for Remote Learning
As we head back into another school year, many will be starting off with distance learning. Whether you've chosen this or not, the following is a list of ten tips to help you and your family succeed.
Tip #1 - BUILD YOUR TEAM
I love the ancient African proverb…
If you want to go fast, go alone.
If you want to go far, go together.
Regardless of your specific grade level or “at home” school situation, this first tip applies to everyone. And that is to BUILD YOUR TEAM. If we want to go far, we need to lock arms with a community and go together! There is strength in togetherness! Here are some examples of what this can look like:
If you have little ones at home that are going to need one-on-one help, find a partner and tag team. This is especially helpful if you are working full time. This partner could be a spouse (divide the workday in half and swap halfway through). This partner could be a friend who’s in a similar position. And you and your partner can even get creative with school hours and work hours. Who says school has to take place during the traditional hours?
If you have older kids with challenging subjects, consider hiring a tutor or retired teacher. It can feel pretty overwhelming for you and your high schooler if they are struggling through a math class or a science class.
Consider pulling a few friends together for a cohort. My freshman has already reviewed his class schedule with some friends and they are planning to have one day a week when they get together and work on their assignments together.
Tip #2 - CREATE YOUR SPACE
Benjamin Franklin said,
"A place for everything, and everything in its place,"
and I think that applies to school spaces too.
Books, computers, binders, maps, and projects can take over your house if you let them. While there is some comfort in spreading out, the truth is, no one wants to see that mess when the school day is over. School is one part of our lives, not our whole lives. Amen?
When our boys were in elementary school, we had a designated room for a classroom. The boys shared a bedroom (yay for bunk beds). We used the second room as our school room. We lined the walls with bookshelves, used bouncy balls instead of chairs (not sure this was a good idea), and had a huge map of the world on the wall. We went all out and we spent a lot of time in that room! But when the school day was over, it was nice to shut the door and not return until the next morning.
I realize that not everyone has an extra room they can make into a schoolroom, nor do they want to. But I think the principle behind having a designated space still applies. Below are some ideas for how to CREATE YOUR SPACE.
Ideas for primary grades: Create a reading nook with book baskets and comfortable pillows, use locking tubs to store math manipulatives, and art supplies, and have a spot to display work (a clothesline and clothespins work well).
Ideas for upper elementary: A common area of the house (like the dining room table) may work well for this age group since they will do some work independently and some with help. Use a big tub for all needed school supplies including a computer, paper, post-its, highlighters, etc. When the school day is over, the tub can be neatly stored in a closet or under a bed.
Ideas for middle school/high school: Designate a desk in a quiet area of the house. Set up a wall calendar to schedule zoom meetings and project due dates. Since backpacks and binders won't be needed, consider other ways to keep class materials organized like hanging folders in a file drawer or a stackable file shelf.
Tip #3 - RESET YOUR CLOCKS
It's not easy transitioning from the carefree days and late nights of summer, but it must be done in order to get back into a school routine.
Here are my tips for how to RESET YOUR CLOCK:
🕑 Start with a conversation with your kids. My kids have reached the age where they want to be making these choices for themselves and I fully support that. This conversation will be casual and simply pointing out the facts... like school start times and suggested hours of sleep.
🕑 Do the math. Figure out what time your kiddos need to be up and ready to begin their school day and work backward to figure in the 8-10 hours of sleep they need.
🕑 Once you've figured out a new "bedtime" then look for ways to ease back into it. For older kids, you may want to pick a time that electronics get turned off. For younger kids, begin a routine of pajamas, storytime, and teeth-brushing.
Tip #4 - SHINY NEW THINGS
Even though most of us are starting the school year at home, it doesn't mean school supplies should be the leftovers from last year or what we can find in the back of that junk drawer. I really think there is a positive mental connection between shiny new school supplies and a confident outlook on the new school year ahead... a "we can do this" sort of mindset. While you may not need a new backpack, lunchbox or binders... fresh pencils, pens, and markers provide a good back-to-school feeling. I'm certain this nostalgia I have to new school supplies is leftover from those years when I was a teacher. Setting up my classroom with all the SHINY NEW THINGS was probably my favorite time of the year!
Tip #5 - CELEBRATE THE BEGINNING
The first day of school usually feels special, but chances are for most people this year, the first day isn't feeling all that exceptional. Elementary-aged kids aren't walking into a brightly decorated classroom with their names displayed in a cubbie and high schoolers aren't showing up in their vintage denim talking about their epic summer. But hey, that doesn't mean that we can't CELEBRATE THE BEGINNING with something special right in our own homes. I have a friend who orders an ice cream cake every year to enjoy after dinner on the first day of school. She even has them apply frosting to mark the grades the kids are entering! If you're used to taking the first day of school photo, do it still! Pick something, however small it may be and celebrate! You have earned a celebration, big time!!! Launch this momentous day, and mark it as special!
Tip #6 - MAKE A FRESH START
“I discovered that a fresh start is a process.
A fresh start is a journey – a journey that requires a plan.”
– Vivian Jokotade
A new school year needs a fresh start. It's important to implement new routines that mark a noticeable difference. Here are our plans to MAKE A FRESH START:
Pick a time for the school day to begin, and stick with it all 5 days of the week, regardless of scheduled Zoom meetings.
Designate a "school lunch" drawer in the frig for quick-grab items on school days.
Afternoon P.E. time together (bike riding or taking the dogs for a walk).
Dinner routine: A set time for dinners.
After-dinner activities: The kids can each take a turn choosing an after-dinner activity (card game, going for a walk, etc.).
TV off and video games off at a predetermined time - and if they’re still not tired, they can read.
Talking over the next day’s schedule before bed so there are no surprises with early morning zoom calls or other school requirements.
Tip #7 - SELF-CARE
"As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands,
one for helping yourself, the other for helping others" — Maya Angelou
Ok, moms (and dads), today's back-to-school tip is all about taking care of YOU! And keep reading... because I have a homework assignment for you today! I love the above quote by Maya Angelou because sometimes we need to be reminded to do the things to take care of ourselves. As parents, it's easy to get swept away with the needs of everyone else, but if we don't take care of ourselves, we won't be able to do much for others. This is especially difficult for parents of young kids. I remember those days and it’s HARD! If you've become teacher recently (in addition to all the other things you do), I'd like to encourage you to find little ways throughout the week to take care of yourself. For those of us with older kids, it's a little easier to find the time, but we still have to be reminded to do it. We all have a never-ending to do list, but SELF-CARE is very important. It’s how you can be the best version of yourself… not just for YOU, but for the people in your life too.
Jot down 3-5 things that you can do for YOU this week. Think of things that bring you calm or things that bring you joy. They don't have to take up a lot of time, but they are little "recess" breaks in your day where you can withdraw and fill your tank.
Go for a walk on the beach alone or with a friend.
Take a bubble bath + read for pleasure.
Read Scripture and spend time with God
Tip #8 - PLAN A FALL ADVENTURE
Ok, this tip is just the wanderlust in me speaking... can you blame me? I'm not sure this qualifies as a back-to-school tip, but I think there is something truly wonderful in having something to look forward to when everyone's getting down to the hard work. I have always liked having the next adventure on the horizon, and pandemic or no pandemic, I still want to be able to look forward to something special, even if it's just a drive up to our nearby mountains.
If you're itching to get away this fall, here are some ideas that just may do the trick:
Visit a National Park (day trip or overnight)
Take a drive to the mountains, to the beach, the lake, or to the desert (depending on where you live).
Just having that thing on your calendar will give everyone in the house something to look forward to in the weeks ahead.
Tip #9 - BE KIND
This is not only a back-to-school tip, it's also a tip for life. I'm going to be a little vulnerable here... my personality type tends to be a bit more on the intense side. I like things to run efficiently, I am not a fan of weakness, and I get irritated when things don't go as planned. I know, I sound like a terrible person! Thankfully as I have gotten older, and learned to trust God in more areas of my life where I cannot control the outcome, I have also learned to be more flexible and with that, be more kind-hearted. But I still get it wrong on plenty of days.
The truth is, everyone everywhere is going through something. That has certainly been true in this time of a world pandemic. It has affected everybody in different ways. An understanding that everybody is climbing their own mountain, and deserves love and kindness, is life-changing. Not just for the receiver, but also for the giver.
The kindness that we show our kids when the day doesn't go as planned.
The kindness we show our kids' teachers when they don't communicate as much as we think they should.
The kindness we show the principal who maybe isn't doing things the way we think they should.
The kindness we show ourselves when we don't get it right, or fall short in an area we were trying to have success in.
Kindness matters. Let's share love and encouragement with those around us.
Tip #10 - CELEBRATE THE VICTORIES
As I round out the last of the back-to-school tips, with this number ten, I want to remind all of us (me included) that stopping to acknowledge the good along the way is so important! I will be making a conscious effort in the days, weeks, and months ahead to celebrate the victories, both big and small. Our kids (and us as parents) are going through something that we could not have imagined a short time ago. And it's tough. Keeping our eyes open for the positivity and the silver-lining will help us fare better than if we don't.
What is a victory? Anything at all that can be celebrated!
🏆 "You survived your first week of virtual school!"
🏆"You completed all your work this week!"
🏆"You learned something new!"
🏆"You did your best on your first math test!"
🏆"You had trouble with this new concept and then you mastered it!"
🏆"You finished your school day in record time!"
🏆"You used creativity to complete the task!"
How can we celebrate?
🍎Bring attention to it.
🍎Say it out loud.
🍎Give a high-five.
🍎Ask how it made them feel?
🍎Have everyone share a "high" from their day at dinner.
🍎Have a special dessert at the end of the first week.
🍎Display student work in your home.
🍎Make a "celebration" board that showcases accomplishments.
I hope these ten tips have encouraged you to find ways for you and your kids to succeed this fall. Share your tips below. What tips can you add?