Stay on Track: Best Practices for Remote Learning at Home

Published on in Health Tip of the Week

Young girl attending online school course When stay-home orders began in March, we took a crash course in at-home learning – with a great deal of variability among school districts, confusion and frustration for many students and families, and differing levels of participation and success.

Now that a new school year is underway, virtual learning is back for many students, and may be part of the plan for others as winter quickly approaches. Thankfully, most school districts were more prepared for at-home instruction this year, and can offer a more comprehensive learning experience.

Whether your child has been remote learning since the start of the school year, or you expect they may start doing more schooling from home in the coming months, CHOP has some best practices to share about virtual learning.

Set expectations and establish a daily "school" routine

  • Aim high, but be realistic. Encourage your child to talk about their learning expectations – and yours – and how best to meet them daily, weekly and monthly.
  • Encourage your child to help create a "school" zone at home. Discuss with your child where they learn best at home – a desk in their room, the dining room table or a quiet corner away from other distractions. Then, enlist your child in gathering the necessary school supplies and setting up their learning space. Consider putting supplies for each child into separate shoe boxes or buckets to keep them organized, and if multiple children must share the same learning space, set up physical barriers to keep each student focused on their own work.
  • Help your student organize their daily schedule of classes and a daily/weekly/monthly schedule of assignments. Many teachers are providing live lessons (synchronous learning) as well as self-directed learning modules (asynchronous learning). Help your child organize their day to be sure they are attending all live lessons. Then, help them to create a schedule to complete learning modules and assignments.
  • Help your child establish healthy daily routines. This may include showers, eating a healthy breakfast, dressing for the day and enforcing regular times for wake-up, bedtime, virtual schooling, breaks, exercise and free play. Consider alternating routines between children of different educational levels within your family so each can have 1:1 time with caregiver support and alone time for study, recreation and rest. Also, encourage kids to change out of their pajamas each day – it's a great way to create a mental reset to learning.
  • Schedule time to check in with your child throughout the day. Younger children may need help with transitions, while teens may need reminders to stay on track and achieve certain goals (i.e. complete so many math problems, read so many pages).

Limit distractions

Don't let children do school work while also watching TV or monitoring their siblings. Each child deserves the opportunity to learn uninterrupted. Stagger school times if older teens are needed to watch or help with younger siblings.

Limit excessive TV and video game usage during the school week. Instead, encourage free play, imaginative play, crafts, reading, meetings with friends (online or in-person when safe to do so) and outdoor play. Consider planning a fun after-school activity with your child: learn to play a new game, experiment with a new recipe, or visit a new playground or park.

Partner with your children's teachers

This is a challenging time for students, parents and teachers. But, we're all in the same boat. By partnering with your child and their school team, your student can have a successful school year, learn new skills and be prepared to return to in-person learning when it is available. If you need more help than usual in supporting your child’s education, that’s OK. Ask teachers how you can connect with them for additional assistance.

If you suspect your child has a learning challenge, emotional needs or requires additional support, please contact your child's school team for guidance and your primary care physician for resources in your area.

Read more: Tips for Homeschooling During COVID-19.

Stephanie W. Endres, MEd, is Manager of the Hospital School Program at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

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