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The New Normal - Strategies and Tips for Learning at Home.

The current global pandemic has left feelings of uncertainty for many families’ and children’s normal routines. One huge part of that normal routine for kids is attending school on a regular basis. Due to COVID-19, many schools are opting for eLearning. Remote learning provides a novel and challenging learning experience for the whole family, and we at Kick Start are here to provide supportive tips to set your child and family up for success while learning at home.

  1. Define a space for eLearning: Designate a specific location in your home for eLearning to occur. This may be a separate room, closet, or corner that will be your child’s “office” or work space. Getting your child involved in the decision and creation of the space together such as decorating the space with artwork can give more ownership and motivation for eLearning. Some families may choose to set up a small learning group with another family to learn virtually together. While this can still define the expected space for your child, it can also provide social opportunities that may feel especially limited during a virtual school setting.

  2. Provide a supportive environment: Now that you have a designated space in your house for eLearning, you can add to and adjust the environment to make it supportive for your child’s learning style or needs. Provide a desk and chair that is the right height for your child, so they will be comfortable in their seat. If the desk or chair are larger, placing a stool under your child’s feet and an extra pillow behind their back can provide the appropriate postural support and prevent fatigue. Other supportive seating such as a wobble stool, yoga ball, or swivel chair to sit on may help get wiggles out and support their attention and participation. Additionally, allowing them to stand and move around while doing virtual school can provide extra movement while not taking away from the learning process. In addition to various seating, turning on the blue light filter on your computer or tablet screen can prevent eye fatigue when working at a screen for long periods. Having a specific bin of materials to fidget with such as putty, a stress or squeeze ball, or manipulative toys may help your child stay attentive or wait for longer periods during eLearning. Does your child want to bring toys to their school session? As long as these toys aren’t too distracting and your child is still participating, these toys can be helpful in maintaining that just right level of regulation and attention for school. When toys become distracting, use a specific basket or box to “park” the toy in and validate that the toy will be safe in this spot until after eLearning is complete. Using a timer or creating time in your schedule when your child can play with their favorite toy again may help them remain calm when having to put away their favorite toy.

  3. Create a schedule: Just like creating a predictable environment for your child, providing a structured schedule for your child can help learning at home feel more like the expectations and routine at school. In addition, a schedule can provide familiarity and predictability that will allow a child to feel more regulated and calm - an optimal state for learning! Using visuals or pictures in the schedule can help some children’s understanding of what to expect, what will come next, and when it will be time to end eLearning. Providing built in breaks to the schedule as needed will make learning expectations feel more doable and allow your child to recharge or self-regulate for more learning opportunities. Creating the schedule in a form of a checklist such as on a white board provides the opportunity for your child to be the one to “check” or erase the class or work once it is completed. This provides a sense of ownership as well as accomplishment.

  4. Discuss the expectations of eLearning: While providing a schedule can help a child and the family feel more organized, teaching and presenting this schedule may be just as significant to utilizing it. Before the eLearning day begins, show the schedule and discuss the expectations of your day - this may include validating that they have opportunities for breaks, or even explaining to your child that it is okay to request and add breaks throughout the day. It may be helpful to discuss the expectations and schedule the night before, so your child may feel more prepared for the following day.

  5. Be flexible and provide positive feedback! Transitioning to virtual learning is a unique and novel learning experience for most of our children. It may take days, weeks, or even months to adjust to this routine. Being a model of flexibility and giving positive feedback to our children can help them stay more flexible and willing to participate in the virtual learning experience. While eLearning can provide a challenge, adjusting the daily expectations, schedules, or even the space for eLearning may be what your child needs for their regulation and learning for that day.

Virtual learning may be our new “normal” amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s important to remember that each individual has their own unique learning style. Achieving one’s highest level of success may be more difficult to achieve over a computer screen, and your child and family are doing the best work they can during these unique times.

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