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Coping With Distance Learning As A Working Parent

By Hayley Lewis·· 5 min read
coping with learning distance

Those of you who are working parents are suddenly tasked with simultaneously managing your own workload while keeping up with your school-age children. The good news is there are a few key things you can easily implement that will ease your family into this new, albeit challenging, normal.

In case no one has told you yet, have grace with yourself and with your child. This is an unprecedented situation, and the whole world is struggling to cope. Working parents have it tougher, and nothing could have prepared you for this situation. Curriculum, behavior, motivation, and actual instruction are only a few of the things that get balanced on a daily basis by trained educators. Expecting to instantly be an expert at this while simultaneously completing your own professional work is unrealistic. So don’t be discouraged if everything doesn’t work perfectly from the very beginning!  

Decide on a Learning Space

Having a designated space to learn and to work is crucial. No, this doesn’t mean you have to go spend hundreds of dollars on new furniture or create a Pinterest-worthy space. For your family, the best place just might be everyone together at the kitchen table. 

Regardless of what it looks like, the important thing is that there is a designated workspace that isn’t the couch or the bed.

Regardless of what it looks like, the important thing is that there is a designated workspace that isn’t the couch or the bed. Home is no longer a space just for resting and relaxing but is now one for working. This lack of designation can be confusing to kids, and is even more so when they are trying to work in the space where they are most comfortable (i.e. the couch or their bed). Knowing that the “work” area is designated for learning will help them to stay on task when it’s time to accomplish school assignments.

Make a Schedule

Schedules and routines are so important in this new norm. You have probably seen some of the seemingly perfect schedules that have time for art, two times of outdoor play, and one small chunk of screen time a day. While this might certainly be something to strive for, it probably isn’t realistic for most. A schedule is important, but a schedule that works for you is crucial. Have a before school routine, no matter what time of day learning takes place. Getting dressed, eating, and settling into that workspace in the same way every day will help children transition from relaxing to working at home.  

A schedule is important, but a schedule that works for you is crucial.

Remember that you're not going to be recreating a typical school day. Most children are going to be doing no more than two to three hours of academic work a day and, depending on the specific expectations of your child’s school and teacher, this work should be able to get done at relatively flexible times. This situation allows for some flexibility, and “school” might work best for your family on Saturday afternoons. The key here is to find what works for your family and to routinize what works for you.

Instead of scheduling broad chunks of time or big assignments, think small (and the younger the kids are, the smaller you should be thinking). Depending on the age, 30-45 minutes of intense academic time is going to be about as much as can be expected of most kids, and having this understanding will greatly help to mitigate the frustrations you might be experiencing as a parent.

Find Ways To Incentivize 

Most kids respond well to positive reinforcement, especially when that reinforcement is something they really look forward to. Figure out what really motivates your child and following through with that incentive, especially if your child is more reluctant or less motivated. Following through on these incentives for work accomplishment will be necessary; if their screen time for the day was tied to an assignment that didn’t get finished, then taking the screen time away will be a necessary reinforcement that the work must be completed.

Spacing little rewards throughout the day will help them feel a sense of accomplishment, rather than feeling discouraged by a long to-do list. 

Spacing little rewards throughout the day will help them feel a sense of accomplishment, rather than feeling discouraged by a long to-do list. Pad academic time with fun time by scheduling alternating blocks of time to work and play or take breaks.

Get Your Kids Involved

Don’t be afraid to make all of these tasks an active and collaborative process!  Learning should be fun, and the process of getting there should be too. Whether you’re setting up spaces, creating schedules, or choosing rewards and fun incentives, your child should feel involved. This will not only make it a fun experience, but it will also motivate them and get them to buy into this whole idea of doing school at home. Don’t be afraid to get creative and to let your kids get creative. The more involved they are, the more they (and you) will be able to enjoy this process and make it really work. 

Closing Thoughts

Perhaps what’s most important to remember is that school is more than academics. There is a reason art and P.E. are mandatory, that social skills are utilized at recess, and that the fundamentals of conversation are taught for lunchtime chats. In all honesty, every child around the world is going to miss two to three months of physically being in school...and they’re all going to be just fine. 

Traditional school will be up and running before we know it, but this unique time of being home with your family won’t be around forever. Don’t disregard the value of observations that occur on a daily walk, the lunchtime conversations with your new “coworkers,” the feeling of paint squishing through little fingers, or the memories of pillow forts that stayed up for weeks. There is great learning in all of these moments too, perhaps more than will ever occur with a digital assignment.

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