As we settle into our first lockdown of 2021, we’re faced yet again with learning from a distance. At this time, students need to take an extra sense of ownership in their learning, especially as we head into the busy exam season.
As the phrase goes, it’s all much easier said than done.
In navigating this period, there are many things we cannot predict. Knowing how to advise your child while they undergo distance learning can be a tricky feat. Despite the changing situation, there are things you can do that will be sure to help.
In this article, we will be sharing our advice for supporting your child through this period of distance learning.
School Days Are Different
Besides the location change, there will be various arrangements within each school about how they will structure their day and what best suits them to continue to provide education for your child. These may include:
- Attending online classes via video conferencing.
- More use of online tools to manage day-to-day learning.
- More independent work in place of usual lessons (e.g., reading a set text or watching a film study)
Students across the country will be engaging with their learning in different ways through these various channels. At this stage, most schools have found a routine in delivering their lessons as normally as possible. One of the most common methods being partial school days delivered online. This approach could be made of 3-5 classes a day, usually completed over Zoom, Google Meets, or another school software.
Understanding what your child’s school day is looking like will inform you of their situation and potential needs.
What you can do:
In helping your child maximise what they have available to them, we suggest:
- Discussing your child’s school routine with them. Then, going into each of their subjects and what work they’re doing in each of those.
- Ask your child what they feel they’re missing out on in online lessons, and brainstorm how you can plug those gaps as best as possible.
- Asking your child about the tools and resources they have available and if there would be anything else they may need to make the most of distance learning (e.g., a webcam)
- Redirecting your child to wider resources they may find helpful to their learning, such as StudyTime.
School Days will be Shorter
One notable change to students’ school day is the amount of time they spend attending lessons.
Talk to your child about any school updates they receive and what this may mean for them when they’re back at school. Mock exams are approaching, or your child may already be in the thick of it. Staying up to date with these stress points can let you know when your child may need extra help.
What you can do:
To help your child manage their school days, you can:
- Go through school emails and updates with your child (if they want!), so both of you are on the same page and can ensure they understand their expectations going ahead. It will also help
- Help write emails if your child isn’t sure of the best way to contact their teachers.
- Create a rough daily plan that incorporates your child’s school commitments, as well as time for themselves and their pursuits.
- Talk to your child about how it’s okay if they’re not doing as much work.
Normal Routines will be Challenged
One of the biggest challenges people are facing right now is maintaining a regular schedule. Working and studying from home presents many potential distractions for students, as it’s typically seen as a ‘no-work’ space.
To counteract this mindset, encourage your child to keep some form of schedule. While it may not be the schedule they’re accustomed to (e.g., wake up, travel to school, attend classes), it will create a plan and routine that they can follow.
The schedule your child finds doesn’t have to replicate a school day. Instead, it can be an opportunity for your child to find their workflow while incorporating their distance-learning lessons.
What you can do:
In maintaining a regular study schedule for your child, here are some tips:
- Model good self-management such as to-do lists and time blocking. If age-appropriate, introduce them to ways of structuring their days themselves.
- Encourage the design of a functional study space, so your child can better juggle their studies and chill-out time.
- Organise a short period of study, followed by regular breaks to help prevent study burnout.
- If old enough, encourage independence and self-management by discussing with your child their plans for productive study and goal-setting throughout this period. Provide guidance and facilitate them where you feel you can.
- Allow for shorter school days. The most important thing is that your child is maintaining some form of regular work. Students may have lighter workloads from class, but there is always something they can chip away at.
- Prioritise time for social connection and relaxation. Encourage your child to spend time outside (where they can), talk to their friends, and take care of themselves, both mentally and physically.
Keeping a regular schedule is incredibly helpful in continuing our days as constructively as possible. Without the typical morning commute to shift us into our day, setting up a space for work and study is a helpful way to transition from an at-home mindset to a productivity mindset.
Finding a routine your child can stick to will help them stay on top of the important things, keep their learning present in their mind and aid in their knowledge retention, consolidation, and confidence in their studies.
Your Child may have Less Support from their School
As students have less contact with teachers and peers, they’ll inherently lose some of the support they would typically receive.
It can be difficult knowing the best things to ask your child to understand what they have on their plate. Often, people draw a blank when asked general questions (e.g., how are you?) because they have to sift through a lot of information, and could give a myriad of responses.
What you can do:
Asking specific questions can get you to the crux of things much quicker.
Here are some questions you could ask your child:
- What topics have you been doing in your ____ class recently?
- Are there any specific things you’ve been struggling with?
- Do you have a clear idea of the kind of work you should be doing for your classes?
- How have you been studying for your classes?
- Do you have everything you need to keep up in class?
- What assessments do you have coming up after the holidays?
You don’t have to have all of the answers
When talking with your child about how they’re going, you don’t have to be an expert in the specific content they may be having a hard time with.
Instead, help them find strategies to overcome the things that are challenging them. For example, if they are having trouble with understanding their course structure, help them find online resources (e.g., the NZQA website, or StudyTime).
Getting the problem-solving wheel going in your child’s mind is an incredibly useful tool. By this, they can begin to think about how to tackle their challenges and further use what they know for the future.
Encourage your child to discuss their learning with you to help them through the challenges they face. It will help prevent their studies from becoming stagnant and provide an extra support channel to draw upon.
Keep communication channels open
There is a lot of information flying about at the moment, from businesses, social media, and the community. With this, it can be difficult to know who to prioritise your communication channels.
To stay up to date with your child learning and what is happening with schools, here are some places to look towards:
- Daily video live stream updates from the government
- Your child’s teachers (typically available via email)
- Your child’s school’s social media pages (for specific school updates)
By having regular contact with schools and announcements, you will have a good understanding of where students should be and the types of classes they will be attending.
You will also be in a better position to explain the situation, and how it will impact them.
Prepare for the Worst, Hope for the Best
While there will be at least this week of online classes, you should prepare to work from home for longer. As this timeframe is the current minimum, preparing for a longer stint will ensure your child is ready for whatever happens.
There is a danger in having our hearts set on normalcy as soon as this lockdown period is over. Firstly, we cannot anticipate how long it will last. Secondly, our attention is best spent making the most of this period and accessing what we have available to us.
What you can do:
Encouraging your child to think ahead and take all future possibilities into account will underpin their motivation and willingness to persevere. Here are some focusses to help instil a positive mindset during this time:
- Forget about the future, focus on today.
- Forget about your difficulties, focus on your progress.
- Forget about what’s missing; focus on what’s available.
- Forget what you can’t do; focus on what you can do.
Our mindset over this time will underpin our ability to get through as best as possible. Thinking ahead for the long-term will put our minds in the best place to plan and think ahead, regardless of what happens.
Concluding Thoughts and Advice
As students move into the year’s busy season, they’ve hit a speedbump that may have students worried that their school year has been brought to a halt.
Use what you have available to advise your child’s next steps and bring more control to their learning. Unfortunately, no one knows exactly how this time will play out, so we need to focus on what we can control.
Kia kaha, and best of luck.