To say that 2020 has been a year of school like none other, would be a major understatement. To say that this has been the worst year of school ever, might be a little melodramatic. To say that 2020-2021 will be a school year of new opportunities, would be a fact. As we navigate these early days and weeks of virtual learning, whether fully virtual or hybrid, there are some basics we need to cover. Today, I’m sharing Virtual Learning 101, or a primer in what we (parents, caregivers, and most importantly children) need to navigate virtual learning.
Seven essential “things” for virtual learning:
Have a routine, and stick to it.
It would be so nice to roll out of bed whenever we pleased, to work as much (or little) as we would like, and to do whatever it is that we want (Nintendo Switch anyone?); that’s just not a reasonable expectation. Everyone thrives on routine, but children need it. Set a schedule for waking, doing work, playing, and resting.
A designated space for learning
For my family that is our dining room. Life during ‘Rona, has taught us that we do not currently need a formal dining room. As much as we’d love to host friends and family for a dinner party, that’s just not practical or safe. Since we have an available space adjacent to an area with regular adult supervision, our home office, this is perfect for a learning area. All members of our house have a designated space to work. One is at the formal desk, one at the dining room table with a stool, and another at a child-size art table. Each person has a means of elevating their device (laptop, iPad, a monitor) to eye-level with a lift, or stack of books to ensure that we are protecting our necks. Even little people need little seats, so it’s crucial to ensure that everyone has an ergonomic setup for working.
Let’s be honest… no one really likes hard pants (you know those things with zippers and buttons), but pajamas are not appropriate for school. Our brains need us to indicate through our actions that we have transitioned from one activity (sleeping), to another (school work), and this is accomplished through changing out of our PJs. Simple things trick our brains into shifting focus. Plus, many school systems are enforcing a dress code. Let’s head off trouble at the start.
Have headphones with a mic
This one isn’t necessarily a must, but it’s definitely nice to have if you have multiple doing school or working in the same area. Virtual school will be uncharted territory for all of us, and we do not need the added distraction of hearing what everyone else is talking about the whole time. This is also great for your children, so we aren’t listening in on their entire school day. They haven’t had us listening to their learning, conversations, and school day before; why start now. Let’s trust we’ve raised good humans that are doing things as they should.
Have supplies close at hand
If you have done Boys Scouts or Girl Scouts, you know that it’s crucial to be prepared. Virtual school is no different. Your children will be set up for success if they have the things they need close at hand, rather than running off to find what is required in the middle of a lesson.
(tag local councils here)
Things will not go as planned, and technology will not always work. We can’t change what happens, but we can change how we respond. If we’re willing to roll with the punches, bend this way and that, and make adjustments as we go; the school day (week, month, quarter, or year) will go far better.
Have a positive attitude
We are navigating uncharted territory as parents, teachers, and students.
We are all learning as we go, and doing the best we know-how.
We won’t always know what to do, but we can keep learning and keep trying.
Most of all, we as parents have the opportunity to set the tone. We get to choose how we want to view this school year. I’m focusing on a growth mindset this year and hoping to emulate this for my children. Will I be perfect? NOPE! Will I give up? Absolutely not! Will I encourage my children to make this the best year ever? Most definitely!
I hope these tips are helpful for you as you navigate this new school year. We are all learning as we go, and I hope that we can show lots of grace to ourselves, our children, our teachers, school leaders, and the entire community. None of us have navigated a virtual school year before, but we’re going to figure this out together.