As the global COVID-19 pandemic continues to dominate headlines, we need no reminder about the pandemic’s impact on our daily lives. Routines have been upended, gatherings canceled, and—for many parents of school-age children—in-person schooling has been disrupted. As it turns out as of the fall 2020 semester, between 40% and 60% of students have been enrolled in districts that offer only remote learning.
As such, my colleagues and I were determined to be helpful to our school partners and their communities. Much of our support is geared towards our partners in schools and districts. But what about the members of our school communities who work outside our schools, namely, our parents and guardians?
This Fall, we launched the Home Learning Coach™ Series for caregivers across the US. The series consists of 8 individual workshops designed for parents or guardians now tasked with putting on a new hat: as a “home learning coach,” supporting their child’s virtual learning at home.
Over the last few months, we’ve reached hundreds of parents in 6 different states, 11 school districts, and in English and Spanish. A home learning coach said one of their biggest takeaways from the series was they “learned how to involve their student in decisions, organization, and giving choice.” Another said our facilitators were “well-versed and knowledgeable” in helping equip parents with the right tools and resources to ensure the success of both adults and their students. In this process, we’re grateful for the lessons we’ve learned along the way from our home learning coaches, and we’re excited to share them with you. Here are 3 helpful tips around virtual support that parents can use:
1. Create and Sustain Good Habits
We’ve learned that creating and sustaining good habits and routines is as essential at home as it is at school. There are two main ways to do this:
Have a consistent schedule.
Your child needs to wake up at a certain time to catch the school bus. But what if the commute is now as short as the walk to the kitchen table or the computer desk? Or if times for meals and breaks are no longer scheduled, but can happen as often as we like, for as long as we like?
We’ve found that maintaining a schedule—waking up, having breakfast, getting dressed and ready for school—primes home learners for the school day and for learning. Parents have told us what we know to be true at school: when children keep to a routine, they remain undistracted and their attention is focused on the learning process.
Have a work environment free of distractions and dedicated to schoolwork.
In addition to establishing consistent routines, we’ve also found that establishing consistent expectations at home is important. Have a space dedicated to schoolwork that allows your student to thrive—one that has resources at the ready and is free of distractions.
Our Home Learning Coach sessions on Structuring the Learning Environment discuss how important it is to structure time, space, and tasks. The session also features sample schedule and agenda templates that fit the needs of students from early childhood to high school.
2. Take care of your own needs, too!
Throughout the Home Learning Coach series, we were reminded just how trying a time it is for our students, who miss their teachers, friends, routines, and the socialization that comes with being at school. Parents too, are pulling double- and sometimes triple-duty, balancing work, household, childcare, and now, coaching their children through the learning process at home.
Our work in this series provided us, and our parent participants, a community of like-minded individuals who could share common struggles and tips.
We know how important it is to have balanced, emotionally healthy teachers in front of students. With so many parents “subbing in” at home, it’s a helpful reminder to take care of our own emotional needs as well.
3. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate.
Our session on The Role of the Home Learning Coach delves into the importance of establishing regular communication with your child’s teacher. We know how much teachers in our partner districts miss their students, and parents learned through our sessions that the more parents tap in to established communication channels with their child’s school, the better teachers are able to meet their child’s needs at home!
But communicating also means communicating with your child. The Home Learning Coach sessions contain resources designed to help parents understand their children as learners. What motivates them to learn? What do they need to be successful? Understanding this side of our own kids helps us be better facilitators of their learning at home. Additionally, we’ve found the importance of establishing a morning check-in (What do you have planned today? What are your goals?) and an afternoon wrap-up (What did you accomplish? What are you proud of? What would you do differently?) to foster communication between parent and child about the learning experience.
As with any new change in routine, establishing a rhythm takes time. Here are some questions to consider as you manage your child’s learning from home:
- Is there a communication system set up with my child’s school?
- Am I familiar with the technology platforms on which my child does his/her learning?
- Do I have the tech capacity at home to support my child’s learning? If not, how can I get support from my child’s school?
- Is there a dedicated, distraction-free space set up in our home that is solely for learning? If not, can I set physical and/or time boundaries to allow for one?
- Does my child have a set schedule for waking up, going to bed, eating, and physical activity breaks? If not, how can it be enforced?
Asking questions like these is a start, but of course, we are always willing to help. Please reach out, wherever you are in your Home Learning Coach journey! We look forward to hearing from you.
Interested in more information about Insight’s supports for parents and guardians in virtual learning? Learn more here.