A Few Basic Tips on Supporting your Child while They Learn from Home
By Clara Logan, Director, Mastro Montessori Academy
There are a few basic things to keep in mind for your child’s well-being so they can successfully learn from home. What a sudden and significant shift we all had to make last March and one that we do not want to be ill-prepared for again! Now that school is back in full swing, whether virtual, in-person, or a hybrid model, hopefully the children are all getting back into their daily routines and learning productively again. As the year forges on ahead still in the time of COVID-19, we all must plan and prepare for possible scenarios that may unfold in the coming months. One of those is how to keep your child successfully learning from home.
Stick to a Consistent Daily Schedule
It is important to mimic a regular school day schedule as much as possible at home. Bear in mind that when at school, children adhere to a fairly consistent daily schedule. Children will be most successful when they can anticipate what they will experience next in their day and have similar expectations and boundaries at home, as they do at school. They should wake up at a consistent time, get dressed and ready for the day, eat a healthy breakfast, and then begin their daily routine.
Support the Whole Child
A child’s academic development, along with their emotional and social well-being require acknowledgment and attention. Keep in mind that this is an unusual time for everyone and that we are all feeling differently about it. This can come out emotionally in a variety of ways for students and parents alike. Children will need extra family support. Try to be as open as possible to your child’s varied emotions as they work through this time. Acknowledge their feelings and emotions and allow them space. Also, be sure to provide extra support and be sensitive to their needs, as they may change throughout this process.
Provide Frequent Screen Breaks
Screen breaks allow your child, as the student, to move about, rest their eyes and recover from any screen fatigue they may be experiencing. Screen fatigue occurs much more quickly than we once thought, and students can have a shorter attention span when learning through a screen. These breaks are very important for the academic and emotional health of children.
Promote Social Connections
Having unstructured time to connect and bond with both educators and peers is very important. Whether it is time to chat about their experiences, struggles, thoughts, or to just reminisce, they need time to just talk with others. Opportunities for socialization are normally built into each school day and children can feel disconnected, even isolated, and sad, if not provided with these opportunities. Even unscheduled time with their teachers can help foster these connections in these disconnected times.
Maintain Fine and Gross Motor Skills
No matter the age of the child, it is important to provide your children with many opportunities throughout the entire day to move their bodies so they can cultivate their fine and gross motor skills. This not only includes exercise and opportunities to play outside but also opportunities to use their hands to build and construct. Even simple tasks, like writing with a pencil and a piece of paper, away from a screen, so they can build upon their hand-writing skills.
Foster Independence by Bringing Montessori Into Your Home
Within the Montessori Community, children are often viewed as and arriving equipped with a metaphorical tool belt. One of the goals, as a Montessori educator, is to equip each child’s tool belt with as many tools as it can handle: allowing each child as much independence as is developmentally appropriate for each child, so they become more accountable and develop into their full potential. Some children have a naturally large tool belt that can accommodate hundreds of tools, while other children have a smaller tool belt that can handle fewer tools. It takes much more self-discipline to stay focused while learning remotely than in a classroom, under the direct supervision of a teacher. Many tenets of a Montessori classroom can help parents set up and manage healthy study and living spaces at home, regardless of whether their children attend a Montessori school.
For instance, when parents help their children, they frequently do so by providing them with the answer. At Montessori, the child is given the tools that they need to find the answer for themselves. It is vital for this type of learning to continue at home as well, so the child can be an active participant in their learning, not a passive observer, who is fed the answer. Children are more likely to retain knowledge if they discover and learn the answer on their own, using the
tools in their tool belt.
Make the most of mixed age environments to foster partnership, collaboration and conflict resolution. Homes with siblings have a naturally built in mixed age environment, which can be of huge benefit to children. The older siblings learn to assist with the younger children, who in turn learn from the older children.
Establish opportunities for children to demonstrate both freedom and responsibility. Freedom and responsibility are inextricably linked: With every freedom comes a responsibility and with every responsibility comes a freedom. The more responsibility a child demonstrates, the more freedom this child will earn. Similarly, as children are able to demonstrate more responsibility in their own education, they will have more freedom to supervise themselves and complete their own work, with less supervision. On the flip side, if they are struggling to be responsible with their own education and work, they will require more supervision and therefore less freedoms to do what is required of them.
Cultivate focus and self-discipline with motivators. Motivators are natural rewards, not bribes. If the work is finished in a set time, there is now time to go outside and kick a ball around or help bake cookies. These are simply the natural consequence of having more time to complete a non-school related activity because they stayed on task when they needed to. If they drag out the task, they are not getting out of it until it is completed, and now they have taken all the time they had for other activities. Slowly, focus and self-discipline become internally regulated so the child knows that if they focus on the task at hand and demonstrate focus and self-discipline, they will have more time for other things.
Together, everyone will get through this time and it can be used as a way to unite and collaborate with one another for the betterment of the children and the whole community.