This article was originally posted on Entrepreneur.com
Parents working from home, how are we going to make back-to-school work this fall?
Many of us recently learned that our school districts’ return-to-learning plans include virtual learning. Thus far, we’ve been just getting by managing childcare and work. We’re all anxious and incorporating this extra responsibility into our already busy schedules feels daunting.
Now’s the time to create a plan for an environment that fosters successful work and schooling at home. Here are a few tips.
Get familiar with the virtual school calendar and scheduling apps.
Virtual school in your district will likely involve both asynchronous and synchronous learning. For synchronous learning, your child must be logged into a virtual class session, in attendance with the teacher and classmates. A family scheduling app is a great way to ensure those sessions are attended.
Google Calendar is an easy, free app you can set up on your child’s devices. Plug in online sessions they must attend and share the calendar with your family. Use Google Calendar to schedule times you’ll be unavailable due to meetings and phone calls. Encouraging your child to refer to the calendar throughout the day builds organization and time management skills.
Other apps include ways to assign duties—like finishing assignments—and rewards for completing tasks. Check out a few different apps with your child and discuss which ones work best for your family. Getting their feedback and buy-in is an important step in making sure the app is used.
When school starts, review the school schedule with your children each morning and set goals. Hold a quick meeting to review which virtual classes your child must attend that day and what assignments are due. Refer to them to the family scheduling app to keep on task.
Check your tech.
You’re going to need a strong internet connection to enable both work and school lessons. Connect with your service provider for advice about which internet plan makes the most sense for your family. Check your Wi-Fi speed and upgrade your equipment before school begins.
If you’re using borrowed technology from your child’s school, ask to pick it up and get the online set-up instructions prior to school starting so you have time to test everything.
In both cases, make note of the school’s technology advisor’s contact information in case you need assistance with devices, internet connection, or software usage.
Set up workspaces for your home.
To the best of your ability, setting up separate workspaces for you and your child should be a priority. You may already have an established workspace in your home. Your child will also need one with few distractions. If you’ll work near one another, set aside a place where you can both access online meetings in private.
Your child’s lessons are online, but that doesn’t mean they won’t need school supplies. Stock up now on paper, pencils, folders, and markers. Create an area where your child can store their supplies and put them away after the school day, like they would in their locker.
Make lunchtime a ‘working lunch’ and remember recess.
Check in with your kids over lunch. Are they on schedule for the day? Are they working on a difficult assignment and need some extra encouragement? Make this a time to discuss what resources they need to be successful. If possible, identify additional time in your schedule to work on difficult assignments together.
After problem-solving on the tough tasks, take time for recess and go outdoors with your child. A walk around the block is likely all you’ll both need to refocus. If you combine that walk with a hunt for Little Free Libraries in your neighborhood, you might get an hour of quiet work time later while your child reads a new book.
If your school is incorporating physical education into online learning, you have an amazing opportunity to promote healthy living by demonstrating how it’s done. Use your recess time to perform the phys. Ed. lessons together and log some parent-child bonding time while you’re making healthy choices.
Create virtual playdates.
No doubt your kids are missing their friends when they’re not in school. The social aspect of school is extremely important for your child’s mental well-being. Connections to friends provide children with a sense of belonging and help reduce anxiety and stress. School is a community and your child needs access to other children to feel a part of it.
Schedule some time for them to connect virtually or in-person with appropriate distancing and safety measures. You and your parent counterparts can help make this experience more enjoyable by creating an environment where they can discuss a specific topic, play a game or tell funny jokes. And, you can each take a day to host those meetings while the other parents take advantage of some quiet work time.