Let’s face it – remote learning is challenging.
For starters, both you and your child are getting used to incorporating classroom activities that always happened in a different place in your home.
And because of this, and because of the technology involved to stay engaged in schoolwork, the rules of school that you and your child have known have all been switched up.
If your child experiences learning differences, this equation gets even more complicated.
As someone who grew up with learning disabilities, I’ve dedicated my career and life to helping kids just like your child and me to overcome their learning obstacles.
And part of the process is by equipping you, the parents, with the knowledge and tools you need to help your child accomplish academic success.
I go into many of these time-proven strategies in my course, The ABCs of Academic Success.
And today, I’m going to share some of these tips with you to guide you through the role of parents as partners in remote learning.
You’re in a unique position here – you’re the adults involved in your child’s education who are currently the closest, physically and emotionally, to your child.
So, just as remote learning has redefined what it means to go to school, let’s redefine what it means to be parents as partners in remote learning!
Parents as Partners in Remote Learning
1. Help Your Child Plan and Stick to Schedules
Even adults like you and I struggle to stick to schedules sometimes.
For children, planning and scheduling is a skill they’re still in the process of learning.
In school, they have a structure to abide by.
Classes are split up into timetables, and teachers show up at specific classrooms for specific class periods.
Your child and their friends attend these classes together, move from classroom to classroom together, the school bell lets them know when a period is up, and so on.
At home, your child has to manage a lot of these things by themselves without any of these cues they’re used to.
It’s up to them to log into their online classrooms at the right times, and it’s up to them to keep track of assignments and homework without teachers and classmates physically there to remind them.
For any student, this can be overwhelming, and for your LD child, who might already struggle with attentional issues, information overload, anxiety, and so on, it is even more so.
To create structure, your child needs your help.
Help them create a schedule that they can easily refer to – a big wall calendar in an easily visible part of the house, for example, that you and your child update for classes, assignment deadlines, quizzes, etc.
If you find your child tends to overlook manual calendars and planners, try a digital planner or calendar instead.
Most in-built phone calendars in modern smartphones actually let you optimize when you want reminder alerts for approaching deadlines.
These automatic notifications can alert your child about when something is coming up in advance, so they’re not rushing about panicking and unprepared.
Cultivating a habit of updating a planner or calendar for each of their school appointments and deadlines is not only a great habit to stay on top of their workload, but a wonderful lifelong habit too.
You might need to assist your child in the early stages, reminding them to update their timetables and checking up on these daily to make sure they don’t miss anything.
Over time, your child will get used to doing this for themselves.
Not only does this help them stay on track, but introducing structure into their lives during the uncertainty and unfamiliarity of remote learning can help them overcome their anxiety and overwhelm, since they know exactly what they have to do and when they have to do it!
2. Help Your Child Create the Right Study Environment
Shifting school to your home not only messes with your child’s sense of structure but might also interfere with how well they study.
In school, a classroom is designed to be a place of learning – rows of desks, all facing the whiteboard or projector screen, the teacher’s desk up front.
Distractions are kept to a minimum, and your child sits in class with their books and information scribbled on the board right ahead.
At home, on the other hand, they are surrounded by distractions galore.
The TV, their social media notifications going off on their phones, the fridge, and all the snacks in your pantry, your pets, siblings playing about, family members on the phone, video games –
There’s no end to the distractions.
And while your child used to do their homework and study for quizzes at home before remote learning became a norm in your lives, it’s important to remember a crucial difference.
Before, they were assigned specific tasks, a portion of their schoolwork, to do at home.
Now every academic task they do is from home.
So, when they’re “in class,” they need your help to transform a part of your home to serve the same purpose as a classroom.
Set up a space for them in your home that is away from the typical centers of activity – such as the kitchen, the room where the family watches TV or games together, etc.
Make sure that this space is devoid of the things that might distract your child, like their phone, video games, etc., and that it’s a part of the home where members of your family won’t be passing through and disrupting their focus.
Did you know that if the brain’s focus is disrupted, it can take up to 20 or more minutes to refocus?
Your child might be missing out on valuable information during remote learning if they’re studying at the same table they eat breakfast at or the same couch they watch movies on.
An ideal study space for your child is one that is exclusively intended for them to study.
Not facing a window, preferably with a light in front of them to make sure their workspace is well-lit and there is good lighting when they need to have their webcams on for online class meetings – all these things are small but significant details you’ll need to think about.
3. Help Your Child Stay Organized
Your LD child might already have had trouble managing all the resources they’d get from school and juggling homework, tests, and class notes.
Things get even trickier with remote learning because so much of the resources they’re receiving is online and in a digital format.
Your child might feel overwhelmed by the amount of information they have to manage, and it can cause them anxiety and stress, interfering with their academic performance.
As their partner in remote learning, help your child develop organizational methods they can rely on to make sure they always stay on top of their workload.
My advice is to have hard copies of all textual resources, so if you can print out packets of notes and homework sent out virtually, this would be a great help to your child.
Research shows that people retain what they read better when using physical pages compared to when reading on the screen.
Your LD child might even be more prone than the average reader to distraction and losing their place when reading on a screen.
The continuous scrolling feature of text on laptops and tablets, along with the diversity of media like videos, gifs, external links, etc., make it difficult for readers prone to distraction to follow the text in a linear and focused way.
Moreover, devices aren’t only used for reading – plenty of studies show that in classes where students use electronic devices, they end up using them for non-academic purposes a significant amount of the time.
So, if you can, I highly recommend printing out your child’s notes and other assignments.
This also allows you to organize everything in one place, using another strategy I always recommend in The ABCs of Academic Success – using color-coded binders and tabs.
By separating their class material by subject, topic, and category (like homework, notes, quizzes, etc.), your child knows exactly where everything is at all times.
This way, homework doesn’t get overlooked, notes don’t go missing, and your child doesn’t have to use up valuable time rummaging through their desk drawers for a specific loose sheet of paper.
Suppose you are comfortable going with a paper-free option instead. In that case, you can also digitally categorize your child’s class materials systematically in folders and subfolders, on desktop or through Cloud options like Google Drive and Dropbox.
Remember to make sure your child downloads every resource shared by their teachers and saves them into the right folder on their device.
Teach them to rename the resources they download from generic filenames into labels that clearly identify what the material is, so when they look it up, they won’t have to spend long, stressful minutes opening and closing a bunch of tabs.
A little time spent methodically organizing study resources goes a long, long way in helping your child stay ahead of their workload and feel in control of their studying, rather than being too overwhelmed and anxious to study.
4. Help Your Child Break Their Tasks Down to Get More Done
Your child is trying their best to cope with the new reality of remote learning, but to make the most of their full potential, they need to have the right strategies for this as well.
One of the most effective strategies that I recommend in The ABCs of Academic Success is smashing the task – breaking a task down into a series of smaller tasks.
Your child might feel overwhelmed by the amount of independent studying they’re supposed to do now, without their teachers and classmates physically there to help and guide them.
Completing an assignment worth a lot of marks or reading up a chapter for a quiz might seem so daunting a task to your child that it effectively short-circuits their ability to learn, because their brain is so overwhelmed.
On the other hand, there’s a wealth of ongoing scientific literature that shows the massive benefits for learning, memory, and productivity when studying is chunked down into steps.
When you break a task down into a series of smaller tasks or to-do items, every time your child completes one of these items, they experience a sense of accomplishment.
This happens because completing a task like this activates the mesolimbic or reward pathway of the brain, stimulating the activity of the chemical messenger dopamine.
Dopamine creates a sense of anticipation for a reward and drives you to seek out that sense of pleasure.
So, for instance, if you eat a slice of pizza and, despite being full, reach out for another one because you expect to enjoy it just as much, that’s the work of the dopamine neurotransmitter.
If you started the second season of a show you loved the first season of, even if the first couple episodes aren’t as enjoyable, you’re likely to keep watching, because thanks to the dopamine, your brain expects that pleasure.
When applied to learning, knowing how to boost your dopamine levels by smashing the task down into more manageable steps gives your child access to on-demand motivation to continue learning.
Rather than getting overwhelmed by the mere idea of completing a huge assignment, they instead feel motivated taking things step by step.
Moreover, this helps them stick to a more systematic, thought-out, and thorough approach to their schoolwork, resulting in a better-quality final output.
5. Help Your Child Review What They Learned Offline
Did you know that reviewing is one of the most important parts of learning and remembering anything?
When your child learns something new, their brain creates connections between its brain cells or neurons to store this information.
However, if your child doesn’t actively attempt to retain this information, this neural connection withers away.
It’s similar to how you need to be consistent with your exercise to build and maintain muscle.
If you neglect to maintain this exercise, the muscle strength and form you built up will start to wither away too.
Reviewing and retrieving what your child learns is like exercise for the brain.
When your child revisits information that they’ve learned, the neurons involved with that specific memory fire off more frequently, and as a result, the neural connection gets stronger.
The memory of this knowledge becomes longer lasting and gets stored in your child’s long-term memory.
The same happens when your child has to retrieve information they learned – by applying it in quizzes, answering your verbal questions about what they’ve read, solving math problems, or textbook exercises.
The more they review and practice, the more active the neural connection associated with this knowledge, and therefore the better your child can retain, recall, and apply what they’ve learned.
By reviewing their lessons with them after their remote learning classes, you help your child learn more efficiently and show them that they have your support and help to rely on during the uncertainties of remote learning!
6. Help Your Child Take Brain-Friendly Breaks
With schoolwork and homework and classes and assignments all happening in the same place, your child might feel stressed out and discouraged.
After all, they’re at home, and there must be dozens of other things they would rather be doing.
To keep their motivation up and ensure that they’re learning in a brain-friendly way without overworking themselves, help them take enough breaks.
Scheduling short, five-minute breaks between their to-do items can work wonders for their focus and ability to retain what they’ve learned.
This is because when your child is learning, they’re using their working memory.
The working memory, unlike long-term memory, isn’t unlimited.
When your child’s working memory is at its limit, your child is overwhelmed, unable to focus, or absorb any new information, or to consolidate existing information in their long-term memory.
On the other hand, just a short break of 5 minutes after every 20 to 25 minutes of studying helps restore your child’s working memory to full capacity.
This aligns with what the Ebbinghaus curve of forgetting illustrates – people recall more at the beginning and end of learning sessions, and the longer the gap between this beginning and end, the more they are likely to forget.
So, help your child schedule short but effective learning sessions and space these out with 5-minute breaks – for a quick drink of water, some light stretching, some healthy snacks, etc.
They’ll find they’re better able to retain and recall what they’ve learned, and in general, be more motivated and in better spirits since they aren’t having to force themselves through long hours of studying.
7. Help Your Child Maintain a Healthy Sleep Schedule
Your child’s lifestyle during remote learning is something you can directly influence.
Many choices can make a difference in your child’s learning and overall well-being, not just during remote learning but also overall.
For starters, help make sure your child is getting enough good quality sleep.
After a certain point in the evening, devices should be switched off or left in a different room if your child tends to go to bed with them.
The blue light from these devices tricks the brain into thinking it’s daytime and that they have to stay alert.
And the dopamine your child might experience when on the internet for fun might keep them scrolling for hours whether they have something to do or not, just out of the anticipation of the reward.
So, make sure they are not on their phones or any other screens directly before bedtime and aren’t eating anything that could disrupt their night’s rest.
Sleep is an integral part of learning because this is when the brain processes what it learned during the day and converts it into long-term memory.
If your child isn’t getting enough sleep, they’ll be sluggish, clumsy, and forgetful the next day.
When they do get enough quality sleep, you’ll find that they’re better able to remember what they learned before going off into dreamland and are better prepared to learn for the day as well.
When your child wakes up after a good night of rest, they are in an alpha brain wave state – out of the four brain wave states (alpha, beta, theta, and gamma), this state is the most ideal for learning.
Your child is calm but also alert and able to focus and retain information much better.
These are just some of the many ways parents can be partners in their kids’ learning – not only during remote learning but throughout their academic lives.
I offer many such simple but effective, science-backed strategies for parents in The ABCs of Academic Success to help your LD child reach their full potential.
Once you’ve signed up, you get 15 minutes of one to one consultation with me for FREE, so if you have any questions or concerns, I’d be happy to discuss them with you!
Dana Stahl grew up with a learning disability. With the right help, she resolved it and her superpower is helping your LD child succeed in school, at home or during remote learning.
As an Educational Consultant and Learning Specialist for over 30 years, Dana created an easy-to-follow, step-by-step online course called The ABCs of Academic Success so you can help your child thrive academically! Check it out and get a free 15 minute consultation with Dana too.