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Tips to ease kids into online learning this fall

You, as a parent, play a crucial role in the success of your child’s experience

online learning, kids, computers, social media, distractions

By the grace of technology, even if your kids can't go to school in person due to the pandemic, they can continue to learn from home, usually through a combination of videoconferencing and working with emailed or online materials. While the teachers are still in charge, you, as parents, are vital to making sure kids adapt to learning in the home environment.

One of the dangers of working on a computer is the siren call of other activities, from social media to surfing the web. Establish the importance of leaving such distractions aside until schoolwork is completed.

Similarly, studying in a room full of toys may interfere with your kid's concentration. Try to find a quiet place in the house where your child can work without clutter to suck up attention.

Children have varying abilities to focus. For a young child, 5 to 25 minutes is probably the longest amount of time they can devote to a single learning session, said Linda Carling, an associate research scientist at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education Center for Technology in Education. Be sure to build in breaks between sessions, with chances to stretch, have a snack, or even go outside to run around.   

Establish a regular timetable for the day, which helps you maintain a work schedule and helps your child know what to expect. Make a chart with times specified for meals, study sessions, social interaction, exercise, and other activities. Ideally, your child should wake up at the time they would rise to prepare for going to school and begin studying at the time their in-person classes would begin.

However, you might want to make adjustments if  you find your child is better able to concentrate at specific times of day. If your child is frustrated or anxious, an unscheduled break is perfectly acceptable. One of the virtues of learning at home is that it's easier to build flexibility into the schedule to accommodate individual needs.

For a child with special needs, parents should meet with staff to review the individualized education program and discuss how to adapt it to the virtual learning setting. Be sure to make use of technologies built into most phones and laptops, such as text-to-speech and speech-to-text, which can be of help to kids who struggle with reading and writing.

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