This remote learning guide for parents is here because I understand what you are going through. Just like you, I was thrown into the position of a teacher’s assistant to help with the education of my kids throughout this unique situation.
At the beginning, the idea of distance learning was not that bad. After all, it would only be until the end of the school year which was only a few months away.
But now, things are different because for many families (including mine) the remote learning is stretching much longer than before. Because of that, the needs and requirements for online learning have changed too.
This situation has left many moms frustrated, confused, and even lost.
Fortunately, this remote learning guide covers everything you need for a better school year at home.
Once I learned that students would start the new school year from home, I immediately put together a list of things that I needed for my kids. But don’t worry, I am sharing those little secrets with you.
Below is a list of effective tips to help your family succeed during distance learning. These tips include a combination of effective strategies from teachers in my family, my years in Human Resources, and our own e-learning experience.
Top 10 remote learning tips for parents
distance learning at home
What should I buy for remote learning?
What’s the parents’ role
in online learning?
Top 10 Remote Learning Tips for Parents
1. Designate a place for your kids to study
This is one of the most important tips listed here. You should designate a specific place to study even when your kids are doing remote learning. That will help your kids separate school from home and it will encourage them to have a ready-to-learn mindset.
The study area should make them feel comfortable without affecting their focus in the class, especially with little kids. For example, a student who is laying down in bed with the TV on while the teacher is talking, may not be as focused as a student who is sitting down in their favorite chair with minimal distraction.
You may also want to consider keeping little kids closer to you so you can help them with a bad connection, an unresponsive link, or a misplaced finding a school supply.
I talked about designating one study area but sometimes you need multiple ones. This will be helpful when it comes to some electives. For example, your child may need a bigger, open space for the PE class (in order to move around without the risk of getting hurt).
For art, you may want a bigger table with plenty of space to accommodate the art supplies and one that is okay to get damaged with paint or scratches.
For music class, you may need an area where your child can sing and move freely without distracting other people in the house.
At home, my little one spends most of the school day at her desk. However, she uses the formal family room for PE and music classes. Since it is an open area, it does not interrupt her older sister.
PRO TIP Designate areas where you can keep a distance between your kids. Sitting them too close to each other may interfere with each other’s virtual class.
2. Keep the designated school area simple and organized
Keep the school area organized and the most important supplies close to your child to avoid distractions and the possibility of missing important instructions from the teacher. I love using a caddy to keep things like pencils, scissors, and crayons handy.
Keep the school area organized and the most important supplies close to your child. This will avoid distractions and the possibility of missing important instructions from the teacher. I love using a caddy to keep things like pencils, scissors, and crayons handy.
Unfortunately, I have heard kids saying that do not know where to find a pencil, the textbook, or even their journal.
Decorating the area is optional. However, it will make your kids more likely to want to use it.
Start by choosing a theme, in order to keep the area looking consistent. (You will find more decoration tips later on in this article under section 2).
PRO TIP Leave everything ready the night before, including charging the laptop, keeping several sharpened pencils with erasers, putting journals and textbooks nearby, and anything else that may help. Also, bookmark the most used links, such as zoom meetings, so they can access them easily.
3. Minimize distractions for your child
Finding a quiet place away from distractions would be greatly beneficial for your child. This may be easier for older students because they can probably handle remote learning by themselves.
However, stay closer to your younger kids to make sure that they follow through completing their schoolwork.
Some students use headphones to keep noises away. This may help some students focus better on the teacher’s lesson. The problem is that if your little ones miss any information, you will not be able to assist them or follow up later on.
PRO TIP Every night, do a quick check on the study areas to make sure they are free of toys or any other distraction. Turn off or put away any electronics that may cause a distraction during school time.
4. Create routines for online learning
Many schools require remote learners to follow a specific schedule. However, if your child is not on a set schedule, create one that works for your family. Following schedules create routines that help kids know what to expect.
Because of that, try to follow the same schedule every day including wake-up times, school hours, class order, and break times.
If that does not work for you, you can have a schedule for Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and another schedule on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Whichever way works for you, make sure to be consistent.
PRO TIP Add the schedule to a visible place near the study area to use it as a reference. You can find an example of a schedule under Section 2.
5. Encourage your child to dress up appropriately
It is normal to feel more relaxed and comfortable at home. However, dressing up for remote learning is as important as the rest of the tips.
It is okay to be casual without being too casual, so as to wear pajamas (unless it is a dress-up day). Taking a little bit of time in the morning to dress up well, will have a positive effect on their attitude toward school.
PRO TIP To avoid injuries, it is still important to wear appropriate clothes and shoes at home when taking PE or similar classes.
6. Track your child’s homework and activities
Older kids should have their own planner to keep track of their homework, plan their projects, and avoid missing deadlines.
On the other hand, little kids need more help from you. It is difficult for younger kids to remember what classwork is still pending or what needs to be done after school. Thanks to a planner, we have not overlooked any work.
Using a planner will make your life a lot easier. Use it to keep track of homework, incomplete assignments, upcoming activities, and anything else related to school.
PRO TIP Keep a separate planner for school even if you are currently using multiple planners. It is easier to manage and keep everything organized. Adding a school section to your current planner may seem like a great idea. However, you may need more space later on and will most likely end up with school information all over the place.
7. Stay informed
Since this is a very unusual situation, it is normal to have questions about the new process and requirements.
The best way to support your child is to get familiar with the remote program and to stay on top of what is happening at your school and district.
Here are the best ways to get information:
– District’s website: Many districts have created new pages dedicated to covid-19 and returning to school. Usually, those pages are full of information that may answer most of your questions.
– School’s website: This is another good place to check because you can find specific information about what the school is doing during this process, cancelled events, or adjusted activities.
– Emails: There is a lot of important information that is shared through emails. If you are not enrolled in the school’s and district’s emails, go to the two websites mentioned above and enroll as soon as possible.
– Social media: Nowadays it is normal for schools to share information on different platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. Search for their accounts and follow them.
By using them, I have learned about things that have happened at different campuses. There are also parent groups on Facebook that are focused on a specific grade level (i.e. sophomores), elective (i.e. band), sport (i.e. cross country), or a specific group (remote learners).
– Contact them: If you have any doubt or unanswered questions, do not hesitate to contact your child’s teacher, school, or even the district. It is better to ask those questions rather than getting frustrated or setting false expectations.
PRO TIP Keeping an open communication with your child’s teacher and school is more important now than ever before.
8. Maintain good time management
Remote learning can be very time consuming. If you are not using a planner yet, this would be a great opportunity to get one.
Make sure to include breaks throughout the day. Many schools have set a schedule for remote students to follow. However, if your school is not one of them, make sure that your kids (and you!) are taking breaks.
Breaks are a perfect time to encourage elementary kids to move around. Especially, after being in front of the computer for a long period of time.
Kids should use their break time to do something that they enjoy such as playing, jumping around, watching TV, etc. This is also the perfect time to go to the bathroom, eat a snack, and drink something before it is time to focus on school again.
PRO TIP Save time by keeping some quick snacks and handy. You can have a snack basket or drawer where you or kids can easily get them.
9. Protect your family’s privacy
Many schools are using zoom as the main tool for distance learning. In this way, students can have live interactions with their teachers and classmates.
Due to this new way of learning, kids and teachers can see what is in front of the camera during those live meetings but also while recording videos or taking pictures as part of their homework.
Keep in mind that other people can hear your conversations during these live meetings or while recording audios or videos.
PRO TIP My teenage daughter puts a sign outside her bedroom door. That lets us know when she is in a zoom meeting so we won’t accidentally enter her room.
10. Set alarms on your phone
Your mom life has already been busy enough before the virus. Adding homeschooling and different schedules make it even harder to keep up with everything.
You can be working on something without realizing that it is time to be doing something else. Set alarms on your phone to remind you what needs to be done and when.
The number of alarms depends on your situation. If you have older kids, they can set their own set of alarms on their phones.
I personally prefer to have different alarms going off throughout the day. I have alarms set to:
- wake up in the morning – I have always done this. It is my way to be proactive in case we lose power during the night and the alarm clock gets turned off.
- wake up my daughter
- eat breakfast – This is just to ensure that I am still on track to finish on time. In this way, we can speed up if we are falling behind schedule. For example, if my daughter has an hour to get ready for school, I set this alarm to go off 30 minutes before the deadline. This gives me time to catch up.
- start school – This alarm goes off 16 minutes before the school start time and every five minutes after that. I can snooze it three times at most which is right before her school starts.
- log back in from lunch
- remind us that school is almost over – It is hard for kids to see time as we do. Fifteen minutes for them can feel like 30 minutes or more. This last alarm is for my daughter to know that it is her last class of the day. Since her mascot is a mustang, I added a horse race sound so it can be very recognizable. Once the alarm goes off, she immediately knows that school is almost over! That alarm also coincides with the end of her last break.
Do not be afraid to use the alarms.
The set-up process sounds a lot more complicated than it is. Plus, you only set the alarms once and they will keep helping you every single day.
We do not have alarms for breaks because sometimes they start a few minutes earlier or later. What I do, is to quickly set a timer at the beginning of the break. If they get a 15-minute break, I set the timer to go off after 13 or 14 minutes just to be sure that she goes back on time.
PRO TIP Use different sounds based on the alarms. For example, you can use a school bell sound whenever your child needs to log in (when school starts, after lunch). You can use a different sound for breaks or lunch.
Bonus Tip: Set and follow a bedtime schedule
Remote learners have the flexibility of waking up later than they used to because school is just a few steps away. However, that flexibility can make it easier for kids to stay up longer at night.
To avoid that, set a bedtime schedule during remote learning as it was before when they were going to school. Having a good night’s sleep helps kids be ready for the next day. It is easier to learn when our brain and body have rested. Plus, as I mentioned before, keeping routines help kids thrive.
Here is the daily number of sleeping hours that experts recommend based on the kid’s age (source):
- Kids ages 3 to 5 should sleep from 10 to 13 hours
- Kids ages 6 to 12 should sleep from 9 to 12 hours
- Kids ages 13 to 18 should sleep from 8 to 10 hours
Feel free to use this information as a guideline to adjust your kids’ bedtime, if necessary.
How to Set up Distance Learning at Home?
To set up a remote learning area at home, determine your child’s needs, and identify the best area for your child to study in order to accommodate those needs.
Determine your child’s needs
You already know that it will be a study area.
Now, answer the following questions to determine their needs:
– What will your child be doing in that area?
– How often will your child use that area?
– For how many hours per day?
– For how long?
Answering these questions can help you think of your options.
For example, my daughter needed a study area with privacy but it also needed to be close to me, to participate in live zoom meetings with her teacher. The area also needed space for her journals and textbooks. She would use that area every day for at least 7 hours and so far, it would be for the entire school year.
Being specific gives me a pretty good idea of what I need.
Identify the best area for your child to study
The best area for your child to study will be as quiet as possible and far away from distractions. This will create a better environment for your child to focus better and learn.
Also, take their grade level into consideration because elementary students usually need more help than secondary students.
As mentioned in the first section, do not forget to keep your family’s privacy in mind.
Setting up a Remote Learning Area at Home (Real Examples)
At home, my daughter already had a simple area with a desk and a computer. It was the perfect area to accommodate her new needs.
However, it still needed some rearrangements and updates to make it feel more like a classroom (which was my goal). As you can see, the theme is emojis and it is decorated using the colors red, yellow, black, and white.
A Big Display Board
The purpose of this board is to work as a command center for all her schoolwork. Most of the papers on the board were laminated to make it easier to customize it at any time with a dry-erase marker.
The top area has four main sections: urgent, reminders, upcoming, and focus. The focus section is great to track topics that you would like to review, emphasize, or practice later with your child.
The board also includes an area for today’s date, weather, and current season. The sign for the weather has a magnet on the back that makes it easier to update. My daughter loves checking the weather every day and updating it on the board.
There is also a section for monthly celebrations to keep track of upcoming holidays and special dates. You can go over these celebrations that are not covered at school or covered lightly.
You may also consider adding a calendar to the display board. We have several calendars nearby and did not have the need to add another one, but it may be different for you. By the way, I created these free cute printable calendars that you can use too.
Having a visible schedule is very helpful because anyone can refer to it throughout the day. You can use our schedule as a guide to customizing yours.
As you can see from the picture shown above, it has analog clocks showing the class starting time, the “digital” class starting time, as well as the class name.
I also created a pointer that can be moved up and down to indicate the class she is in. It is something simple that you can put together with some ribbons and a clothespin.
So, you can design it yourself or you can save time by using these ones instead.
ELA teachers usually have a word wall in their classrooms, which is why I felt that we should have one at home too. I created the banner and printed some emojis.
This is a great way to display the spelling words for the week, month, or grading period. The pocket cards are erasable, allowing kids to practice over and over again.
If you do not have spelling words from the teacher, you can get words from books or the internet.
Related: Spelling words for Kindergarten
Whenever your child is reading a book, mark the difficult words or write them down, explain what they mean, and ask your child to practice by writing them on the word wall cards.
Cursive alphabet display
Some states have decided to reinstate learning cursive as part of the elementary school curriculum.
Being at home makes it easier to teach kids additional skills
Since there is still some debate about it, I decided to teach her cursive (and how to type) myself. So far, she loves it and is eager to write as a “big girl”.
Second graders spend a good amount of time learning about clocks. The flower clock is a great way to learn and practice at home. Plus, it is very simple to put together. Just print, cut, and stick the pieces to the clock.
If you already have a clock at home, make sure that it is easy for kids to understand. Some clocks have fancy numbers or don’t show the hours as numbers, don’t have marks for the minutes, or have a confusing design.
This clock is perfect because it has a simple design, regular font, lines for the minutes, darker lines for the hours, and it includes a second hand.
This flower clock has definitely helped my daughter learn to read a clock faster.
Decorating the classrooms’ door is another tradition at schools, so we did at home too!
You could decorate it based on the season, a favorite theme, your kid’s school colors, or their mascot (like we did).
There are many tools that you can use to decorate the door.
However, you can decorate it quickly with some gift wrap and some graphics.
Additional resources added
In her study area, I added a brain basket and a morning basket that is full of books.
The brain basket (on the left) has games to help her with math, science, ELA, and logic skills; while the morning basket has books to use during her school reading time or while she waits for the teacher. She also uses this program which I really love!
What Should I Buy for Remote Learning?
The supplies needed for remote learning depend on your child’s grade level, school, and the supplies that you already have at home.
Below is a generic list of supplies that would help your child.
Essential school supplies
Laptop – It seems like many districts provided laptops to students but if you are searching for one, my daughters received laptops similar to these and they are more affordable.
Journals – The number of journals needed will depend on your child’s school and grade level.
Pencils – Little kids may use the standard ones while the older kids may prefer mechanical pencils and modern pens.
Erasers – Kids normally use several erasers during the school year, so it is always good to have an extra set ready. I grew up using these erasers and now, my daughters are addicted to them! These erasers are great and last a long time. I also liked these ones if you have not tried them yet.
Crayons – A box of crayons is important for little kids because they always have something to color. Plus, there are a variety of crayons available such as glitter, pearl, neon, twistables, and even ones with scents.
Printer – Most of my little one’s schoolwork is online or on her textbooks, but my high schooler needs to print more papers to study or practice. Fortunately, our printer has been keeping up with the extra work.
Planner – A planner is a tremendous help for students in middle school and high school. My teenage daughter still uses her student planner every day during remote learning. It has helped her stay organized and turn in her schoolwork on time.
A planner has also been very beneficial for my little one. I use it to keep track of her homework, lessons learned, activities, and anything else that I need to follow up with after school hours.
Using a block style planner can help you organize the school days based on your child’s schedule. Since the planner I use has seven columns, I use them for morning work, ELA / SS, Specials, Math, Science, Homeschooling, and Additional.
The homeschooling column is designated for things that I would focus on after school. It could be math problems, writing, reading comprehension, typing, and so on.
The additional column is to keep track of upcoming events or activities such as dress-up days, fundraising, or things to submit.
I am currently using the teacher’s edition, which is not available year-round. However, the following planners have a similar weekly design:
PRO TIP These pens help you keep your planner clean and free of mess or white-out tape.
Calendar – To keep track of what is due, coming up, or needs to be done. There are many options available such as the planners mentioned above, these free printable calendars, or a dry-erase calendar.
You can also make one yourself with a few supplies. For example, below is a weekly dry-erase calendar that I created. It is placed right before opening the garage door, as a last-minute reminder. It is simple, lightweight, and has plenty of space. You can create your own with dry-erase contact paper and washi tape.
Bookshelf – A simple bookshelf is great to keep all the books, journals, and extra resources organized.
Expanding file folder – A file folder allows me to keep paperwork organized and in one place. Even when most of my daughter’s schoolwork is completed online, there is some paperwork that we need to print or do on paper. For that, I like to use an expanding file folder to divide it by subjects.
Binder (or separate folder) – Here you can keep the emails from your child’s school. I divided our binder into three sections: teacher, school, and district. That way, I can keep track of all the things happening and I can also use it as a reference if needed. In each section, I keep the latest emails on top for immediate access.
Clock – An analog clock can help your elementary student learn how to read the clock. A simple clock should work perfectly fine.
Caddy – A caddy is a quick way to keep the most important supplies handy and organized. It’s also very helpful for the Art class.
Additional helpful Supplies
These supplies have been very helpful to us and may help you too.
Dry-erase pocket sleeves – A pocket sleeve is extremely helpful! It is perfect for things that need continuous practice such as learning how to write your name or doing math.
Instead of printing the same papers over and over again, you can just print it once, and place it inside the pocket sleeve. Once your child is done practicing with a dry-erase marker, wipe off the paper pocket, and then use it again later.
Small dry-erase board – Having a dry-erase board is useful to practice writing and math. However, your kids can also use it to draw during break time.
Dry-erase markers – Don’t forget the markets for the pocket sleeves or the dry-erase board.
Educational workbooks – These educational workbooks are great to use as a follow-up or for extra practice after school hours. You can find books for a specific grade level or subject. I love them and have already used them many times!
Headphones – My daughter’s school suggested remote learners to use headphones. To protect my daughter’s hearing, I decided to buy volume-limiting headphones made for kids. They work well and truly limit the volume considerably. However, to be extra careful, she only uses them when it is absolutely necessary.
Word wall pocket – Since ELA teachers always have a word wall in their classrooms, I created one at home. I printed a banner, some emojis, and added a daily schedule pocket chart like this one.
The pocket chart is normally used in the classrooms to display the schedule for that day. However, it is also useful to keep the spelling words for the week or the month. Get some dry-erase pocket cards to keep reusing them.
Foldable table – A foldable table makes it easier to set up a laptop in other areas of the house. Its stability is perfect for videos and pictures that need to be taken in other areas.
Post-it notes – Sometimes teachers ask students to add quick notes to their books and journals. They use sticky notes to take quick notes, mark pages in the book, or identify important information.
Highlighters – Older kids will use highlighters more than little ones. However, I use them every day to color-code our school planner. For example, the topics covered during the class are highlighted with pink while all the work submitted is highlighted in yellow. You can also use orange if something was canceled or rescheduled.
What is the Parent’s Role in Online Learning?
Knowing what is happening is the best way for families to adjust to this new situation. As a parent, you can support your kids’ online learning by:
- Providing a positive environment to study
Section 1 and 2 are full of information to help you create a better environment for your kids
- Knowing what is happening at school
Even if you are at home, stay aware of the changes and situations happening at the campuses.
- Helping them find other ways to solve their problems
The process of distance learning is completely different than what kids are used to, especially for older kids.
Sometimes, teens get frustrated and feel that there are no other ways to do their homework or fulfill the class’ requirements.
Help them find different resources from libraries or online groups that can help them succeed. There are also many different places offering tutoring services for kids of all ages.
- Talking with your kids
Some kids may be happy studying from home while others may be struggling or even feeling isolated. Pay close attention to their behavior and make sure that you listen to them.
Do not hesitate to reach out to school counselors for help. It is not uncommon to feel more stress now, with everything going on.
You can also contact your doctor or another professional. Plus, here is this list of resources that can help you too.
- Being an advocate
If you see that something is not right, fair, or working appropriately, do not be afraid to speak up. Contact the school or district and let them know what is going on.
- Protecting your child while connected online
As always, keep an eye on what your child is doing online. Unfortunately, there have been different situations where kids have been exposed while attending school virtually.
This is not meant to scare you, but instead to help you keep your child safe.
Even when most schools’ laptops are restricted, make sure to set rules at home such as acceptable times to be online, the maximum time allowed, and sites that can be visited.
Also, if available, review the apps or programs that your child is using and adjust the settings to increase its privacy. Remind your kids to notify you immediately if they witness something they feel is not right.
Final Thoughts on Remote Learning for Parents
As you can see, this guide covered lots of details to help you thrive as a parent during remote learning.
However, let me recap what we went over:
- The top 10 remote learning tips for parents (+ a bonus tip)
- Ideas to set up distance learning at home (examples included)
- A list of what to buy for remote learning
- Your role in online learning as a parent
Hope you found this guide helpful!
Right now, you may be going through changes and uncertainty, but take a deep breath and trust yourself.
You, more than anyone, knows what’s best for your family. I’m pretty sure that you will make the best decisions.
Everything will get better!