Back to school and distance learning tips for Foster parents

How to help your kid learn with distance learning

How to help your kid learn with distance learning

Homeschooling and how to help your foster child succeed  

In these unprecedented times in the Commonwealth of Virginia, the majority of parents, including foster parents and foster families, birth parents or biological parents, and adoptive parents are now faced with the task of remote learning and homeschooling their children at least for the first nine weeks of the fall semester. Many first-time foster parents who have recently opened their homes to children aged from early childhood to high school age are also facing this unprecedented task. In some regions of the state, schools have already started the 2020-2021 academic year.

In addition to the school’s divisions providing your child with some type of device, if requested, such as a laptop or Chromebook, your child’s teacher will likely provide you with a work packet, curriculum notebooks, jump drives, school supplies, etc. These items are designed to assist you in navigating the distance or e-learning experience with your child.

To reduce the stress or anxieties in both you and your child, due to the increased need for you to be more engaged in the child’s learning more than ever, you may need guidance on how to structure the day or how to teach specific concepts to your child. 

Dr. Linda Carling, Associate Research Scientist at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education Center for Technology in Education,​ defines ​“engagement” as the amount and quality of time students spend on distance based learning activities. According to Dr. Carling, distance learning activities can be a synchronous (real-time) learning experience. Students have some scheduled online interaction with a teacher or group or asynchronous (not in real-time) learning experience where students interact with online resources at their own pace. 

Dr. Carling explains that regardless of the mode of delivery, many students are asked to be engaged in a new way. Teachers might hold live, or video-recorded class lectures or activities, or perhaps parents are given digital learning resources to work through with their children. Without effective support for children from teachers and parents at home, families can quickly become disengaged and frustrated. 

Eight tips to help your child maintain focus and stay engaged during distance learning are as follows:

Understand the expectation for distance learning​. How much time should students spend online for learning purposes? There are screen time considerations for all students, and older students can handle more extended amounts of time than younger students.

Your child’s teacher or school should provide some guidance for what is reasonable. For young children, interaction and play are valuable for learning. Examples of activities that encourage interaction and play include learning games like scavenger hunts, arts and crafts, and activities where students can create their own fun engaging hands-on projects at home.

Determine what type of activities work best for your child. ​Are there particular types of distance learning activities that your child prefers over others? For example, does your child work better with synchronous activities where they respond to a live instructor, or in-person sitting one-on-one with you? What learning platforms seem to engage your child more than others? 

Encourage movement​. Kids need to move their bodies frequently throughout the day. Allow time for exercise before your child is expected to focus on a distance learning task.

Some children can better focus on tasks when standing. Consider having your computer or tablet be on a raised surface so that your child can stand. 

Reduce distractions ​. Where possible, reduce distractions when your child is completing schoolwork. This includes noise as well as visual noise or clutter.

For older students, it is essential to reduce time spent on social media while learning. A designated workspace that is comfortable for your child will be helpful. 

Adjust your schedule as needed​. If your child is frustrated — or alternately, if your child is very engaged in learning — make a change in your schedule to allow for a break (and revisit at a later day or time) or to spend time delving deeper into the topic. Consider working with your child on those activities or subjects that are more difficult during the day when your child is most alert and engaged. 

Use a checklist for focus​. For some children who struggle with focusing, an essential visual list of tasks needed for a particular activity will be helpful. For example, if the child is asked to watch a lesson, read a prompt, and then provide a written response to the prompt, the checklist would have keywords for each of these required activities: watch, read, write. 

Give your child (and yourself) a break:​Your teacher does not want your child to be frustrated with or miserable about learning. Teachers spend time trying to make lessons exciting and tailor instruction to provide the right level of challenge for their students. If something is too challenging, or your child has hit a frustration level, it’s okay to stop the activity and give them a break. 

Provide immediate positive feedback. ​Each time your child completes distance learning instruction, provide quick and positive feedback! Something as simple as putting a checkmark, star, or sticker on the work assignment can go a long way in helping to motivate your child. And don’t forget to celebrate yourself, as you are playing such an important role to help your child learn and grow. 

Examples of rewards include praise; stickers; choosing a movie; a treat such as ice cream, candy, or a popsicle; tablet time; choosing a family activity; playing with a special toy; free-choice time; or an extra 15 minutes to play before bedtime. 

Learn more about helping a child in foster care 



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