By Samantha Alexander, Charlotte Agenda
The shift to working from home and remote classroom learning has been an adjustment for parents, students, and teachers alike.
With the whole family spending the work and school day under one roof, the lines have become blurred between parent and teacher. The big question is – how do you strike the right balance between getting your own work done and aiding in your child’s education?
“The idea of working and managing your kids at the same time is very new,” says Michael Rinehart, a seventh-grade teacher at Charlotte Country Day School.
I spoke with Rinehart and two of his colleagues at Country Day for tips to help parents find the right balance between your own work and aiding your child’s remote learning.
(1) Develop a daily schedule
When it comes to being productive, whether in work or school, a routine is key. “I have two kids in elementary school and my wife is also a teacher, so we’ve had to develop schedules,” says Rinehart.
Rinehart recommends creating the schedule with your child to help foster a sense of independence and to help set expectations. The schedule shouldn’t only include schoolwork either. You can factor in playtime, chores, or time to FaceTime family or friends.
“The schedules and routines are so, so important,” says Melissa Salvato, who teaches third-grade at Country Day. She also recommended that children stick to the bedtimes they had when they were attending school in person. “You have to remind them it’s not vacation. The key to all of this is creating the structure and schedule that they are familiar with.”
(2) Have dedicated workspaces
Both parents and students should have dedicated places to do their work. “I recommend that’s a separate place but the same place every day,” says Salvato. “You can’t have everyone working at the kitchen table.”
She also recommends a quiet space without distractions like TV. If it’s tough to reduce noise or distractions, headphones can come in handy.
(3) Set boundaries during the day with your child
When you’ve got to make a work deadline or be on a conference call, it can get tricky when your child is asking for help. “The idea that the teacher is the parent and the parent has other responsibilities – that’s a hard balance,” says Rinehart.
He suggests laying down some ground rules. “Our kids know if the door to our workstation is open, they can come in and ask a question, but if the door is closed, they can’t interrupt.” Set expectations ahead of time and then your child can take a break or play until you’re able to help them.
At the same time, Salvato says it’s important to “honor when a child is in their workplace.” So try to minimize distractions or loud conversations when your child is in work mode.
(4) Have rules for technology
Most of remote learning relies on technology but it can be a major distraction, too. “The technology is good and bad,” says Rinehart. “There’s the ability to do really creative things and have access to content but it can create a distraction for kids.”
For Rinehart’s own children, “Our rule is if they are using a device, it can’t be in their bedroom. It has to be used in the room near either me or my wife or at their designated workstation.”
Katie Jolly, who teaches high school Spanish at Country Day, acknowledges how hard the draw of social media can be for older kids. “Most of the kids are social distancing and miss their friends.”
But texting and catching up with friends should happen during breaks or non-school hours. Jolly recommends having your child leave their phone in another room during work time.
(5) Make time for breaks
Whether you’re the parent or the child, breaks are important pieces in staying focused throughout the day (and sane). “I think we could be in this remote learning environment for a while,” says Jolly. “It’s important to pace ourselves.”
Salvato also stressed the importance of physical and mental breaks, however, noted that a break shouldn’t always mean screen time. “Kids should be playing outside and getting physical activity in.”
For Rinehart and his family, they are using breaks to spend time together. “We all take lunch together and then go for a family walk in the afternoon. If my kids do their work, we all watch an episode of The Great British Baking Show at night,” says Rinehart. “There are some really big issues that we’re dealing with but being able to reconnect with your family is one of the positives.”