The school has plenty of resources to help parents adjust to this new way of learning, separate from what the student learns. Parents need to know what is expected of them as a parent and what is expected of the student. Since the student does not have a constant structure like a traditional school, the parent takes on that structural role. The best way to translate that structure to the home is for the parent to get prepared.
School preparation involves going school supply shopping. While online learning may require some things that students in a traditional school may not need and vice versa, certain items are still needed. Going school supply shopping also shows your child that this school should be taken as seriously as any schooling and still requires much of the same things.
Another step in school preparation is ensuring that the student’s workspace is ready for them. This could include checking internet connection or cleaning out a space just for learning.
Upholding a Routine
As a parent, it’s your responsibility to keep up with your child’s schedule. While you want your child to be independent enough to keep their routine themselves, sometimes it’s just not working. Particularly at the beginning when the child is still trying to figure out virtual schooling in its entirety. Once the routine begins to slip, you need to take the reins and keep the student on schedule.
In some cases, the student may see you slacking on keeping up the routine, making it seem like that’s fine for the student to do as well. You should be helping to keep up with the routine and being a guide to show that the routine should always be upheld.
A routine is not just about waking up and starting school. The routine that you encourage should also have breaks. Just because the student is comfortably at home doesn’t mean they can go the whole school day without any breaks. Just like in a traditional school, there should be lunch breaks and recess periods, removing the student from the workspace for a portion of time to encourage productivity and eliminate the possibility of boredom.
Administration and Monitoring
Since the parent is housing their child’s school, the parent must handle all administrative tasks. These tasks start with taking attendance. It’s your responsibility to keep up with the student’s attendance and communicate its importance to them. In addition, it’s your responsibility to make sure all paperwork is done and submitted to the virtual school. Some of this responsibility may fall to the student, but certain things are wholly up to you to handle.
Virtual school parents are the student’s only source for monitoring. A virtual teacher can only monitor so much, not being physically there with the student. The parent needs to know when to step in and take a step back and monitor from afar. You can speak with the student’s teacher if you’re unsure what the best way to monitor is.
The level of monitoring also depends on a few things, specifically the age of the student. For younger students, the parent must monitor more closely as they are unable to keep focused themselves. For older students, monitoring may only be a matter of making sure the student is sitting at the computer. No matter how independent the student becomes with online learning, the parent should still continuously be monitoring to ensure the student is getting the most out of their virtual learning experience.
Encouragement and Motivation
The parent’s role of encouragement and motivator is one of the most critical roles the parent must undertake when their child starts virtual schooling. The parent becomes the cheerleader, the principal, and the peer altogether. While it’s important to keep up with these roles, you also need to realize boundaries.
Be the cheerleader and cheer the student on when they struggle with a topic. Be the principal when the student needs to be more structured. Be the peer when they are feeling isolated while online learning. But don’t be overbearing and become a point of pressure on the student.
Always encourage the student to get involved in social activities outside the home, whether joining a sports team or volunteering on the weekend. Socialization is of utmost importance as a child is growing up. Since they lose the socialization built into a traditional school system, it motivates them to get involved elsewhere. Help them to recognize that this is an important part of their development.
Be a Support System
Whether it’s just you or an entire family at home, your role as the support system is crucial. Being a support system for the student goes beyond encouraging them daily to do the best they can. Being the support system involves understanding what works for the student and reading the signs when the student is stressed and struggling mentally.
Since parents don’t usually meet their student’s virtual school teacher in person, they may not feel there needs to be much communication between them. This is not the case. For those students who are older and in higher levels of education, parents can be more hands-off. For younger students, there should always be a clear line of communication between the teacher and parent.
Ask the teacher for a virtual meeting if they don’t offer a parent orientation. Use the time to ask any questions you may have. One question you can ask is what the teacher expects of you as the parent at home. Good communication will encourage a partnership that will only benefit the student.