As a parent, what is my role, and what can I do to best support my child’s education?
Page 2: How Do I Get My Child Ready To Learn?
Maybe your child is starting the school year virtually. Maybe she is learning at school on certain days and at online the rest of the week. Regardless of the number of days your child is learning at home, a bit of planning up front will make things easier. Let’s talk about how you might get started.
Before your child starts learning, you will need to:
- Create a learning space
- Set a routine
- Set expectations for behavior
Read on to learn more about how to do each of these.
Create a Learning Space
If possible, create a place where each child can work. For example, one child can work at the kitchen table and another in the living room. If your child already had a place to do homework, he or she can use that place to learn at home. Having a space can help your child stay focused on learning. This space should be quiet and free of clutter and other distractions.
Tip: Limit Common Distractions
- Other children playing
- TV, music, loud talking
- Things going on outside
- Clutter in the learning space
- Electronic devices (phones, video games)
Below are some common challenges for setting up a learning space. Click on each for ideas.
Make space dividers. Separate the learning spaces for each child. These don’t have to be fancy. Use supplies you already have at home (binders, tissue or cereal boxes, leftover cardboard).
Binders as space dividers
Cereal boxes as space dividers
Cardboard box as a privacy barrier
Folders as space dividers
Paper towels as space dividers
Tissue boxes as space dividers
Use different rooms. You can create spaces in different rooms for each child. For example, one child can work in the kitchen and another in the bedroom.
Rotate kids. If you only have one space for learning, the kids can use the space at different times. You might want to have a basket or container for each child’s school supplies. They can even carry the basket with them as they move in and out of the space.
Use headphones or earbuds. Several members of your family might be working or learning from home right now. Using headphones or earbuds can help reduce noise.
Remove electronic devices. Put away devices that are not being used for learning.
Avoid learning spaces near windows. If your child gets distracted by things going on outside, either cover the windows or move your child away from them.
Remove clutter. If your child is working in a space normally used for something else (such as the kitchen table), clear away items that might be in the way or might be distracting (table settings, utensils, salt and pepper shakers).
Make a quiet space. If possible, create a space in your home for quiet work. Family members can take turns working there.
If you supported your child’s learning at home in the spring, you probably learned a lot about what worked and what didn’t. Perhaps a shared learning space was too small for multiple children to use. Maybe a family member interrupted “class” by watching TV with the volume turned way up. Maybe an older sibling turned out to be better at explaining 4th grade math than you. Think about what worked and what didn’t and use that information to plan for a better situation this time around.
Depending on your family dynamics, consider having a series of family meetings to discuss these issues. Brainstorming together might result in more creative ideas. When everyone is able to contribute, they also might be more willing to abide by the solutions.
Set a Routine
Keep in Mind
Every child is different. Some kids need more physical activity, others some time to just sit and get lost in a book. Some need more structure, others more flexibility. You know your child best.
Adjust the schedule to meet your child’s needs. This may be particularly helpful for students who struggle with learning or for children with disabilities.
When kids have a routine or schedule, they know what to expect. This helps them feel safe and secure. On a normal school day, your child probably has a morning routine (waking up, getting dressed, going to school) and an evening routine (dinner, homework, bedtime). On days when your child is not at school, schedules are still important. Here are some pointers for creating a schedule.
Start with your school’s online learning schedule. Some schools have requirements for online presence and will even take attendance. Build your schedule around these required learning times.
Create the schedule with your child. When your child helps to create a schedule and has some choice about when activities happen, she or he is more likely to follow the schedule.
Consider how long your child can stay focused. You might notice that your child’s teacher includes a variety of learning activities in each lesson. These changes keep children engaged and are based on their age-appropriate learning needs. You can do the same thing when setting your schedule. How long should each learning activity last? See the table below for suggestions.
|Age||Length of Activity|
|5–8||10 to 15 minutes|
|8–10||15 to 25 minutes|
|10–12||20 to 30 minutes|
|12–14||25 to 35 minutes|
|14–18||30 to 50 minutes|
Plan harder learning activities for times when your child is more alert. Younger children are typically more alert early in the day, but middle and high school students might be more alert later in the day.
Offer a mix of activities.
- Include online and offline learning activities. For more on finding resources, see Page 3.
- Schedule time for breaks, meals, physical activity, fun, and time to connect with friends and family. For more on how to support your child socially and emotionally, see Page 6.
Be flexible. There will be days when it’s not possible to stay on schedule. It’s OK to make changes! For example, your child might need to stop working after 20 minutes instead of the 30 minutes you scheduled. Again, this is normal and expected. On these days, try to find a balance between the school’s attendance requirements and your child’s or your family’s needs.
Tweak the schedule as needed. After using the schedule for a few days, you can change the parts that aren’t working. For example, your child might need a longer break after a math lesson.
Resources to Create a Routine and Schedule
As we discussed above, your child has routines—activities he or she does each day, usually in the same order (waking up, getting dressed, going to school). At school, there is also a schedule—a planned time for activities (such as math at 9:00).
Below you will find sample routines and schedules for elementary school children and for those in middle and high school. First, click on the routine to see what types of activities to include in your child’s day. Next, click on the schedule to get an idea of how much time each activity should last.
Click on each schedule or routine below to see an example.
Ready to create your own schedule? Click here for a blank form to get started.
Click here to read a short article about how to set a schedule with your child that will also help develop independence. Note: Though this article focuses on students with cognitive disabilities, it has tips that are helpful for parents of all children.
Below are some common challenges you might run into while creating your schedule. Click on each for possible tips.
- Use a visual schedule with pictures for younger children. Click here for an example.
- Use different colors for different learning activities. For instance, use orange for reading and green for math.
- Try to figure out what your child is struggling with. Does she:
- Not understand the topic?
- Struggle with reading the instructions? For ideas on how to support a child who has difficulty reading instructions, see Page 7.
- Not understand how to complete the task?
- Set times in the schedule when you, another adult, or an older sibling can answer questions or offer help.
- Remove any distractions from your child’s learning space.
- Break the learning activity into shorter amounts of time. For example, schedule two 15-minute sessions for reading with a 10-minute break in between instead of one 30-minute block.
Set Expectations for Behavior
You probably already have rules and expectations for your child. These might include things like pick up your toys when you’re finished playing or put your dish in the sink when you’re finished eating. Now that your child is learning at home, you probably want to talk to your child about what you expect during learning activities throughout the day. For example, when your child is working independently, you expect him to work quietly and to the best of his ability.
Your child’s school might also have expectations for behavior. For example, on virtual days, schools might expect students to be logged into class and actively participating. They might also have developed guidelines for online behavior. Be sure to find out what your school expects and go over them with your child.
Some children will need more support than others to do what you expect them to do. Here are some tips that can help you prevent problems before they occur.
Tell your child what you expect. You might need to explain what that looks like. For example, you might explain that do your work means stay in your learning space, stay focused on your work, and stay quiet.
Make sure what you expect is reasonable. Keep in mind your child’s age and what is realistic when you set expectations. Older kids may be able to work independently for longer amounts of time. Younger kids might need more breaks.
Actively monitor your child’s online learning. This is especially important during the first weeks of school. Is your child paying attention to the lesson? Is she actively engaged in the class activities? If she’s not, then show her what she needs to do. Over time, as she learns the daily routines, you can step back.
Include parent-child time in your schedule. When children know there is a set time they can be with you later, they are less likely to interrupt you.
Teach your child how to ask for help. For example, “Knock on the door when Mommy or Daddy are in work meetings.”
Praise and reward expected behavior. For example, “You finished your math assignment. I know that was really hard. Great job staying focused.”
Below are some common behavior challenges. Click on each for possible tips.
- Remind your child of what you expect.
- Reward your child when he does what you expect.
- If the problems continue, use a behavior contract. For a blank behavior contract, click here.
- Make it a rule that your child is not allowed to have a device during learning time, unless it is needed for learning.
- Block applications using the settings on your child’s device.
- Change the Wi-Fi password or turn the Wi-Fi off once your child has downloaded learning materials for the day.
Managing behavior can often be difficult. For more ideas about how to do this, check out the following resources.
Motivating Children to Do Their Homework: Parent’s Guide. This document from the Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk explains how to set up a reward system to help kids complete their homework.
Supporting Families with PBIS at Home. This resource from the Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports offers advice on how to use PBIS to minimize behavior issues.
Using Rewards To Improve Behavior. This short document describes the types of positive rewards you can use to encourage or reward your child’s desired behavior.