Updated: Jan 13
Throughout the pandemic, Ontario families have attempted to work and learn from home when school boards or individual classes have had to switch from in-person to online learning.
While this is a near impossible situation for most families, I am sharing some tips on setting up a learning space at home that may give you ideas to try and help gain small wins for your family.
Many of these strategies are useful for homework spaces or as parenting tools to use ANYTIME, not just during virtual school, to support your child's play, learning, and creativity at home!
My suggestions come from 15 years of primary teaching experience - there are ways teachers create optimal learning environments at school that parents can apply to a space at home that may help set your child up for virtual learning success.
Does your home allow for a designated learning space, e.g., basement or dining room that can be separated from the rest of daily home life?
• Use a desk or table that is uncluttered, with only the learning materials on it.
Work within sight of your child so they know you are available for support (when you can be) and because kids usually feel more comfortable having parents in view. Your presence also helps to keep them accountable and less likely to play video games/watch videos/other distractions on the computer!
Materials & Supplies Available
• The basics are organized and available – laptop, headphones, paper, pencils, sharpener, eraser, markers, paper, etc.
Use a caddy or cups for storage. A magazine holder works great for paper and notebooks.
Store on the desk or in a utility cart, or in a box on the floor or a bookshelf.
Have these materials and supplies easy to see and reach at all times to encourage more art, drawing, and writing in your home!
Opportunities for Movement
• Kids need regular movement (and some kids need more than others!) throughout the day and when learning.
Seating = let you child stand, sit on a pillow on the chair, exercise ball.
Fidget toys, playdough, and squishy toys are available for keeping hands busy when listening to a lesson.
walk around the block
play tag on the sidewalk
youtube movement activities, e.g., GoNoodle has lots of fun ones!
dance to a favourite song
jumping jacks on the porch
Visible Schedule & Clear Expectations for Behaviour
• Classrooms have schedules posted for easy reference. They remind kids what is happening now and what is coming next. They can refer to it to know when the next snack or break is! Include any times that you are available or not available.
Write out the schedule and post it for easy reference during the day (images for non-readers, e.g., google images related to each subject).
Discuss activity options with your child for “recess” or “play” times (involving them in problem-solving increases compliance) and write out the list for reference, e.g., LEGO, dance/yoga/movement videos on Youtube, puzzle, book, favourite toys.
Have the toys in nearby bins or a known location, e.g., organized playroom. (See my post on How to Encourage Independent Play for details.)
Snacks and Lunch are packed before school starts and easy to access by your child independently. Keep the water bottle on their desk.
Time outside: Kids (& adults!) need to get outside each day for well being.
Kids need daily physical activity to release energy and help them focus in school.
How can you fit physical activity into your day?
Can you walk/play tag around the block at lunch time?
Go to the playground after dinner (with flashlights!)?
If you have a backyard, send them out to build a snowman or kick a ball at lunch.
It may be difficult to make it happen but everyone will benefit, including better moods and behaviour.
Review the Day when eating dinner together and plan adjustments for the next day.
Praise all the great things your kids did.
Problem solve the parts that didn't work for everyone.
What can be done differently tomorrow?
Do what you need to do for your family's well-being.
If virtual school causes more stress than helps, log off.
If you can offer play time to your child instead, remember how valuable play is - it is how they learn, gain confidence, practice skills, relieve stress, use their imagination and creativity.
If everyone is happier when kids are watching a movie, do that.
Remind your kids how much they are loved,
that this is a hard situation,
and your family is a team and will get through this together.
Get in touch if I can help with your learning or play spaces or creating a daily learning schedule that will work best for your family.
Sending strength & love.