Distance Learning Tips for Parents
What are some ways to keep my third-grader healthy physically and mentally during distance learning?
A lot of water has gone under the bridge since schools first closed in-classroom learning earlier this year. And hopefully, many of you, if not most, are able to have your children “back to school” by now. A lot has been learned by parents about the role they were asked to take on by becoming the facilitators of online learning.
Distance Learning Equals Opportunity for Parents
We have found that “distance learning” gives parents a chance to turn a problem into an opportunity. Distance learning allows parents to get closer to their children. For those of you still in the role of teacher/facilitator, take advantage of this continuing window of opportunity to get to know your child’s individual style of learning, and intuition that parents know best. I remember how much I learned about my children, and myself when I homeschooled three of our children over a period of a few years. The knowledge you gained about how your children learn will be valuable from here on.
Customize your Child’s Learning Environment
I discovered that I could provide an atmosphere of learning that my child might not get in a school classroom. Every child has a unique style of learning. Some can sit at a desk for an hour at a time, others need to move around a lot, and still others get bored in a classroom devoid of natural sunlight, fresh air, and instead have eye-straining fluorescent lights. Distance learning allows you to customize the learning environment to best fit your child and yourself. I still remember one of our daughters needing to learn her spelling words while jumping on a mini-trampoline. Also, at home, you can start school a bit later in the morning when children’s brains are more receptive to learning. And you can break up the curriculum into smaller pieces to fit your child’s attention span.
Movement Promotes Better Learning
Schools are finally figuring out, as you probably did having them at home during those lockdown months, that the more children move, the better their brains function, which is why recess has gotten more importance at schools. In some at-home situations, you can walk with your child while you talk about a subject he needs to learn. You can get your child to memorize some homework and then talk about it while you walk. You will be amazed by how movement, especially outdoors, turns on the brain for better learning and memory.
In my husband’s (Dr.Bill) newest book, The Healthy Brain Book, there is a whole chapter on learning and attention. This chapter explains how movement in nature betters the brain for learning and attention. In fact, we often use the term “forest schooling” when talking to parents about learning during a walk in the woods or park. Children labeled with ADD or ADHD often learn and pay attention better when the “teacher” incorporates more movement outdoors into the daily curriculum. Also, enjoy field trips to museums, zoos, and make the supermarket a giant nutritional classroom.
Smarter Foods for Smarter Learning
Another advantage of “distance learning,” as you put it, is your children are at a further distance from the junk food in school cafeterias. You put junk food in a child’s brain, and you get back junk learning and junk behavior. At home, you can serve “smart food” and children will eat it because that’s all the “school” is serving.
Online Learning Requires Giving Eyes a Break
If your child does a lot of virtual learning, here is another way you can shine. Remember, the more screen time your child is forced to do, the more screen-breaks those little eyes need. That is why some children enjoy lying on the floor and looking up at their iPad screen rather than sitting on a chair, bent over, and getting “text neck” from looking down on a screen for too long. On the other hand, the best posture for screen learning is where your child sits with the back of the head in perfect alignment with the child’s back and looking a bit down on the screen with eyes at their natural resting position.
Explore Other Postures
If your child’s feet don’t hit the floor then use a stool. Also consider showing your kids other ways to sit/stand while e-learning like, sitting on a yoga/therapy ball which provides healthy hip support and engages the core, or even use a standing desk for part of the day. They may even enjoy marching or swaying side to side which will actually help some students retain more information.
Be a Positive Role Model
I am glad you mentioned your concern to keep your child “mentally healthy” because this is also an area where you can shine. Let your children see that you are turning this COVID problem into an opportunity. If mom and dad are not worried, neither do the children need to be. Let them see happy parents (even if you must sometimes fake it during these challenging times). Remember, parenting – and teaching – is giving your children the tools to succeed in life. One of the best tools to teach is how we react to situations that are out of our control and turn them into opportunities for growth.
Martha is the mother of Dr. Bill’s eight children, a registered nurse, a former childbirth educator, a La Leche League leader, and a lactation consultant. Martha is the co-author of 25 parenting books and is a popular lecturer and media guest drawing on her 18 years of breastfeeding experience with her eight children (including Stephen with Down Syndrome and Lauren, her adopted daughter). Martha speaks frequently at national parenting conferences and is noted for her advice on how to handle the most common problems facing today’s mothers with their changing lifestyles. Martha is able to connect with both full-time, stay-at-home mothers and working mothers because she herself has experienced both styles of parenting. Martha takes great pride in referring to herself as a “professional mother” and one of her favorite quips when someone voices their concern about her having eight children in an already populated world is: “The world needs my children.”