Are your kids distracted by virtual school? Here are simple tips that will help keep them educated and entertained at home.

By Lisa Collum
August 28, 2020
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Back to school this year has taken on a whole new twist. For most families, that means virtual school, and finding ways to make it fun for kids can be challenging. For younger children, it can be especially difficult to keep them engaged all day long.

As a mom of four and an educator, I have always made it my mission to find ways to make learning fun. It is important that we adjust our expectations and teaching methods to make sure our kids are successful online learners.

We have to remember that none of this is normal, and we cannot expect our kids just to sit in front of the computer all day and learn. There are many ways we can keep things fun and keep them on task.

Establish a Schedule

We all need routine, especially kids. Keep in mind, when they attended regular school, they had a set schedule they followed each day. Establishing a daily schedule is one of the best ways to help your child succeed while learning from home. Set a time for everything, including breakfast, subject lessons, lunchtime, and reading time.

I highly advise building in plenty of breaks, ideally one between each subject. This helps break up the day and allows kids to stretch and recharge. Try to create the schedule together, so the kids can have input and feel ownership over their schedule. Once you have the schedule finalized, post it up in the house somewhere, just like it's posted in the classroom. Refer to it throughout the day and make sure you "train" the kids to stay on track. This will make life easier for you and them!

Don't Forget About After-School Hours

Many parents make the mistake of only scheduling school time. When planning to work from home and scheduling out the day, think about the entire day. Online school doesn't usually take as long as a regular school day, and most kids are done within three to four hours (depending on the grade level). Even with breaks built in throughout the day, most kids will probably be finished working by 12 or 1 p.m. That still leaves another six to eight hours before bedtime.

For working parents, the afternoon hours when school is officially over can be difficult if the kids have nothing to do. My suggestion is to schedule out the remainder of the day, including assigning times for various after-school activities, so children always know what to do next and have a plan till it's time for bed.

Create Fun After-School "Centers"

Set up activity centers around the house. Designate stations with handmade signs or cardboard display boards for activities, including arts and crafts, screen time, board games, and exercise. Next, assign times for each center, such as 1:00-1:30 p.m. for arts and crafts, 1:30-2:00 p.m. screen time, 2:00-2:30 p.m. outside play, and so on. Then just set up the center area before the start of each day (could even be the night before!) and make sure all of the supplies for that activity are in place.

For instance, set up an arts and crafts area with baskets of supplies. That way, when the schedule says it's arts and crafts time, your kids know to work at that station and will have everything they need ready to go. If you set up six to eight centers with activities lasting 30 minutes each, your kids will be busy for three to four hours! This is all part of establishing a routine. If they know where to go and when, it makes it easier for everyone.

Get Kids Moving Around the House

There is nothing worse than sitting in one spot all day long. It's hard for kids to be at home all day, so try and make sure you are constantly changing their environment. Don't have them work in the same spot all day long when completing schoolwork. Designate different areas of the house as the math area, the reading area, the science area, etc. As they are working on each subject, they will move around and work in that specific area of the house. It gives them a change of scenery and a chance to get up and move around.

Develop Fun Reward Charts

Depending on the age, use the same systems that are used in the classroom, such as sticker charts, classroom clip charts, and checklists. Parents can easily create small sticker charts for younger kids. For older kids, make a clip chart that allows them to move up and down for staying on track and completing tasks. Checklists are great because they allow students to be accountable. A checklist tells them exactly what needs to be done each day and can be marked off as they complete each item, giving them a sense of accomplishment.

Bottom line: Virtual school has its challenges, but staying organized and adding variety and fun can go a long way in making online learning a positive experience for both parents and kids.

Lisa Collum is a mother of four, an educator, the author and CEO of Top Score Writing, a nationwide curriculum company that provides writing curriculum for grades 2-12. To find out more information, please visit www.topscorewriting.com.

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