Schools around the country are back in session after Labor Day, but this school year will look very different from any school year before it. Most schools in our area are returning virtually for at least the first few weeks, meaning thousands of students from ages 4 to 18 will be learning at home.

Virtual education may be the safest way to keep your child learning during the Covid 19 pandemic, but it does come with challenges of its own. As a parent or caregiver, your participation and collaboration in the process will be key to your student’s success, but that doesn’t mean you have to actively plan to teach your child all day.

One of the most important things you can do for your virtual student is to help them set up their work space at home with few distractions and clear expectations. Provide them with a schedule and learning support, but prepare to be flexible and change as time goes on.

Going back to school virtually will be new for educators and students alike. Help to smooth the process in your home with these simple virtual back to school tips for parents.

Minimize Distractions
Try to set up a workspace for your kids that reduces their exposure to distractions during their school day. Set up a small desk with a clean space and provide them with the materials they’ll need to complete their tasks. Keep the room comfortable and quiet, and avoid leaving on televisions or allowing additional devices or other technology in the room during “class time.”

Time Management
Depending on how much of your students’ schedule is being provided to them by their school or not, you’ll need to plan ahead and think about how to organize your time and your child’s time to ensure that they can get their work done and take necessary breaks to move around, clear their heads and, if they’re young, play.

Brain Breaks/Play
Young kids will need a lot of free time to learn through play, movement and having fun. Build in breaks in their day to spend time with Legos, coloring, running around outside, dancing and to enjoy complete breaks in their day from focus and traditional “work.”

Be Flexible
As the days and weeks go on, your schedules may change, your child’s needs may adjust and you will need to adapt along the way. Most schools and teachers are teaching virtually for the first time and there is certain to be a learning curve for everyone. Your student may discover that certain times of day work better for certain types of work, and it’ll be helpful if you can adjust their schedules to support them as they go.

Social Connections
With so many kids learning from home and being cut off from activities they love, staying social is a priority – but doing it safely takes finesse. Work together with your kids to come up with safe ways to connect them to their friends. If you have young kids, plan bike rides or meet ups in outdoor open areas. You may want to bring masks if you think they cannot maintain distance, or monitor them closely to ensure they stay safely 6 feet apart. Older kids can meet up with friends for jogs, bike rides or tennis matches, and all kids can safely catch up with one another via Facetime, Zoom or other video chat platforms.

Tune In to Your Child’s Teacher
Make it a point to reach out to your child’s teacher often, and communicate more than you think you need to. Distance learning will create gaps in communication for everyone, and going the extra mile to stay connected and tuned in to your child’s teacher will help you to support the class, your child and the virtual learning in your home.