1. Set (and keep) a schedule
The closer this is to a ‘school schedule,’ the easier it will likely be on everyone. You obviously can (and probably should) revise whatever you come up with at first to fit your circumstance at home (your work schedule, sleeping schedules, etc.). But once you’ve got something that works, stick to it. And this almost certainly means to use some sort of timer to at least clarify how much time is being spent on what.
2. Make sure they have any materials necessary to complete all assignments
Whether its pencil and paper, a stable WiFi connection, log-in information for all accounts, a PDF reader, or note-taking apps or reading strategies–whatever they need to get the work done.
3. Provide an environment conducive to learning
This isn’t always easy. If they’re too isolated, it’s difficult to check in with them. If they’re at the kitchen table, depending on the child or their environment, they may be too distracted. This is even more challenging when everyone is home, and the house is full.
4. Create a daily plan
Creating a daily plan isn’t just a matter of scheduling. A daily plan looks at the schedule and then identifies to-do items for that day and combines the two for a specific plan for that specific day.
5. Don’t teach–help them understand
Helping students understand is one of the more obvious remote learning tips for parents. This could be the topic for an entire book because how this happens is complicated and varies greatly from student to student and grade level to grade level and content area to content area.
Imagine the parent of a second-grade student helping them complete an essay on their favorite cookie versus the parent of a high school senior helping them with a Calculus problem or an analysis of Shakespearean versus Petrarchan meter. The former is a matter of sitting with your child, while the latter is going to likely require that you learn alongside your child–or even learn it first yourself and then review it with them after.
The bottom line is that helping your child understand the content is definitely part of the ‘bare minimum’ range of tips.
6. Make sure all work is completed
And any work that remains incomplete is incomplete for a good reason and has a time-bound, actionable next-step (e.g., email asking for clarification on step 3 of the activity so that you can turn it in tomorrow by noon).
7. Help them check messages and communicate with school
Check for messages daily and make sure to reply to any messages that require one.
8. Keep in mind that it’s about the child, not the work
This can be difficult for some parents to keep in mind when there is so much pressure (on everyone) to complete the work. And further, this is obviously a parenting philosophy–for some families, it very well may be a matter of discipline to do what you’re told and ‘do well in school.’ If that’s true, this tip may not be useful.
But if you believe that assignments should serve the child rather than the child serve the assignments–or that this is at least partly true–then don’t over-emphasize ‘getting everything done’ over the well-being (not to mention creative genius and curiosity and intrinsic motivation) of your child.
9. Learn to identify the barriers
This is something teachers have to learn early on in their careers–how to pinpoint exactly what’s happening or going wrong (not unlike an automotive mechanic or NASA engineers or computer coder.) Diagnostic teaching is one approach that can help here but the big idea is to identify precisely why your child might be struggling: Is it focus? Motivation? Too much or too little structure? Do they need a hug or finger-wagging or for you to sit with them?
And if it’s a knowledge deficit, exactly what do they not understand? When students say, ‘I don’t get it,’ the first step is to identify exactly what ‘it’ is–and this isn’t always easy. Most students don’t know what they don’t know. That’s why you (and an internet full of resources) are there to help them making this an especially powerful remote learning tip for parents.
10. Help your child build a learning network
Connect them with their peers–ideally peers with similar goals and approaches to ‘life’ to their own (e.g., connecting your child who wants to study medicine in college with other students and groups with students who have similar ambitions.)
11. Personalize the learning
You can almost always personalize your child’s learning space (sound, light, room, equipment, etc.) and you can likely adjust their schedule. You may even have some control over the curriculum (what they are learning). Use your child’s strengths and gifts and build backward from them as much as possible.
12. Encourage a growth mindset
This isn’t about what to learn or how to learn but rather how to think about what they’re learning.
13. Understand how the brain works and how learning happens
Learning theories and neuroscience basics are two good places to start. Transfer is also an important concept
14. Help them find their own motivation
I tried to word this carefully because children range so drastically in not only their levels of motivation and where that motivation comes from. Further, the dynamic of parent-to-child is necessarily different from the parents-as-teacher-to-child.
However, motivating a child is one area where parents are (ideally) better than any teacher could be. The idea here is to help them ‘want to’ learn without punishing them psychologically or making all motivation external and independent from the actual value of the knowledge being gleaned.
15. Honor the complexity of learning
Think differently about ‘helping’ your child ‘with their schoolwork.’ Realize that your child needs a wide range of ‘support’: academic, collaborative, psychological, technological, disciplinary, etc.
16. Encourage self-direction
This could’ve gone in the ‘basic’ sections complicated but at its most basic, the more they own their learning–and ideally have voice and choice in their work–the easier and more fulfilling everything will be for everyone.