Managing Remote Learning for Littles (and Yourself)
The new model of remote learning has created an environment that is pretty on par with the year 2020. It may leave you feeling exhausted, frustrated, stressed out, and near the end of your metaphorical rope.
If your kiddo is an all star who can sit in front of a monitor from 8:15am to 3:00pm with a smile and no issues, this blog post is not for you. Congratulations! Feel free to revel in the awesomeness of not having to experience what a large percentage of the parental population is currently going through.
I guess I should also preface this post by assuring you, it is most definitely NOT political. Your views are your own and I respect wherever on the spectrum you fall. Your opinions on whether or not we should send our kids back to in-person learning also do not determine how your child is navigating remote learning or the struggles you may be facing as a family. The only narrative I am going to be defending is the fact that the remote learning environment is HARD! For the parents, for the child, for the educators…. IT. IS. HARD!
I will say, remote learning looks different for every parent, depending on how the child's individual school has laid out the curriculum and teaching platforms. So I am going to be making generalities based on how the public schools in my district are handling the suggested regulations passed down by our governor and the CDC.
As it stands, my 6 year old is in first grade and she signs into her computer at 8:15am and does not sign out until 3:00pm. There are a few breaks and a lunch period scattered throughout, in an effort to break up the day. But 6 to 7 hours is still an obscene amount of time for a young child to be placed in front of a computer and asked to sit still and pay attention. We started this structured remote learning environment approximately one month ago. I can tell you that not a single week has passed where we have not dealt with at least one (if not multiple) complete meltdowns.
My oldest daughter LOVED school. She loves learning and interacting with her teachers. In fact, she will completely monopolize a teacher's time with stories or random information. She wants to answer every question the teacher asks and thrives off of positive reinforcement. This new learning platform has made my bubbly teacher's pet, literally attempt to hide so she does not have to return to her place in front of the computer. She is usually good at the beginning of the day. She signs in on time, engages with her classmates and the teacher and has an overall positive and optimistic attitude. But by around 10 or 11am, I am standing over my 6 year old trying to encourage her to return to class. She is generally crying at this point and refusing to go back. My encouragement turns to some sort of negotiation or bribery…."If you sit down and pay attention, I will get you a cup of your favorite juice!" When that does not work, I get frustrated and start threatening consequences. Which I always end up regretting because truth be told, consequences are not fair for this type of situation. This is foreign to her, even though it has been a month of logging on.
Prior to the pandemic, we heavily restricted our children's access and exposure to electronic devices. Now I am shoving her in front of said device, five days a week, for six to seven hours a day and then I proceed to become frustrated when she gets burnt out. Ugh… even typing it out makes me feel like a terrible parent for any ounce of frustration I feel in those moments.
Another source of frustration is, I work from home two days during the week. I have clients that I meet with virtually and when my daughter is having a moment, I have to step away from those clients to redirect her and get back to my computer in a timely manner. The pressure to accommodate my client and my daughter at the same time is HEAVY. As a result, my thermometer starts moving north, even before I have addressed the situation.
There is also an unspoken pressure for her to pay attention in order to not academically fall behind her peers.
We have tried multiple different approaches to addressing her frustration with online learning and have experienced A LOT of failures. In fact… almost all of the methods we tried in those earlier days that were related to bribery or consequences failed miserably.
So what HAS worked?
Honestly, the thing that has provided the best outcome for both of us.....
When she gets frustrated, I generally find her crumpled up on the ground, tears in her eyes and just completely done. So I get on the floor with her. I ask her about her frustration and let her tell me about how difficult it is for her. I let her confide in me about how much she hates having to be in front of the computer and how upset she is that she doesn’t get to have recess and play with her friends. I give her a hug and I VALIDATE her feelings. I let her know it is OK to be frustrated and tell her I understand it is difficult. I don't dismiss her feelings. I make sure her other needs are met and see if she is hungry or needs something to drink. I try my hardest to truly listen and not to rush her so that I can get back to my own obligations. In addition to this, my husband came up with setting a timer. Once we are done with our talk, I set a timer for 5 minutes. She is allowed to decompress for 5 more minutes before returning to school.
We informed her teacher that we are allowing her to step away from the computer when she gets burnout. And I do want to touch on her teacher for a minute. She has been SOOO good about listening to our concerns and working with us to make sure our little lady is getting what she needs. It cannot be easy for her teacher (or any other teacher) to maintain the interest of that many small children for 6 to 7 hours daily. So props to the teachers for keepin' it together!
To sum it up, here are some tips to try during your own remote learning struggles:
For your kiddo:
Keep your expectations low.
Get down to their level: Try not to stand above them, literally get down to their eye level.
Ask them in a soft tone how they are feeling.
"I can see you are upset, will you tell me why?
Empathize with them and VALIDATE their feelings.
"I can see this is very difficult for you."
"Sitting in the same chair all day is hard!"
"Paying attention to a screen all day would make mommy tired too."
Give them some leeway. Allow them to step away for 5 minutes before returning. Provide an opportunity for them to "reset."
Setting a timer is helpful.
Take a deep breath.
learning how to manage your breathing in stressful situations can assist you in maintaining a calmer approach.
Avoid multitasking: when addressing your stressed out child, focus your whole attention completely on helping them de-escalate.
This will help you maintain your own level of frustration.
Practice empathy for yourself: this is hard and you're doing the best you can!
Decompress: Find some time for yourself to re-center and re-group.
We just got notice last week that the children in our district are going to be returning to in-person schooling in the very near future. We are hoping for the best but will be keeping our initial journey in mind if by chance schooling reverts back to remote.
With Love - Jess