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How to Help Your Child Navigate Virtual Learning

Are you a parent of a child who is in the midst of virtual learning? Are you spending hours a day helping your child navigate their classwork while at the same time they are battling trying to read the material and write the required responses?

Are you a teacher? Are you spending hours of your day helping your students navigate their classwork? Are you spreading yourself thin trying to get a handle on all the moving pieces of your new classroom environment?


All of us can agree that we do not like how learning is taking place right now in this time of a global pandemic, and with the current rise in cases across the US and around the world, it doesn’t look like the traditional classroom is going to be back anytime soon.

Parents are frustrated. Teachers are frustrated. Both teachers and parents are working their tails off to help their students and children.

So, how do we come together to make this less of a struggle? First, we need to identify the areas of struggle and then break down ways for parents and teachers to reach mutually agreeable solutions.

To identify the difficulties, I took to Facebook. I asked a group of parents who have children with dyslexia to tell me what their child’s most significant challenge is with virtual learning. I analyzed the responses and noticed three themes emerging from the answers. Those themes are focus and fatigue, parent availability, and the classroom in general. Let’s take a look at those areas.

Fatigue And Focus

The average school day lasts about 6.5 to 7 hours. During those hours, students are moving from activity to activity and class to class. They typically travel to other classrooms for art and music. They go to the gymnasium for PE. That was school life before the pandemic unleashed itself worldwide, believe it or not.

Now, many children attended school remotely for part, or all, of their instruction. They spend more time in front of their computers than most parents would permit for “screen time” every day.

We have good science that tells adults that they shouldn’t be sitting all day at work in front of a screen. They require movement. I can only imagine that the same or more is true for children.

Also, a child’s day is long. It can take a struggling learner eight to sometimes twelve hours a day to complete their work. This is unacceptable.

In my days as a homeschooling mom, my children completed a day’s worth of work in 3-5 hours. They moved from room to room as we moved from group activities to individual learning. They had time daily to go outside to play. In my opinion, this is essential for a child’s growth and development.

What can parents do? Communicate with the teacher. Remember, your child’s teacher is likely working more hours than is reasonable every single day to pull off a quality learning experience for his/her students. Keep this in mind when emailing. Let them know how much you appreciate all the time and commitment they have given to teaching your child.

Let them know where your child is struggling. Let them know what is not working for your child. Let them know how much time your child is spending on school work each day. Work together on a solution to the problem.

Parent Availability

Parents, mostly moms, are now saddled with the responsibility of being an extremely active participant in their child’s education. They must make sure that the work is getting completed, answer questions about the assignments, encourage their child through fatigue, navigate technology while working their own job from home, manage the household, and/or work in an essential industry outside of the house.

 

They are now responsible for being their child’s classroom aide as the child struggles to write a paragraph or complete multiplication problems. To top it off, they are also trying to figure out how much assistance to give their child and how much independent work they should expect.

Can you say exhausting? Frustrating? Stressful?

I’m going to be 100% honest. It might be easier to homeschool than rely on the school for instruction if you are a parent who is working from home or managing the household. It is indeed more manageable than you can imagine.

If you can’t or don’t want to go in that direction, you need to become obsessed with structure. Even if it’s not your strength area, creating a structured time-blocked calendar will help you and your child.

Also, talk to your child’s teacher about what is 100% essential. Which work must be completed, and which work is extra? Can you modify your child’s work so that they are doing 10 math problems instead of 20? Is your child required to do spelling work? If your child is diagnosed with dyslexia, opt-out of weekly spelling lists and work. Have the reading instructor take over spelling instruction. Communication with the teacher is vital. If you are struggling to alleviate the problem after speaking with the teacher, take your concerns to the principal. Follow the chain of command.


 

The Classroom

I could probably write for hours on this section, but for ease, let me bullet point the issues concerning parents regarding classroom learning.

  • Spelling and typing responses in a live virtual classroom are challenging because our kids can’t spell. This leads to anxiety, frustration, and panic for the student.
  • Speech to text is not an option for many of our kids because of speech articulation issues.
  • There are too many systems and locations for various assignments. This causes frustration for parents and students alike. Many of our students have executive functioning issues.
  • Along that same line is keeping track of assignments. Our students have trouble knowing what is due when with the new systems.
  • Most material is presented to our students as text. When print material is not their friend, teachers need to find alternate presentation methods.
  • Our children can’t read directions and instructions. Parents are required to read directions and instructions for their children.
  • An online worksheet is not a method of instruction that matches our students’ strengths. They need different learning modalities.
  • Parents are finding that the lack of interactive learning is causing retention issues for their children.
  • Our students are getting lost in the fast pace of the classroom.
  • And of course, we need to address the elephant in the room, which is that accommodations on the IEP and 504 plans are not being adhered to at this time.

We know the problems. We see them every day. The teachers know the struggles your child is having as well. They are very aware of the limitations of virtual learning.

Now more than ever, we need a solution. COVID cases are still growing across all areas of our country. How do we navigate what could be months more of virtual learning?

The key is innovation and communication. Teachers and parents need to be willing to try new ideas to meet these struggling students’ needs. Teachers and parents must communicate with each other with a sense of grace and appreciation for the challenging position they are in due to this pandemic.


Solutions

Here are some innovative solutions that have been shared by parents and teachers alike:

 The first line of communication with teachers is typically an email. How you write your email matters. Remember a few things. First, everyone is frustrated with the current learning situation caused by the pandemic. Children should be in the physical classroom. Teachers want to teach their classes as they did before mid-March 2020. Teachers are trying to navigate technology like the professionalss they are, but inevitably technology fails. We are all experiencing that. Parents are frustrated for all the reasons we’ve already discussed. So, when you start writing that email, take three deep, calming breaths first. Then proceed with the email. 

 Start with a note of appreciation for what is going right. You may have to think for a moment, but something IS going right for your child. Compliment the teacher on something that your child is enjoying or something positive you see in the virtual classroom. Be collaborative with your suggestions. Think of this as if this is your child’s education team. The leading team players are you, your child, and your child’s teacher. Your goal is to work together for your child’s best interest. Everyone on the team must believe that the other person is doing their best.

Come up with a few possible solutions to the problem yourself. It is helpful to the teacher if you can make suggestions to help your child. After all, you know your child better than anyone.

 Another solution used by special education teachers working as a consultant teacher is breakout rooms. These teachers should be using breakout rooms to pre-teach and reteach material with their students, separate from the group. Most online platforms can create breakout rooms when small group work is needed.

One parent shared that creating a symbol that the child can use to let the teacher know they need private support was beneficial. It gave her child the ability to be discreet about their need while still getting the necessary help and support.

Perhaps you have more solutions that have worked for you. Please share them in the comment section of this post. We want everyone to be working together during this challenging time. If you found this article helpful, share it with a friend. If you found value in it, they will, too.

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