Distance Learning Guide for Parents

Top 10 List of DL Strategies and Recommendations for Parents

Distance learning (DL) presents any school community with significant challenges. Each one of us is now learning how to do things quite a bit differently than how things were done in the recent past. We each have our own level of comfort with technology but at some point everyone will experience some form of difficulty and frustration using it. The recommendations below offers you, the parent, some practical and effective strategies that can help you create a more supportive DL environment for your student at home.

1. Establish routines and expectations.

It's important to develop good habits from the start. Create a flexible routine and talk about how it’s working overtime. Chunk your days into predictable segments. Help students get up, get dressed, and ready to learn at a reasonable time. Keep normal bedtime routines, including normal rules for digital devices. Adjust schedules to meet everyone’s needs but don’t default to staying up late and sleeping in.

2. Choose a good place to learn.

The usual learning space for doing homework under normal circumstances might not work for extended periods. Set up a physical location that’s dedicated to school-focused activities. Make sure the space is quiet, free from distractions, and has a good internet connection. Adults need to monitor online learning. Keep doors open, and practice good digital safety.

3. Stay in touch.

Teachers will mainly be communicating regularly through our online platforms and virtual learning environments (primarily Google). Make sure everyone knows how to find the help they need to be successful. Stay in contact with the teacher(s) and principal, and counselor (if needed). It may take a day or two to receive a response. If you have concerns, let someone know.

4. Help students ‘own’ their learning.

No one expects parents to be full-time teachers or to be educational and content matter experts. Becoming an independent learner takes time and practice. Provide support and encouragement, and expect your children to do their part. Struggling is allowed and productive struggle is actually a good thing.

5. Begin and end the day by checking in with your student.

In the morning, you might ask:

  • What classes/subjects do you have today?

  • Do you have any assessments?

  • How will you spend your time?

  • What resources do you need?

  • What can I do to help?

At the end of the day you might ask:

  • How far did you get in your learning tasks today?

  • What did you discover? What was hard?

  • What could we do to make tomorrow better?

These brief grounding conversations matter. By checking in with your student you are helping him/her process and internalize the instructions they received from their teacher(s). Not all students thrive in DL; some struggle with too much independence or lack of structure. These check-in routines can help avoid later challenges and disappointments.

6. Establish times for quiet and reflection.

For families with children of different ages, and parents who may also be unexpectedly working from home more often, it’s good to build in some time for peace and quiet. Siblings may need to work in different rooms to avoid distractions. Many families will need to negotiate access to devices, priorities for wifi bandwidth, and schedules throughout the day. Noise-canceling headphones will help reduce distractions. Encourage independent, low-stress learning such as silent sustained reading.

7. Encourage physical activity and exercise.

Moving (independently and together as a family) is vital to health, well being, and readiness for learning. It’s a great opportunity to practice exercising ‘alone together’ with digital workouts and online instructors. Set new fitness goals and plan hands-on, life-ready activities that keep hands busy, feet moving, and minds engaged. You may want to think about how your children can pitch in more around the house with chores or other responsibilities. Now’s a good time to think about increasing personal responsibility in the home.

8. Manage stress and make the most of an unusual situation.

Emotions may be running high, and children may be worried or fearful. Parents may be stressed as well and children are often keenly aware of uncertainty. Children benefit when they get age-appropriate factual information and ongoing reassurance from trusted adults. Often times it's possible to re-frame challenges as opportunities: for spending time together, discovering new ideas and interests, investing energy and attention in activities that often get pushed aside by everyday tasks and responsibilities. Experts advise that it’s a good idea to slow down, find beauty, enjoy unexpected benefits, and express gratitude by helping others. The strength of PGUSD's community will help see us through.

9. Monitor time on-screen and online.

Distance learning does not mean staring at computer screens seven and a half hours a day. Teachers will aim to build in variety, but it will require some trial and error before everyone finds a balance between online and close-space offline learning experiences. Work together to find ways to prevent ‘downtime’ from becoming just more ‘screen time’.

10. Connect safely with friends and be kind.

Students will already be missing their friends, classmates, and teachers. Help your children maintain contact with friends through social media and other online technologies. But monitor your child’s social media use. Remind your child to be polite, respectful, and appropriate in their communications, and to follow school guidelines in their interactions with others. Report unkindness and other problems so that everyone maintains healthy relationships and positive interactions.