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September 14, 2020

Mastering Remote E-Learning in 2020: Realities, Guidance & Self Care for You and Your Child

The Realities, Challenges and Guidance for Parents & Students During Remote E-Learning Education – from a School Principal and Psychotherapist and parents of 3

By: Tracey Ratner, Principal & Mother of 3 & Adam Ratner, Psychotherapist & Father of 3

So, here we are . . . many of us thought we would be back to life as normal come fall of 2020.  Some of us had hoped our children would be going back to school full time or even part time (and some students are!).  However, for many of us, the reality right now is full time remote learning. In the spring, we wrote an article about e-learning and how to manage it from the parent perspective.  It is important to note that during e-learning in the spring, we were in crisis mode.  Most of us had our world turned upside down with COVID- schools were closed, workplaces were closed, we couldn’t go anywhere, etc.  We are in a much different place now.  We have (fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), learned how to navigate many things in life with COVID still present.  Along with that, schools have had time to prepare and work toward what we are now calling remote learning (instead of e-learning).  The expectations for teachers, students and parents are very different now than they were in the spring. But, don’t let that worry you!  It is important to be educated on the differences and what you can do to help your child receive the best education possible, while also preserving your own mental health.

Among the biggest change here in Illinois is the shift from “do what you can learning” to “this is a regular school day” learning.  Whereas students were only required to put in a few hours maximum in the spring, they are expected to work and engage throughout a typical school day.  The Illinois State Board of Education has called for at least 2.5 hours of meaningful, synchronous (live) learning a day, meaning teachers will be live on Zoom (or whatever system your district is utilizing) to teach as they would in a classroom.  For many parents, this sounds daunting.

Here are some tips and ideas to help you work through these changes successfully:

1. Ease in!  No one is expecting your child to be perfect and attend from 9:00 AM – 3:30 PM on his or her first day.  I am hopeful that many schools and districts recognize the need to build virtual stamina. If your child is struggling, communicate that with his or her teacher right away and give them some grace during the first few weeks.

2. Communicate, communicate and communicate some more!  Trust me, you are not bothering your child’s classroom teacher by asking questions and sharing your experience.  Our teachers want to know how it is going.  We feel a loss of control because it is easy for us to know about our students’ growth, engagement and excitement in person. Yet, it is much more challenging to do this remotely.  Your child’s teacher wants him/her to get the best education possible and more than ever, we need parents help with that.

3. Set up your child for a successful school day, every day. If you have the space, designate a learning place for your child that is away from distractions.  Have fun with it and allow your child to decorate and set it up with you!  This will only increase buy in from your child.  Have a routine set for both breakfast and lunch.  This will set up both the day and the afternoon successfully.

4. Give your child space during the school day.  Think about it- you are not there, hovering over your child when they are at school, right?  So don’t do this at home, especially during synchronous (live) learning.. Let your child know where you will be in case they need you.  Help them get set up with their technology, especially if they are younger.

5. During independent work time, check in with your child. If you have a child that becomes easily distracted, set a timer to help them manage their independent time. If you have a child who gets easily overwhelmed, offer a break. If you feel as though 10 math problems is a lot for your child, have them successfully work on 5.

6. Have a positive attitude toward remote learning.  This is a challenge for everyone.  I know that none of us would have chosen this for ourselves or for our children.  But, your attitude is contagious to your child. If your child sees your frustration or sees you responding negatively to a teacher or the school, they will begin to feel the same way. That will ultimately impact their ability to engage in their education.

7. Make sure you engage in any and all extracurricular activities, assemblies or SEL activities your school is offering. Children need to feel a sense of belonging (and so do adults for that matter!).  Schools are creatively trying to find ways to build community for students and it is important that all students engage in these types of activities.

8. Find someone who is going through the same thing as you are.  Talk to a neighbor, friend or colleague who also may have children at home learning remotely.  This adult support is crucial during this time.

9. Use after school time to decompress.  Students are going to need ways to relax after a remote learning day. The level of focus and attention remote learning requires is very different than a typical school day. Find what works for your child, and commit to it each day. Some ideas include building with legos, watching a TV show, facetime-ing with a friend, going outside to play, putting together a puzzle, reading a book, etc

There may be some parents who are not able to be at home with their child during remote learning.  Some of our students will be in the care of older brothers or sisters, daycare providers, grandparents, neighbors, babysitters, etc. If you are in this situation, it is important to regularly touch base with these providers about your expectations for remote learning for your child and to check in on how it is going.  Only then will you be able to problem solve any potential barriers to your child learning remotely.

Lastly, if you or your child is struggling, as many are during this time, reaching out for further support from the community resources available to you, does not mean you are failing. It is an indication you would be doing everything you can control to help yourself – the parent, and your child. Letting these struggles go will only amplify and maintain the pain you are feeling today.

If you or a loved one are looking for support during these exceptionally challenging times, Grow Wellness Group does have some availability for both teletherapy and in-person counseling in the Naperville area. Contact us today to schedule an appointment or to learn more about who we are, how we work, and what challenges we work with. We look forward to supporting you in your pursuit of Growing and Living Well with our exceptionally motivated and experienced team of Naperville based counselors and therapists.

Good luck to everyone during this unprecedented time.  Remember to be kind to yourself and to your children.  We are all in this together!

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