Jake Frost shares practical tips for parents hoping to make a successful go at another round of distance learning.
We just came off an unexpected bout of distance learning. One of the kids tested positive for Covid at the beginning of December and without warning we were thrown back into the world of Zoom classrooms.
We did distance learning once before, along with everyone else, two years ago when the pandemic first broke. By the end of that semester we’d gotten to be a well-oiled distance learning machine, so when we found ourselves unexpectedly back in distance learning this time I wasn’t too worried. Been there, done that.
And I should say that both my wife and I can work from home, so we are very blessed in that. And the kids were all fine despite the positive Covid test. The mild symptoms which first prompted the test cleared up quickly and the kids were out sledding and building snow forts in our backyard in no time, so we were blessed in that, also.
Still, the dictates of Covid protocols were going to keep us home for several weeks, right up to Christmas break.
So we embarked once more upon the distance-learning journey.
It didn’t take long to discover that things had changed in the intervening year and a half of uninterrupted in-person schooling we’d enjoyed since our last foray into distance learning. There was a whole new suite of digital learning platforms we had to contend with, which led to our first inkling that our distance learning skills might have gotten a little rust from long disuse (thankfully!).
We got some emails from teachers looking for missing assignments, which prompted us to go back in search of those assignments and see how they had gotten overlooked. In digging through the digital detritus we discovered that there are a lot of places assignments can be lurking. Some were posted on Google Classroom. The school also had its own web portal where things were posted. Then there were Zoom classes, some the kids had to log into at scheduled times, others recorded that they could watch anytime. Other assignments came via email, and there were still good old-fashioned paper packets to go through.
All the methods were good with us; we just had to get a handle on what they all were! We ended up developing a checklist of all the platforms, accounts, and folders (paper and electronic) that we had to check each day and got into a routine of The Daily Meeting. It would take about fifteen minutes with each child, which can add up when you’ve got several kids, but it was time well spent. We’d work with each child to build a list of all their assignments for that day, then have the older kids make their own plan for the day as to how they’d get their work done.
I think it was a big help to have them make their own schedule once the work list was compiled. It got them thinking of what they had to do, and how long each assignment would take, which helped set expectations for what their day would look like. It also gave them some control over their own day, which everyone likes. And then Mom and Dad would have the checklist to go over with the kids at the end of the day to see that everything was done before school was declared “over” for the day. The younger kids weren’t quiet ready for this, but for the older ones it was great.
And I’m surprised we didn’t start The Daily Meeting right out of the gate this time. It was something we had developed in our last period of distance learning, and for the same reasons, but we’d forgotten about it. Rebooting The Daily Meeting was a big help in getting us back on track in our second round of distance learning.
Other things that also helped were keeping to a regular daily schedule with meals, school time, cleaning, outside time, prayers, bedtime story, and so on. The regular routine gives the days structure and predictability: everyone knows what they should be doing at any given time, and what to expect next.
The cleaning and outside time also deserve a special plug. I once heard someone say that in the home Order is Peace, and I’ve become a believer in that adage over the years. When the house is clean and orderly, everyone’s moods and behavior improve. And if everyone contributes to that cleaning, it tends to stay cleaner. I overheard one of the kids say in response to a suggestion from another for some proposed dubious undertaking: “I don’t want to do that. It will be too big of a mess to clean up.” Victory!
Likewise with outside time: it’s all about forestalling other difficulties (plus nature and exercise and all that good stuff). If you can burn off some of that superabundant kid energy outside, its less likely to overboil the pot elsewhere. Plus it helps with bedtime!
I know there’s nothing earth-shattering here, but I think our family was a little surprised at the Re-Learning-Curve we had to go through in coming back to distance learning after a long hiatus. Hopefully if anyone else is starting another stint of distance learning, this will help jog memories about what worked for your family and what didn’t and ease the adjustment period. Happy New Year and good luck!
Copyright 2022 Jake Frost
Images: Canva Pro
About the Author
Jake Frost is an attorney, husband, and father of four grade-school aged kids. He’s the author of six books: a Catholic fantasy novel, The Light of Caliburn; Catholic Dad: (Mostly) Funny Stories of Faith, Family, and Fatherhood; Catholic Dad 2: More (Mostly) Funny Stories of Faith, Family, and Fatherhood; From Dust to Stars: Poems by Jake Frost; Victory! Poems by Jake Frost; and a children’s book he also illustrated called The Happy Jar.