Remote learning is a new phenomenon that is being utilized by many schools across the country. Schools need to think of creative ways to educate children while also minimizing the spread of COVID-19. One of our Nanny Educators will share some tips from her experience. This past spring, she successfully cared for a toddler and assisted two school-aged children with remote learning. It can be challenging but planning ahead can help make everything go much more smoothly.

1. Create and Post a Schedule

Children thrive on structure and routine. Since I was a classroom teacher for several years, I am very familiar with the typical school schedule that kids have become accustomed to. I would highly recommend creating a general schedule and posting it somewhere where the kids can check it throughout the day. Some schools may provide schedules for students, but others will not.

If you are creating your own schedule keep in mind that children need more breaks than adults while they are working. These don’t need to necessarily be set on the schedule but should be incorporated. When you notice your child is losing focus or getting frustrated, suggest a short break. Also, incorporate morning and afternoon snacks and lunch and at least 30 minutes for “recess” or playtime. I’d also recommend a quiet time or rest time in the afternoon. Not only will this time give you a chance to catch-up on household duties, rest, or focus on younger children, it will give your children a chance to unwind.

Sample Schedule – Schoolwork completed by 12pm

Time Description
7-8 Breakfast and morning routine
8-10 Schoolwork
10-10:15 Healthy Snack
10:15-12 Schoolwork
12-12:30 Lunch
12:30-1 “Recess” or playtime
1-2 or 3 Quiet time/Rest time – reading, journaling, independent play
3-3:15 Snack
3:15-5 Playtime
5-6 Dinner
6-7 Playtime
7-8 Bedtime routine and lights out

Sample Schedule – Schoolwork completed by 3pm

Time Description
7-8 Breakfast and morning routine
8-10 Schoolwork
10-10:30 Healthy Snack
10:30-12 “Recess” or playtime
12-12:30 Lunch
12:30-2:30 Schoolwork
2:30-3 Snack
3-4 or 5 Quiet time/Rest time – reading, journaling, independent play
5-6 Dinner
6-7 Playtime
7-8 Bedtime routine and lights out

2. The Binder

As a Nanny Educator this past spring, I used a binder for each child to organize their schoolwork. This promoted more independence in the children, especially for the third grader. She was able to take ownership of her assignments. The first grader needed more support with the binder, but he was able to look at his assignments for each day.

At the beginning of their binder they had their school schedule and list of assignments for the week. Then there were dividers for each weekday (Monday through Friday) and another divider at the end for “Completed Work” and finally the last was “Turned-in Work.” The completed work had not been photographed and submitted to the teacher. Once it had been submitted to the teacher, I moved it to “Turned-in Work.” I used the front and back pockets for any learning materials provided by the teacher, such as math tools and phonics charts. For larger sets of materials such as math games, I utilized large zip lock bags, hole-punched them, and put them in the front of the binder.

This system worked well for us. The kids knew they had to complete everything in their binder for that day. Once they finished an assignment, they could move it to the “Completed Work” section. After some instruction and demonstration, the third grader was able to do this independently. But the first grader needed assistance opening the binder and moving the page to the “Completed Work” section. I’d highly recommend a binder to keep everything organized and in one place.

3. “Recess” and Breaks at Home

“Recess” or playtime is an essential part of each day. Children need 30 minutes or potentially even longer to play and unwind after working for multiple hours. If it’s nice weather, take them outdoors or to a playground like they would at school. If it’s rainy they could play games inside, do yoga, or have a dance party. I’d recommend GoNoodle or Cosmic Kids Yoga, especially if your children do well with structure and direction. As a classroom teacher, these were invaluable resources.

Short breaks (5-10 minutes) throughout the day are also important. Timers are so helpful because then you are not the “bad guy” for telling them their break is over. When they hear the timer go off, they know their break is over. A kindergartener or first grader may only be able to focus for 20-30 minutes before they could use a short break. Older students should be able to focus for closer to 45-60 minutes before a break. Examples of short breaks could be walking around the house for a few minutes, having a 5-minute dance break to their favorite song, eating a snack, or even just using the restroom.

4. Managing Behavior – from Caregiver to Teacher

The transition to remote learning can be challenging for everyone. Your children think of you as their caregiver-not their teacher. But they are going to have to learn to also respect you as their teacher who can provide academic instruction and support. It’s a different role entirely and especially children who are very literal or have special needs will have difficulty getting used to this. This is totally normal so give yourself and your children plenty of grace.

This spring when I was assisting with remote learning, the first couple of weeks were especially rough for the first grader. He is a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder, so transitions are very difficult. At first, he didn’t understand why he couldn’t just play all day because he was at home-not at school. He did not want to do his schoolwork at home. He refused to do his writing assignments and became upset with himself when he was struggling with his work. We had some good conversations about strategies, and I encouraged him to tell me when he felt himself getting frustrated so he could take a break before his behavior escalated.

I soon realized that many times he acted out to avoid doing work. He told me that if he became upset while working at school, his teacher let him move onto something else. He thought I would allow him to do this as well. As a former teacher, I know the negative consequences of allowing this, so I worked with him to end this pattern. If he asked for a break, I would set the timer for 5-10 minutes and remind him that after the break he would continue the assignment. He soon realized that he would need to continue his assignment after the break. Soon he stopped the work avoidance behaviors because they didn’t work.

I also spoke with his teacher about what strategies she used with him in the classroom. His teacher talked with him individually to remind him of the expectations that he needs to try his best to complete his schoolwork, just as he does at school. This seemed somewhat helpful, but I had to continue to remind him of the expectations each day for a few weeks. Within a few weeks he was thriving! He was proud of what he was accomplishing and told me that he had never finished his work at school but did now.

Many kids will test you to see what they can get away with so just tell them your expectations for remote learning and stand your ground. It can be challenging to implement an action plan to manage behavior but it’s so rewarding once the child becomes motivated.

5. Healthy Snacks and Meals

Frequent snacks are essential for children! If students are hungry, they cannot focus and do their work. Therefore, it’s important to provide nutritious snacks in the morning and afternoon. At school, most children have a morning snack around 9 or 10, lunch around noon or 1, and an afternoon snack around 2:30 or 3. Parents can use these timeframes as well, depending on when the kids eat breakfast and dinner. Snack time also gives students a 10-15-minute break from their work. Some healthy snacks include fruit, veggies and hummus, a protein bar, and yogurt. I’d recommend Feeding Littles for more healthy snack and lunch ideas.

A New Reality

COVID-19 has really flipped our world upside down in many ways. Six months ago who would have imagined that so many children would be learning remotely? Fortunately, technology allows remote learning to exist in today’s world. As we are all adjusting to remote learning this fall, just remember that this is new for everyone and we are all learning together. Be patient with your children and be forgiving of yourself as you navigate these difficult times ahead.

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