For a myriad of reasons, distance learning is complicated. But as the United States grapples with navigating a school year under threat by the COVID-19 pandemic, attending school via Zoom has become a necessity. But how—when students need specialized help, socialization and more to succeed— can attending school online be an effective mode of education?
Charne Tunson has worked for 20 years as an educator. This month she kicks off her own private virtual home school. Parents have always looked for home schooling options when not satisfied with their neighborhood school. Now however, Tunson explains that while virtual learning is becoming the standard environment, but a lot of schools don’t have the proper resources and expertise.
“I’ve always been an advocate for students,” Tunson says. “I really wanted to be able to support different types of students.”
A guide for distance learning
Given Tunson’s expertise as an educator and virtual learning leader, she can offer parents the knowledge to ensure each school day is a success. She says the most important part of schooling is structure.
“We really have to develop a schedule,” she says. “[Kids are] used to having an adult in the classroom to redirect, then to try to help keep them on task.”
However, not all parents are available to help their child through the school day, as many do not have the option to work from home. A tactic Tunson emphasizes is pre-planning. (Pertinent supplies can be found here, here and here.)
“We’re going to carve out some time as a family and we’re going to preview what our week looks like. And then every night before, we will then preview what the next day looks like,” she says. “Then at the end of that day, you also need to do some kind of recap… What did you accomplish? Where did you struggle? What are some things you need to work on?”
Other important measures include creating a work space, having headphones and scheduling brain breaks. Luckily, things don’t have to get too fancy or expensive. Tunson suggests dividing up the table among siblings with trifold boards, which can be decorated with words of encouragement, math formulas or the daily schedule. Creating this private space is furthered by the use of over-the-ear headphones. Budget-friendly options include headphones from Kidz Gear Wired, Lil Gadgets and CozyPhones. Sometimes though, staying in the zone requires pulling out of focus.
“Research says for most adolescents…[that] every 20 minutes, they need to switch up their activity. And if they’re just sitting in front of a computer for hours on end, they’re not going to be engaged,” Tunson says.
Camaraderie is key
In addition to children needing a moment to recharge, Tunson also notes it’s good for parents to take a breather too. Some of her recommendations include making a snack together, playing a board game, doing a craft (a decent-priced printer can be found here), getting some fresh air and even video games. Tunson is a huge proponent for team video games in moderation.
“Just moving around and being silly— it’s important.”
As parents guide their children through an unprecedented system of education, community will be the key to success. Tunson emphasizes parents should reach out and develop support groups on spaces like Facebook or phone apps. Even she, an established educator, found resources she didn’t know about through her parent advocate Facebook group.
“It’s helpful just to know that you’re not alone.”
If you are in need of tutoring assistance, learn more from UPchieve or Tutoring America. If you are in Los Angeles County, learn more about the LA County libraries that offer free printing and laptop and hotspot loans here.