Ministry of Education, Guyana

Low-Stress Tips for Virtual Learning Routines

My family is a month into virtual learning with four young kids. As we get into a virtual school routine, we’re learning what helps us stay connected and on-task in this new normal.

Remote learning is new to all of us (kids, grown-ups, and even teachers!) and we’re learning to improvise as we go.
As we figure out what works for our family, I’ve been working to be patient with myself (and my kids) for the challenging days. Setting realistic expectations has definitely helped all of us. And while my kids miss their schools and being with their teachers and classmates in person, we’re figuring out fun ways to thrive in this new method of learning. We’re expanding not only how we’re learning, but realizing we’re capable of more than we thought possible, too. My kids’ resilience and resourcefulness have inspired me to look for the bright side and appreciate how technology connects us in this new season of learning.

Here are simple, low-stress ideas to make the most of a virtual learning routine:

Designate workspaces. With a little imagination, we turned our dining room table into a virtual learning workplace. Each elementary schooler sits at an end of the table, and we bought some basic cardboard tri-folds to help wall them in and stay focused on their digital classrooms. It’s not fancy, but it works! My fourth-grader and second-grader call their workspaces their “offices.” Our e-learners also have headphones, which help them focus and stay on-task. These printable weekly planner charts are helpful, too.

Customize learning spots. Since so much of this year’s learning experience is digital, I brainstormed tangible ways my kids could take ownership of their learning and outfit their office spaces. They enjoyed making their own choices and selected photos of friends, drawings, and stickers to customize their desk areas. We also printed a remote classroom schedule, which has helped them feel empowered about their daily schedules. These visual cues remind them that while they might be at home, there’s a set-apart space in our home and time in our day that’s for learning new things in the remote classroom.

Get colorful. Since our family has children from preschool to fourth grade, we have tons of supplies, books, cords, and notebooks to corral. A simple way to stay organized? Assign each at-home learner a color for a book and supply bin. I have three boys: One has blue, one has yellow, one has green. This has helped us cut down on lost markers and wayward notebooks — and they always know where to go when their teacher says it’s time to grab a workbook!

Honor the breaks. Sitting in front of a screen all day is tough, so when breaks are assigned, we take recess seriously! We live in the Midwest, and we’re gearing up for ways we can get outside for fresh air, even as it gets colder.

Opt for snacks. I put together a simple basket of healthy packaged snacks (think granola bars, crackers, raisins) that my kids can reach easily. If their stomachs are grumbling throughout the school day, they know they can take what they need and don’t have to ask permission to help themselves. I also provide refillable water bottles, which cuts down on needing to pour drinks throughout the day.

Use positive language. As grownups, it’s easy to get lost in what we’re missing out on in this new normal. In our family, we acknowledge the challenges, but we’re committed to finding creative solutions to work through them, too. Kids are so adept at paying attention and picking up on how the adults in their lives frame challenging situations. Some ways we’re reframing? We get to be together more often, we’re learning new technologies, and we’re discovering different ways to have fun!

Stay on a schedule. Getting into a weekday routine has helped our transition to virtual learning be a smooth one. I printed copies of my kids’ classroom schedules to have on our fridge, where they’re easily accessible for everyone. Now, I know when their breaks are and when they’ll need extra quiet time in the house for reading or testing. We also cut down on screentime in our mornings before school, which has helped our learners get into the zone and prepare for a day of digital learning.

Play games. When my preschoolers need a break (and I need to get some work done), we’ve loved searching through the PBS KIDS educational games and apps together. Elinor’s Nature Adventure has been a new favorite. They stay entertained, learn something, and I have a minute to send a few emails!

Give them space. I’ve overheard some sweet (and funny) snippets from my kids’ interactions with teachers and classmates in the classroom, but I try to respect their boundaries and not to eavesdrop too much. Creating boundaries is possible, even when kids are learning from home. And we have so much more to talk about and connect over during dinner!

Be flexible. This year has taught us to expect the unexpected. I’m learning that each of my children learns a bit differently, and what helps one student succeed might not necessarily work for another. We’re grateful for the rhythms and routines we have in place, but I’m also holding our schedule loosely. We’re all learning to be more adaptable (and more vocal about what we need) and that’s a good thing! We also love taking deep belly breaths when we need a good reset.

Connect with teachers. Don’t underestimate the power of a kind email. Teachers are working overtime to come up with creative teaching solutions. It can be easy to forget the educators behind the screen making virtual learning work. Teachers still want to connect with families! Write an email letting them know that you appreciate their creativity and hard work.

Work with wiggles. I’ve noticed that my kids are extra wiggly at the end of the school day (and the end of the week). Knowing to expect pent-up energy at certain times helps me manage my expectations and be a more empathetic parent as we’re all working from home. My second grader’s teacher creates miniature “stretch” breaks throughout the day where she sends students on missions around the house to count steps by fives or tens. These tiny breaks help brains rest and bodies reset. We’ve also incorporated evening walks and a few before-bed dance parties to get the wiggles out!

Celebrate hard work. Kids and grownups alike are working hard to adapt to remote learning. We’re looking forward to hosting an Arthur-inspired Family Award Ceremony this fall to celebrate all the ways we’ve uniquely adapted and changed at the start of this school year.

There’s no one perfect way to adapt to virtual learning. In our family, we’re committed to doing our best, working as a team, taking breaks, and getting creative when it comes to new ways to stay happy and healthy as we learn in new ways this year.


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