September 2, 2020
by Mary VanRavenhorst, OTR/L, BCN

So the time has come to begin the school year! If you’ve decided that distance learning is best for your children, here are some ways to rock distance learning and help your family succeed.

  • Break it down. Chunk up the school year into manageable portions. Looking at the school year as a whole may be daunting. Breaking the task down to what are my priorities this week may be enough.
  • Identify your strengths and weaknesses. Just as some people are gifted at math and others are gifted at reading, some people are great at organization while others are gifted in creativity.  It’s OK to ask for a little help to get started!    
  • List your resources. Is there a grandparent or a retired neighbor who would help monitor school work during the day while you are at work? Is there a college student looking for some experiential learning who can work out a school plan with you?  Is there a friend with similar-aged kids you can cooperate with to make it a group effort?  We are all in this together!
  • Call a family meeting.  Kids are keenly aware of the changes this new school year will bring.  Take time to acknowledge everyone’s feelings about the changes this school year will bring. Identify some of the challenges and benefits in establishing a new routine. Include them in the discussion and ask for their ideas.  You may be surprised at how willing they are to take ownership in the learning process if they are involved from the get-go! Once you have narrowed down a system to get you started, share the plan with your family so everyone is set up for success.
  • Get organized. A variety of free apps are available to help your family stay on schedule. Check out Cozi , Remember the Milk, Todoist and Evernote.

 Now it’s time to create a home classroom and provide structure and routine to their day.

  • Discuss the expectations for at-home school with your child before the first day.  What time will school begin?  What time will you take a lunch break?  For younger kids, when can your child expect a movement break? 
  • Make an “at-home learning space” for your child.  This will help your child to recognize the cues that learning is about to begin.  If your home does not allow for a separate workspace, turn the kitchen table into a classroom. This might include clearing clutter that may become a distraction.  Placemats work great for designating a space for each student to work.  Set the middle of the table with supplies for the day. For younger kids this might include crayons, markers, pencils, and erasers.  For older students pens, highlighters, and a ruler.  For older students, make sure there’s an outlet to charge a laptop.
  • Take movement breaks throughout the day.  As a general rule, preschool students can attend for 10-15 minute increments.  You can capture the attention of a first grade student for 20-25 minutes.  Even older kids break up the routine of school by changing classrooms.  Setting a timer can remind everyone that it’s time for a break. Movement breaks can be purposeful such as animal walks to the bathroom or skipping to the kitchen to set the table for lunch.
  • Focus on building skills over completing assignments.  Some kids work faster than others, and assignments might need to be modified to their learning style.  For example, do even number problems before lunch, odd problems after lunch.  Find creative ways to practice skills. Practicing spelling words with paper and pencil may not work, try using shaving cream to practice spelling words.

 Remember, home learning is a new venture. Expect some adjustments along the way.