Here are my top tips for online school for families from an experienced online pediatric occupational therapist tips. Online school is continuing to evolve from the beginnings of distance learning in March 2020 to the present.
Here Are My Tips For Families Who are Continuing with Online School
- Set up a school area with minimal distractions. This can be anywhere, but preferably with a child-sized table and chair.
- Make sure your children are using seating that is their size. In school, their desks are child size and allow their feet to lay flat on the floor. This reduces sitting fatigue. If this is not possible at home, try to put a box under their feet.
- Allow different seating options to be used throughout the day. Different chairs, on the floor, on stomach on the floor, quiet reading area, etc.
- Buy school supplies – this one snuck up on me! There were no school supply lists sent this year, I guess it snuck up on everyone!
- Learn the classroom schedule with lunch and recess times. This is especially important if you will be working and helping your children with online school!
- Remember that in school lunchtimes are staggered by grade. If you have 2 children, they probably will not have the same lunch and recess times!
- Write out your school day schedule – if your school is not providing this much online school time, this step is even more important. Make sure to include lunch, snack break, reading, exercise, outside, and other non-electronics times.
- Post this schedule on the wall near their school area. Go over it with the kids, probably every day for at least the first week.
- Make recess NON-electronic. Kids need that brain break. Get some exercise, with fresh air if possible!
Timers and Visuals
- Use timers or other visuals to signal the end of activities. It can be hard to get kids back after recess even in school when they are following the teacher and their friends!
- Provide Fidgets! Take a look at the ideas here and here. It is normal for children to move as they work. This is going to be even more important with doing online school, as all that electronics is tiring on the eyes and brain.
- A largely forgotten consideration is that when children are in the classroom they get out of their seats frequently. They switch seats for circle time, small groups, individual work with the teacher, group work, the list goes on! They get out of their seats to hand in a paper, get supplies, walk to music class, lunch, etc, etc. Kids need to move! (See best indoor swing mounting systems). Online learning is NOT the same as being in the classroom. We will need to build these mini-movement breaks into their schedules even more frequently when students are working online.
- Include the time after school in your schedule as well! No afterschool activities? Make sure your children are not doing too much screen time after school!
- Some family activity ideas:
- Family walk
- Family puzzle (buy one with a meaningful picture for your family. My family always did a little bit of a Disney puzzle before bed. We put it on a piece of poster board and slid it under a bed every night!
- Family game
- Chores! One of the best ways to get your kids' non-screen activity! Include them in your day.
- Dishwasher, laundry, setting the table, etc.
- We have what I call a “laundry folding party” every Sunday night. We fold laundry in our bedroom and rotate who gets to pick the show we watch while folding.
- Have your older children responsible for 1 dinner a week from planning to cooking!
- The best way to do all these activities is to put them on your schedule and make them a habit!
I hope these tips help families with online distance learning!