The usual energy and enthusiasm surrounding the back-to-school season feels a bit different this year, and understandably so. As students in the Atlanta Public Schools system (APS) prepare for a remote start on August 24, there’s still some uncertainty about how well virtual learning will work for students and their parents.  No matter the task or the goal, success always starts with a plan. Use some of these best practices that we compiled with help from APS officials as your guide to ensure great learning opportunities and positive outcomes, so your kids can thrive this school year.

  1. Establish a Routine

Children often thrive off of routines and expectations. A daily schedule—that’s both manageable for kids to follow and easily maintainable for parental involvement—will help families get into the groove for remote learning.

How to Do It

  • Choose a good place to learn. Surroundings do matter. Choose a spot that’s organized and free of as many distractions as possible.
  • Make sure your child has the necessary resources to complete assignments. Being properly equipped keeps them ready to learn.
  • Set daily expectations. Consider things like having them to prepare their work areas the night before or to get fully dressed in the morning; making sure they eat a healthy breakfast; or requiring them to create a daily homework list.
  • Establish study times, and even have them give you an end of day report. This will assist in making sure all their work is completed.
  1. Encourage Breaks

Your child’s virtual school schedule will likely include breaks. Make sure your child takes advantage of these moments, which can be particularly beneficial for their physical and mental health.

How to Do It

  • During scheduled breaks, encourage your child to get up and dance or wiggle to get ready for the next learning segment.
  • Encourage physical activity and exercise both during the school breaks and after school. Family walks are a great way to stay active and to discuss the school day with your kids. Limited on time? Atlanta Parks and Recreation will be hosting free one-hour virtual fitness sessions for families (check their website for details).
  1. Avoid Common Challenges

Sometimes students struggle to complete assignments. With new technology and a change in how students interact with their teachers, it’s understandable if students get frustrated, lose motivation or become overwhelmed. Being proactive can help you and your child prevent hiccups that may hinder their success at virtual learning.

How to Do It

  • Have your child check in to the learning management platform daily (i.e. Google Classroom).
  • Remember to establish a daily plan to study and complete assignments.
  • Help your child get familiar with the primary online learning platforms.
  • Stay in communication with your child’s teacher.
  • Identify barriers to learning (what is not working) and ask the school for help.
  • Focus on the keys to early childhood education: read, talk and play with your child. And encourage, cheer and love your little ones.
  1. Hold Daily Check-Ins

Virtual learning can be stressful for students—and parents. The lack of interaction with their friends, the change in their normal routine and other factors can impact your child’s social and emotional health. See the 5 Social Emotional Learning (SEL) infographic below. APS recommends that parents check-in with their child at the beginning and end of each day to monitor progress. Asking questions at the start and end of each school day can help students stay motivated, help them to manage their emotional loads and inform parents if their child is in need of extra assistance.

Questions to Ask Your Child

In the morning:

  •         What classes/subjects do you have today?
  •         Do you have any assessments (quizzes, tests, etc.)?
  •         How will you spend your break, study time, etc.?
  •         What resources do you need?
  •         What can I do to help?

At the end of the day:

  •         How far did you get in your learning tasks today?
  •         What did you discover?
  •         What was hard or challenging?
  •         Do you have any homework assignments?
  •         What can we do to make tomorrow better?
  1. Be Supportive

Staying in tune with your child’s emotions is also key. If you feel your child is struggling emotionally or academically, APS encourages parents to reach out to a school counselor or your child’s teacher. A counselor may be able to provide your child with resources like the APS SEL Room to help.  Never hesitate to ask for support if you notice a continuous pattern of the following behaviors:

  •   Problems completing tasks and maintaining concentration
  •   Fear or hopelessness about the future
  •    Hypersensitivity or heightened startle responses
  •    Disturbing or intrusive thoughts
  •    Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
  •    Substance use in an effort to cope
  •    Mood swings that seem out of character
  •    Feeling numb or detached
  •    Negative feelings about and the world
  •    Detachment from other people, isolation or withdrawal

 Embracing the New Normal

Virtual learning is new for most of us, so don’t worry if your child makes mistakes. Things will get easier as they continue to familiarize themselves with each platform. Being patient with and encouraging to your child–and having a solid plan–will go a long way in helping them successfully adjust to this new way of learning. Here’s to a healthy, happy and high-achieving new school year!