10 Tips to Prepare Your Kids and Your Home for Distance Learning

Like many school districts across the country, Howard County Public Schools will be starting the school year
with distance learning. With some previous experience and with some time to prepare, here are 10 tips and ideas to help your family not only survive, but thrive, with distance learning.
• Communicate with your child’s teacher. Open communication will help both of you come up with ideas, options,
and alternatives to help your child succeed.
• Create a designated learning space. This can be tricky depending on your family’s living situation. Whether it’s
at a desk in your child’s bedroom or at the kitchen table, make sure it’s a quiet space and in a spot where school supplies are easily accessible.
• Stock up now on school supplies. Plenty of lined paper, printer paper and printer ink are key as well as noise-canceling headphones — they are very helpful for Zoom meetings, especially if you have multiple children.
• Use a wall calendar. While it may seem old-fashioned, a wall calendar can be helpful with keeping Zoom times and appointment times straight. If you have a lot of meetings and appointments to track, consider getting a wall calendar for each child. If you use only one calendar, assign each child a pen of a different color so it’s easy to track everyone’s schedule at a glance.
• Follow a schedule. Just like a typical in-class school week, kids do better with a routine and schedule. Get up, have breakfast, get dressed, and be ready to start the school day. This means having them go to bed on time each evening to make the mornings easier. Have lunch at about the same time each day and plan times for “recess” and P.E.
• Use a timer. Use timers for required reading time, or to track break times or lunch. You can also use the timer on those days when it’s hard to stay focused and on task.
• Create a weekly assignment sheet. Each week take the kids’ week of assignments and add them to a simple spreadsheet along with assignment details and the due date as well as a space to check off once it has been completed. Print it out and give each child his/her own copy. Having it in writing makes it easy for them to see what has been done already and how much more they need to complete.
• Write down all passwords and website URLs in one place. So. Many. Passwords! Print them, along with the many websites each child needs to use and put them in your child’s binder for easy access.
• Plan ahead for snacks and lunch. Working from home might sometimes mean having to be on a call which prevents the ability to confirm what someone can eat as a snack or lunch that day. If your children are not able to handle preparing snacks and lunch on their own, try putting acceptable snacks into a small bin so they can choose on their own. Also, think about foods that might be okay to eat while working on their computer. As for lunches, plan ahead by having sandwich fixings, easy to prepare foods, or even leftovers available. You could even pack them in advance as if they were headed to school each day.
• Set rules and expectations. Kids have rules and expectations in the classroom, so why not at home for school? For some children, you might need to put them in writing. For others, you can discuss and move on. These might include the times you expect them to be working, the need to clean up their workspace after “school,” and other expectations you have. Many are facing an unknown future in terms of this school year, but with greater preparedness comes a feeling of greater control. Hopefully that will be helpful to all.

Excerpts from Jennifer Hill of “Macaroni Kids” Columbia.

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