Online school has changed our lives radically over the past couple of weeks. Our children were accustomed to simply changing clothes and traveling a short distance to receive an education and now hours of preparation are required before we can even begin. Which computer will be used? Can we project our phone onto the television? What website connects us with the classroom we met inside only one month ago? Do we even have a viable internet connection?
The effort required to learn at home has changed one fundamental reality—it takes a lot of initiative to learn. The preparation alone will increase the effort required many times over.
Imagine the impact on a second grader who used to walk into a classroom and see all the colorful preparation of a skilled teacher on the walls, hear a warm greeting and get classroom materials out before getting started. None of that support is in place at their dining room table. If they are going to learn, they will have to find a motivation beyond what they used before spring break. A lot more self-starting will be needed.
Working at home complicates everything a great deal. How many computers does a household of five require for parents be able to work and for kids to learn in their new home school? If you just have one computer, who gets to use the only computer available first? Who is next? Where can we find a quiet enough place for each person to get something accomplished?
Our biggest enemy might be discouragement. If it’s going to be harder, we might give in to complaining rather than finding ways to get the job done. Avoiding giving up might be a constant temptation.
Here are some ideas for you. First, try to keep the attitude toward learning positive. If there will be a delay, speak in terms of getting to start soon rather than having to wait. Focus on the fact that learning won’t take as long at home because you can just get to the assignment rather than having to wait on everyone else’s questions to be answered. If there are limited quiet places or computers, plan your rotation together and post the schedule in plain view. Keep it upbeat.
Second, talk with one another about what you are learning. Learning is fun, especially when it can be shared. Social contact may be the biggest loss as we leave the classroom and enter the dining room alone. Families will be forced to engage their children in order to have school success. There won’t be any need to blame the teacher; parents are now on the front line of that battle.
Take breaks together to visit, get a glass of water and discuss what you enjoyed most about what you were doing over the last hour. Set a specific time when you will watch a 30-minute program together or play a video game together. Limit these times so that they don’t overshadow the learning time. If you schedule the start and stop time—and use a timer to keep time—you will succeed in striking a good balance.
The responsibility for learning rests squarely on the home now. If we step up to the challenge, keep our attitudes positive and increase our communication around the house, we will get through this just fine. And families will be closer for the investment.