The school has plenty of resources to help parents adjust to this new way of learning, separate from the student’s education. In some ways, this is a learning experience for the parent in addition to the student. 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. The first step in preparation is to familiarize yourself with the courses your child is taking.
School preparation also involves going to school supply shopping. While online learning may require some things that students in a traditional school may not need and vice versa, there are still needed supplies. You would go supply shopping for a traditional school to do the same for their virtual education. School supply shopping shows your child that this school should be taken as seriously as any schooling, and it also starts the virtual education on a structural note.
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. It doesn’t need to be a classroom setup but should be a space to keep focused.
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 just doesn’t work. Particularly at the beginning when the child is still trying to figure out an excellent virtual learning process for themselves. 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 between courses. 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 must know when to step in and when to 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 constantly monitor 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 essential 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 integral 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 in your child’s learning experience. 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.
You may have always been the support system, but the dynamic may change with the student doing all their learning at home. It’s essential to understand this new virtual learning experience and how it is helping or hurting your child. Listen to them when they have issues or encourage their excitement when a particular class or project is a success.
Some of the most important supporters for children are their peers and friends within the traditional school setting. While they can nurture those relationships without being in the physical space, you as the parent may need to take on that supporting role at home. This could be a whole new job on its own. Just remember as you support your child that you’re trying to get the most out of this online learning experience for your child as you can.
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.