Parenting Tips & Tricks on Managing Digital Learning and Homeschool
17 years of teaching in brick-and-mortar schools, virtual school, brain development research and now as Director of Kids Connected – Live Online Education, I was able to pinpoint an essential top 5 for parents who are trying to keep the balance at home. (Inspired by the pandemic in spring 2020). Many parents tend to focus on school work during a digital learning or homeschooling day, but the essential top 5 must all be present to “Keep the Balance.”
~Lori Moore – Woodstock, GA. – Kids Connected
#5-Essential Academics – Tips
Homeschooling is not just about teaching your kids. Homeschooling is also understanding the learning process and what is appropriate at each developmental level. Sometimes building stamina and self-control become a focus, while other times, it is exploring and providing a rigorous lesson.
Understanding the Basic Framework and Providing Appropriate Support
As parents, sometimes it is easier for us to provide too much support or not realize the approach we are taking does not support the natural learning progression. The following frameworks and strategies are take-aways you can use to understand the learning process and to set your young child up for success in digital learning and/or homeschool.
An efficient and effective teacher is able to present new standards in mini-lessons, which last about 10 – 15 minutes (often longer for older students) . After the direct instruction, the focus is typically on guided practice, discussion and independent practice.
Basic Framework – Pre- Reading
The majority of learning should surround pre-reading & early reading strategies. These strategies are also embedded in the content areas of science and social studies. Keeping our little kids motivated with a toolbox of reading strategies will continue to harbor their love for learning, as well as their independence. Strategies are more important than knowing the answer or the word they are attempting to read.
Providing Appropriate Support – Reading Strategies for Pre-Readers & Early Readers
Independent reading time is still appropriate for preschoolers with “Read the Pictures” strategy. Picture clues help readers decode, make predictions, as well as connections to the world around them. “Tap it Out,” taken from FUNdations reading program, should be used when our Early Readers say, “Mom, what is this word?” Giving them the word does not allow for the development of independence and can even foster laziness. After your child has referred to the pictures and tried “Tap it Out,” then they should try skipping the word (use context clues) to determine if sentences before and after will help.
Basic Framework and Providing Appropriate Support – Reading Strategies for Fluent Readers
During the reading years (around 2nd or 3rd grade through 5th grade), the focus is on Reading Comprehension and Higher Level Thinking. We should also incorporate written responses to reading. Project – based learning supports research & real world application, as well as student engagement at these levels. This level requires our readers to read critically and not just look at words. MPC has a combined a list of the Active Reading strategies we like to use, and are linked here for you to implement with your reader.
At the level of critical reading, direct instruction in writing is imperative. After 5th grade, application of these higher level thinking skills, active reading skills, and writing flow much more naturally.
Basic Framework – Math
People frequently ask “why is math taught differently than when we were in school?” Peter Kruger, education policy writer points out in an article about teaching math that the question is “even indirectly addressed in The Incredibles 2.” The answer: the core math promotes critical thinking, problem-solving and reasoning. Memorization does not allow for application of knowledge.
Math Strategies for Success
It is great idea to have math tools on-hand during virtual sessions or independent work. Math tools, such as a ten-frame, hundreds chart, number line, etc. promote student success, build confidence and problem-solving. We love Jennifer Findley’s free printable resources.
The Hundred Chart can be used in so many different ways: check out The Stem Laboratory’s 15 Brilliant Ways to use this tool. Kids can use it while working on math lessons for anything from counting, skip counting, number patterns, adding, multiplying, place value and more.
Understanding word problems is a skill even young mathematicians can attempt. Just because students cannot read fluently does not mean they cannot begin to reason a situation.
A schedule is great, but routines are more important. Plan to be flexible with a schedule. Inside a traditional classroom, when discussions are powerful, student engagement is high, or need for repetition exists, timing is somewhat flexible unless we are heading to lunch 🙂
The State of Georgia requires 180 school days and 4 1/2 hours of school per day. These laws vary from state to state.
Start by “getting ready for your day.” However this looks for your family, set the routine expectation: get dressed, eat breakfast, brush your hair, your teeth, and start with a particular task. Take a break when frustrations occur. Always circle back, because children will pick up on successful task avoidance.
Here’s a Look at a Sample Week:
If you are digital learning with your county, your day may be scheduled for you. Homeschooling has more options for breaks and continuation of studies past a certain time frame. The Kids Connected Guided Homeschool Program allows for a flexible schedule, with one focused standard per day. Check out our students’ sample week:
Studies can vary based on student engagement, need or parent work schedules.
# 3 – Independence
While a flexible school schedule will allow for us to make work meetings fit in where they are necessary, giving yourself grace and setting clear boundaries is imperative. Be straight-forward with expectations for your children when your attention needs to be on your work. Boundaries with positive reinforcement are appropriate when children respect this work-focused time.
This encourages early independence. For preschoolers, visuals help support positive reinforcement. Sticker charts and token economy work well. Rewarding your child can be phased out once routines are set. A little work at the beginning of the new routine can pay off with the amount of independence your child has in the long run. Older children can be rewarded with verbal positive reinforcement. There are cell phone apps that can be used while you are on the go, which are appropriate for all ages, such as Class Dojo.
Print a weekly checklist, which can be adjusted by age of the child. This checklist sets a clear flexible expectations for kids. It encourages independence, responsibility, and promotes positive communication between parent and child.
# 2 – Relationships
Communication and focused attention are important daily, even if it is just for 5 minutes. Use eye contact. The Whole-Brain Child recommends we be aware of our tone of voice, posture, facial expressions, timing & intensity when creating a connection.
Building a Meaningful Bond
Connecting and rationalizing with our kids is nearly impossible when they are emotional. Sometimes these emotions are irrational, making the desire to incorporate bonding strategies more difficult. The Whole -Brain Child strategies suggest to “Connect and Redirect,” as well as “Name It to Tame It.”
Positive Behavior Management
With the simple use of the checklist in Essential #3, I was able to communicate much more positively; “What do you have left on your checklist?” Prior to our family’s use of the checklists, I had become overwhelmed at giving my kids directions on what to do next throughout their day. And to my kids, I’m sure they felt I was nagging. High fives, hugs, thumbs-up, praise (especially to other adults about your child) are all strategies that support positive behavior. Use them even when you don’t think it is something that should be recognized. Reinforce the behaviors we want to continue to see from our children, so that the behaviors become habits.
# 1 – Health
Time published a great article to encourage physical & mental health balance during this pandemic. Our well-being as parents can not come second to our children’s. Healthy parents promote healthy kids.
The human body’s physical health quickly affects mental health if our priorities and intentional scheduling of exercise and nutrition are not imbedded in our daily routine. Leave all demands aside once per day and focus on your physical well-being.
Michael LaMonte, a research professor is quoted, “Don’t put a time scale on it; don’t put an intensity on it,” LaMonte says. “We need to go back to the old days, when movement was a way of life.” Keeping our bodies from succumbing to a couch potato quarantine is a real struggle, but we can still safely stay physical, keeping our distance, by adapting exercise in and around our home. As suggested by Boston-based personal trainer and fitness instructor, Amanda Brabec, use wine bottles for weights, dish towels for sliders, and a sturdy chair for step -ups.
*Choose 5 exercises, each for 1 minute, then repeat the circuit 3 – 5 times.
Research suggests that the quality of green space we incorporate into our week can be therapeutic. Studies at the Chiba University in Japan even found walks in a forest to lower cortisol which affects blood pressure and the immune-system. A Time article written by Alexandra Sifferlin states, “recent studies have also linked nature to symptom relief for health issues like heart disease, depression, cancer, anxiety and attention disorders.”
Our Children’s Well-Being
Teaching our children ways to control anxiety will have a more lasting impact on learning than teaching core academics alone.