A lot of parents are feeling very nervous at the thought of starting Fall semester with their students online again. Those same parents who slogged through the Spring semester are saying to themselves, “I just can’t go through that again.”
I am the online learning coordinator for Roseburg Public Schools going on three years. One parent I talked to shared what seems to be the same situation for a lot of families.
“My husband and I both work outside of the house,” she said. “I set everything up, had it all ready to go, and they just didn’t do it. I can’t come home and do all my house work, get dinner ready, everything I’m supposed to do and be a teacher.”
Good kids, in this case, daughters aged 12 and 16, who are just struggling to do their school work online. So here are a couple strategies and starter ideas for terrified parents to calm some of the fear and approach this school year with a game plan (or, a starting game plan at least).
First, online learning takes more time as a parent. There is no magic formula to this. You need to shift things around so that you can spend daily time working on school together with your children.
Make a time in your daily routine, before you go to work, or after you clean up dinner, when you can sit down for 15-25 minutes with your student in their learning space and look at what they’ve done for the day and what they need help with.
If you have multiple children and a spouse, then you can take turns and each of you work with a child individually. If your husband is good at math, and you love science, that’s great to work on subjects where you’re stronger. If you are a single parent, do your best, and try a rotation so that each child is able to spend time one-on-one with you every other day. In every family, if you have older children, get them to help with younger children.
Set yourself up in advance. Make a large schedule or chore board and give everyone responsibilities.This is hopefully an area where you can help yourself carve out those minutes to work one-on-one with your student by having your family members help with the chores you normally do to give yourself that extra time.
If you’re having a hard time convincing your children to do chores, then start those family conversations here. This is a time to work together, to build relationships with your children. Communicate your expectations. Who is responsible for what task and when are you expecting the task to be done. Work from respect and listen to your child’s feedback. What is the barrier that is preventing them from wanting to do their best for you? Listen and learn. Repeat.
Look ahead. Learn how to use your children’s online school platform(s). Log in to your student or parent portal and see what is coming up for the week ahead. Look at the assignments, know what your student is going to be working on and prepare yourself in advance. Even better, do this with your student. Recognize that organization and setting goals are life skills that will serve them at their future jobs or college.
Have a regular start time in the morning and set work hours. If you work during the day, have everyone up and ready to go when you walk out the door. A simple routine looks something like:
- Morning routine, breakfast, parent(s) leave for work
- Start school work, 2-3 hours
- Take a break/Physical activity
- School work, 2-3 hours
- Physical activity/outdoor play
- Family chores
- Dinner with family
- School work one-on-one with parent
- Evening routine
- Lights out
If your child is struggling with motivation, recognize how hard it can be hard to work from home. We are asking teens and pre-teens to do something that adults struggle to master. (I, for one, would absolutely rather drink coffee and read on my phone, than read my emails and respond to work.) So, for your student it’s about finding good motivational tools and the right combination of discipline and love.
Try figuring out what the specific barriers are for your learner. Is it the thought of sitting down at the computer and facing seven hours of work? Are they bored, scared, overwhelmed? Are they distracted by their cell phone or apps like TikTok and other social media? Do they like their learning space? Once you know what is causing some of the problem, then hopefully you can work on strategies to create a solution. Or a better learning situation at least.
Set a timer for 15 minutes. Get a kitchen timer (rather than have your student use their cell phone which can create another distraction.) Set goals for what they will accomplish, a set number of lessons, or pages read, etc. Use rewards that are real and specific to your child(ren). Toys and silly gifts, stickers and candy are easy to find at the dollar store. Teens might love a day at the river, or a trip to a store they want to go to, or a day off from chores that they can earn.
Here are great free resources to find encouragement and parenting support:
The Ford Family Foundation Select Books — https://www.tfff.org/select-books A free selection of books on topics including children and education. All you need to do is sign up and create a free account, order a book title, give it a review after you read it, and order another next book. A couple title suggestions include: “Building Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Kids Roots and Wings” by Kenneth R. Ginsberg, MD, MS ED, FAAP; “I Love You Rituals” by Becky A. Bailey, Ph.D; “How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character” by Paul Tough.
Focus on the Family — It offers great family and parenting information, articles and advice. https://www.focusonthefamily.com/
The Roles and Responsibilities of Comprehensive Distance Learning guidelines from Roseburg Public Schools available on the district website — https://www.roseburg.k12.or.us/
- Review school-specific schedules and guidance from teachers.
- Review districtwide guidance on plans for grading.
- Review any school community messages. Support your child(ren) with checking and submitting assignments.
- Contact the school(s) if you have questions.
- Notify teachers or school administrators with any concerns about progress or additional support needed.
- Ensure that students adhere to their school’s contract for appropriate behavior on web- enabled devices.
None of this is a perfect science, or a perfect fit for every family. It’s just like exercise, you have to set aside time and commit to it, then it will still take trial and error to figure out what works best. But even a little bit is better than nothing.
Think of this as a blessing to spend more time with your children even though it might not be doing what you love, but maybe there’s a way to blend that in later. Use this time to focus on conversations about love, respect, communication and what it means to be a family. Create a stronger bond by spending time together. It’s about finding good motivation and not being too hard on yourselves. You’re doing your best. Be flexible and try new things. You’ll find what works. And above all, just know: You’re doing great!