have been thrust into unfamiliar waters, and kids can have trouble focusing at home when they’re used to being in a classroom.

And when parents become frustrated with the experience, their children are likely to follow.

These are unprecedented times, and we’ve been forced to adapt to many changes in our children’s routines due to closures and mandates.

The stress can be very real — leading to family fights, depression, or even physical symptoms like fatigue and headaches in both parents and kids.

Experts say that facing a constant state of the unknown – when and if we will ever return to normal – can lead to “toxic” stress, the type often associated with trauma.

Some families have welcomed the idea of taking the lead in their children’s education and spending more time with them.

Others are completely overwhelmed in trying to balance their child’s education with their own workload.

If you are one of the families experiencing a lack of motivation, you are not alone – in fact, it is a very common theme during these times of change.

The important thing to remember is, there is nothing wrong with your child if they are struggling to adapt to e-learning at home.

Changes in educational environment and the family dynamic are obviously going to present challenges, and every family must adjust to best suit their family’s needs.

Kids may be having more trouble concentrating, may be exhibiting new behavioral issues, or may simply be using avoidance tactics to put off completing their school-at-homework.

It is very difficult to sit in front of a computer and adequately learn – especially when a child feels they are simply teaching themselves while doing schoolwork online.

Teachers and principals are already receiving feedback on the difficulty of the new norm of distance learning.  Children who are hands-on or auditory learners may struggle more than other students with this mode of education.

And the more discord this causes in your household, the more stressed your child may become.

The key is to approach home education, however temporary, as a family experience.  Just as a negative experience can cause family upheaval, a positive approach can strengthen the family bond.

If you have tried to stick to the lessons and recommended e-learning schedule set forth by your child’s school and it is just not working, you have a right as a parent to create a different learning plan for your child – or opt-out of distance learning altogether.

Veteran homeschooling families are well-aware that they must tailor lessons to each child’s learning style, but this may be a harsh reality to parents who have suddenly been thrust into homeschooling during the pandemic.

Parents are also able to work with their child’s teacher to find alternate ways of learning and completing lessons, or can request that extra time be given on deadlines.

Kids may feel particularly out of control as they have been forced to so quickly adapt to a new learning environment, so family support and involvement is key.

Allow them to brainstorm ways to make their workload more manageable, find ways to minimize distractions, or create an environment in the home best suited to their needs.  For some kids, this may mean a quiet room first thing in the morning; for others, they may be more motivated later in the day working outside.

“Structured flexibility” may sound like an oxymoron, but both are essential to a positive learning environment.

While being flexible about what best works for your child, a routine should still be adhered to.  For example, if your child works best in the late afternoon, allow them to, but make sure that schedule is the same every day.

Structure should also include rules about distractions like television or electronic devices, getting a good night’s sleep, and eating regular meals to optimize their ability to focus.

Creativity and fun are also key to any homeschool journey, whether you are a new homeschooler or have been doing it for years.

Kids are always more engaged when they can put their school lessons into practice in a hands-on way, involve the whole family, and have fun while learning.

This may be working out math problems with manipulatives like blocks or by cooking a recipe together, performing a science experiment instead of just reading about the results, or listening to an audiobook instead of watching TV.

Reading, in itself, should be a part of each day as it provides a break from the computer and is often calming and helps children to refocus.  This can be silent reading for older kids or a family story time for younger ones.

As we approach the summer months, we are likely to have to curtail some of our usual activities like going to the swimming pool, playground, or the movies.

Find activities that your family can enjoy together that also reinforce what they are studying in their online lessons.

A nature walk or hike for science, for example, can decrease stress, provide time for family bonding, and teach your child all at the same time.

The bottom line is, you know your child better than anyone else.

If they are struggling with distance learning, work together with your child’s teacher and set up a call or video conference if necessary.  Come up with workable alternatives to your child’s most difficult challenges.

And work together as a family to set boundaries, be present and available as much as possible for help with lessons, work within your child’s learning style, and take time to have fun and decompress.

It may be stressful now – change very often is.  But there will come a time when everyone will adjust and fall into a good schedule and find a working plan for success.

It may work so well that you decide you’re interested in homeschooling for the long-haul!