Students are gearing up for a school year unlike any other, with the coronavirus keeping thousands of kids out of a traditional classroom. For parents, the idea of remote learning can seem daunting, but it doesn't have to be.
"They're wondering how this is going to work, especially when they're working from home," said Ann Dolin, a former Fairfax County teacher who went on to found Educational Connections, a tutoring service in the D.C. area.
Dolin has four things you can do right now to prepare your child for a smooth transition into virtual learning.
Pro Tip 1: Designate a Location
The most important thing is to have a designated space for virtual learning, Dolin said.
"Your brain really needs to know that this is where you go for learning," she said. "So if it's also the place that you play video games, your focus is going to be split."
If you don't have enough space for a separate virtual classroom, there's always the dining room table, or you might consider adding a small table to the corner of the kitchen or basement, or re-purposing a nook under the stairs.
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Dolin said the ideal space should be quiet – but not too quiet. For some kids, maybe that dining room is the right option after all.
"If you've got a second grader, maybe squirreling him away into an old guest bedroom may be too isolating," Dolin said. "But perhaps part of the dining room table that you can fashion like a little study area, or even a desk in that area, would work great."
Pro Tip 2: Help Your Child Focus
Be sure to have headphones to block out distractions.
Cardboard study dividers can also help if siblings are sharing the same study space. "So if you have maybe two kids at one table, this is kind of like their visual barrier," Dolin said.
Pro Tip 3: Establish a Routine
Dolin recommends that, each Sunday, families plan out the week ahead
"A parent wants to sit down with their child and go over the schedule a week at a glance, and just go through and talk about [it]," she said. "'Tell me what your Monday looks like. How about Tuesday?'"
Pro Tip 4: Get Organized
Stock up on storage boxes or bins now, and invest in binders to store important assignments and papers.
"An accordion binder is kind of like the new Trapper Keeper," Dolin said. "It's a place where kids can put everything for each subject."
And here's one more thing you can do to prepare: Your child's virtual learning space needs to have good WiFi, so test it out now.