PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Last spring, students and parents had very little time to prepare for virtual learning.
Now that you've had more time to plan your student's virtual school, you may be wondering what some of the best practices are to get the best learning experience for your child.
Tips from a Georgetown University virtual professor:
Georgetown University professor Wendy Zajack is the faculty director for two of the school's online masters programs in Washington, D.C.
Zajack said the best thing to do is make sure you, your child, and teacher have open lines of communication about what is working and what is not working in the virtual environment.
"Going at [online learning] with that mindset to me is really one of the most important things we can do this fall," Zajack said. "Honoring that we are disappointed that [learning at home] isn't what we hoped is also important."
According to Zajack, coming to teachers with feedback and suggestions regarding the coursework and being flexible are key.
Zajack said most teachers welcome the two-way communication, not just from parents, but students too.
"Them taking ownership of their learning is actually really exciting," Zajack said. "And I think really sets them up for their own future, which will undoubtedly be more virtual. But even having [students] being an active part of their educational experience I actually think is great and may turn out to be way more valuable than the model we've always followed."
Parents might be stressed and find it hard to keep track of assignments, tests, and deadlines. Zajack suggests creating a family calendar and know that mistakes will happen.
"I think schools are trying to be flexible in terms of grading, in terms of helping parents get along. If an assignment gets missed, it's probably okay," Zajack said.
Zajack said if your children are older, it might be a great idea for them to come up with their own organizational systems to help develop their executive function skills.
"That's going to serve them really well down the road as they do college," Zajack said.
As far as the learning space, Zajack said most students should carve out a consistent space.
"I think one of the challenges in a virtual environment is that we have no boundaries. When we used to go to school, we go to our room, we have our school, we go home, and we have fun," Zajack said.
Zajack thinks it is important to distinguish between learning and play spaces by making a boundary.
"That helps to just mentally set us in a different place that is helpful for us to [think about], I'm going to learn over here and I'm going to go to Fortnight over here," said Zajack.
Tips from the owner of a home school:
Ali Kaufman owns Space of Mind in Delray Beach. The educator brings coaches to students' homes virtually to do homeschooling.
Kaufman said students should keep moving their learning environments.
"Especially to avoid the boredom and monotony and what virtual learning feels like," Kaufman said.
Kaufman added that in the spring she saw amazing growth in students as they designed their own virtual learning environments.
"My best advice would be to deconstruct everything you think a learning space should look like and stop shopping for it. And just let your student create the environment that works for them," said Kaufman, who added that parents should not take growth opportunities like children setting up their own learning spaces away from their kids.
Kaufman said students, parents, and teachers are returning to school stressed out with some form of PTSD.
"Everyone is already tired trying to figure [virtual school] out," Kaufman said. "It's going to be really important for parents to remember kids are stressed, they are really fatigued, and they are really out of practice of being in a routine."
Kaufman has two suggestions for parents.
"We have to start the school year with a soft-touch and really focus first on the social, emotional, and life skills. And really giving the teachers a chance to understand who they are teaching and how," Kaufman said.
Kaufman agrees with Zajack in letting the child create their learning space.
"It might be a little harder [for parents] in the up-front [of the process], but in the end, you have a kid who's got buy-in to [do] what you're asking them to do and they know they are organizing it in a way that makes sense to them," Kaufman said.
Kaufman added she thinks parents should focus on discussing what the feeling of being organized is and not organizational systems.
Tips from a professional organizer:
Harley Rhodes is a professional organizer at EZPZ Organizers in Hobe Sound. She said if setting up your child's workspace seems stressful, you should focus on one task at a time.
"Then it doesn't become so overwhelming and you don't get so distracted [by other tasks on your list]," Rhodes said.
Rhodes said the learning space doesn't have to be elaborate.
"Try and keep it as simple as possible, especially if you have multiple kids at home. It's going to become really hard to manage all of [the school work]," Rhodes said.
Rhodes suggests using the kitchen table for families with tight budgets.
"You don't have to have an individual desk. That's not a reality in many homes. You don't have the space for that," Rhodes said.
As far as organizing, Rhodes said the Dollar Store has inexpensive bins to create in-and-out boxes for assignments and containers to keep craft materials together.
Rhodes said kids should not do their learning in their bedroom.
"You want to get them out and make it like, this is still school. We're still reporting to school and this is going to keep [school work] a lot more organized," Rhodes said.
Routine is also an important organizational tool.
"Have your designated area. You're still getting up, you're still getting ready, you're still going to school. Get your backpack, let's get ready to go, except you're probably just going to the dining room," Rhodes said.
Rhodes said at the end of the day it's important to reset everything, like sharpening pencils and stowing books so the space is ready for learning the next day.
Mom tips for setting up virtual learning spaces:
School reopening dates: