Education

How to make sure virtual learning is working for your child

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When it comes to distance learning, some parents are worried their kids aren’t meeting their academic goals. It’s not because the kids lack discipline — in fact, in most cases, the kids are good students, and teachers certainly aren’t the problem. But parents are playing a much larger role in their children’s learning than before. Without the same training and background that teachers have, many are left wondering if they’re doing it right. Plus, countless parents have said they’re stressed out about missing Zoom classes, losing track of whether or not assignments were turned in, and questionable online grading practices. As a result, it’s hard to know if your child is learning what they’re supposed to be learning. Here are some ways to make sure your kids are on track.

More than grades

Experts say grades are one indication of how well your child is performing in school, but a good report card isn’t a guarantee that they’re picking up actual skills or long-term comprehension. The answer lies in something called learning outcomes, the measure by which educators assess whether a student has mastered the skills and knowledge necessary to complete their grade level. Not the same things as grades, your child’s teacher can easily tell you what the they are for their grade level. 

Knowing the learning outcomes for your child’s current grade level will not only help guide you as you guide them through distance learning, but it will also make it easier to know if your child is struggling with something. The idea is to focus on the skills and knowledge they’re supposed to acquire, not just the tests and projects they have to complete. 

Get to know your child’s teacher

Developing a relationship with your child’s teacher is key to making this happen, Kim Bosch, a professor at Algonquin College in Ottawa, Canada, who co-steered her college’s Covid-19 Academic Continuity Project with a focus on outcomes-based education delivery, recently told The New York Times. Whether via email, phone, or in person, “having these conversations helps not only students and parents but teachers too since they can give you ideas for how you can support your child in person where maybe they, sadly, cannot right now because of social distancing measures,” she says. It’s a great way to get around “the less-than-ideal learning environment” that virtual learning necessitates. 

Look for lesson plans

Ask your teacher to share your school’s learning plan and take a peek at what’s coming your child’s way this year and perhaps even next year, so you can be prepared and reinforce things at home. For example, if your child needs to be able to read cursive writing by the end of the year, you can prompt them to practice when you see a menu or street signs with cursive writing. In many cases schools post this information online as an immediate resource for parents. 

Focus on the goals, not the journey

It’s important to remember that each child learns differently, and this is probably the first time you’re seeing your child’s way of learning up close. If it’s not the way you learned things as a child, it doesn’t mean it’s wrong. “When given a math problem, some of us might use a paper and pencil, some might do the problem in their head, while others use their fingers to count to come up with the answer,” Bosch says. “If the outcome is met (your kid solves the math problem), does it really matter how they demonstrated it?”  

Mental and emotional health is important, too

Beyond checking the boxes of skills and grades, it’s also important to keep an eye on your child’s state of mind. A lot of development occurs at each grade level, and that can affect their learning, too. For example, some kids were instantly comfortable with online learning, and for others, it made them anxious. “Ask your child what they like and don’t like about virtual classes from time to time,” says Miami-based family therapist Tania Paredes, Ph.D. “Some children may need more breaks during the school day or an altered schedule, this is why it’s important to have a relationship with the teacher.” 

The expanding role that parents are playing in their child’s schooling doesn’t have to be a bad thing — in fact, this could be the breakthrough we all needed to better understand and appreciate our teachers and the challenges our children face when they’re at school.


Dealing with school closures, childcare issues, or other challenges related to coronavirus? Find support, advice, activities to keep kids entertained, learning opportunities and more in our Coronavirus Parents: Parenting in a Pandemic Facebook Group.

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The former Content Director at Parenting, parenting.com and several other brands, Ana Connery is a writer and content strategist whose work appears in USA Today, Reader's Digest, Real Simple, Cafe Mom/The Stir, Momtastic, and others.