Dear Piper Parents,
A colleague of mine, who is a former educator, told me recently how challenging teaching her own children at home has been since their schools closed. Although teachers are providing support, her elementary and middle school age children still need her guidance to keep them on task.
We can’t imagine what many parents are feeling who have never managed a classroom. Jimmy Fallon and Lin Manuel Miranda mentioned their own difficulties with this situation on a recent episode of the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, the at-home version. At Piper, we know this is a challenging task and we are here to help.
Foster Collaborative Learning
The first thing I want every parent to know is that your child will likely behave very differently learning at home than they do in the classroom. Oftentimes students work collaboratively in a classroom setting and are motivated by their peers to complete an assignment or come up with a creative idea. At home, it can be difficult to mimic this.
Collaborative learning is a pillar of best teaching practices and just because kids can’t access their peers in-person doesn’t mean it can’t be achieved with those currently around them. To foster collaborative learning at home, try engaging with your student and have other members of your household do the same, or encourage them to collaborate with their friends via FaceTime, Zoom, or another video chat platform.
Temper Your Expectations
In addition to supporting collaboration, it is also important to temper your expectations for your child. Part of any learning process is productive struggle and research shows that practicing grit and perseverance leads to more enduring understanding.
Encourage your child to work through difficulties and don’t worry if they encounter a challenge. You might also want to consider that the attention span for children ages 8-14 is around 20-30 minutes. They will need breaks and they will need structure to make sure their attention is focused effectively. Use the structure or schedule created by your child’s school or teacher, but know that you may need to make some modifications to meet your child’s needs. Neurodiversity is a beautiful thing and teachers accommodate all students’ needs as best they can while in the classroom.
*If your child’s teacher or school hasn’t provided a schedule for kids to follow, check out Piper’s Recommended Resources for Home Learning for examples or check out the schedule Piper’s Dr. Todd Ullah created at the bottom of this post.*
Enrich Your Child’s Learning
Speaking of teachers knowing their students, it is important that support your child’s teacher and trust their decisions for how to facilitate online learning for your child. You might have ideas for how to change what the teacher provided or potentially disagree, but trusting the teacher and sticking to the instruction they provide is key to your student’s success while learning at home. It is important to support the goals and accountability structures your child’s teacher creates, and reinforce them with your words and actions.
If you want to help customize your child’s learning at home, a great way to do so is to ask your child questions about an assignment and once they have completed it, use their interests to expand on that topic. This encourages student agency and helps keep your child engaged in meaningful and impactful learning experiences. For example, let’s say your child has a reading assignment on a particular part of history. Ask them what they liked most about the reading and then do some further research online with them on that topic.
You can always help your child make real world connections in their learning. For example, if your student is learning fractions remotely through videos and quizzes assigned by their teacher, after they have completed their work you can head to the kitchen and show them real world examples of how you use fractions when cooking and baking. Both of these practices ensure that students are still completing the work scaffolded by their teacher while also enriching their learning experience, which leads to deep understanding and retention.
Encourage Informal Learning
On a related note, offer your child the opportunity to engage in informal learning. This happens all the time during school hours. Find ways for them to pursue their interests that may be unrelated to school work. If your child has a question, rather than answering it for them, find a way to facilitate inquiry-based instruction. Teachers will try to do this with their assignments, but it will further benefit your child to answer questions by experimenting and researching.
In addition, give them a chance to create! Do they love to code? Add some coding time into their schedule if their teacher hasn’t assigned that to them. Do they love to make music? Give them some structured time to pursue this passion. Have them present their completed projects to you or other members of your household. You can give them feedback to help them practice reflection and iteration on their personal projects. This also allows you to help learning and exploration continue without the coaches and mentors at school they may normally rely on.
Be Kind To Yourself
Lastly, be kind to yourself. Teachers have been trained to do this. If Jimmy Fallon and Lin Manuel Miranda are both having trouble facilitating at-home learning, it’s ok for all of us to feel that way too! Enjoy the time with your children and build a partnership with your teachers and schools. Most of all, thank you for supporting your children and their teachers! We know how important it is to have parents as a partner in the learning process.
Former Educator and CAO at Piper
Have other suggestions for or questions about facilitating at-home learning as a parent? Tell us about them in the comments section below!