Helping your child learn remotely while you work remotely


For all of us who are still working from home during this pandemic, either by choice or because of local quarantines, time has felt like a nebulous concept. What is the difference of one day from another? For those of us with children, the fast-approaching end of summer means a return to school, and for so many millions that will mean remote learning.

helping-your-child-learn-remotely-while-you-work-remotelyBut how do you manage your own remote working situation, while also making sure that your child is getting the most out of their remote schooling? It’s a tricky balance to strike, but it can be done, and both of you could be better for it.

What do I need to do to help my child’s remote learning?

Assuming your child has a teacher or school that has everything figured out, hopefully not very much! If your child is anything like mine, you might need to know how to log in to a Zoom meeting, and you may need to jump in if there are any technical issues that your child can’t manage, but then from there it’s more about what you don’t do than what you need to do.

Just as much as you don’t want to be a helicopter parent in a normal schooling situation, you don’t want to take power away from the teacher who needs to hold your child’s attention. With that in mind, don’t get involved unless you absolutely need to. If your child is having difficulty with a lesson, let the teacher handle it: it’s their job. If they are still struggling by the end of the session, maybe reinforce the lesson later in the day, but don’t give your child the impression that they can ignore the education that is being presented to them.

Similarly, if your child is misbehaving, that is something you have to try and let the teacher correct as much as possible. If you dominate the lesson by trying to correct your child, it can give them the idea that only a parent can discipline them, creating an even greater distance between them and the teacher.

So other than provide tech support, there’s really only a couple of situations you need to get involved. First of all, don’t let your child get distracted from the lesson entirely, so make sure they are in a quiet room, conductive to learning, and keep them in front of the screen.

But I have work to do, do I have time to play Super Nintendo Chalmers?

Sure, chasing a kid around who should be learning is not exactly the same amount of fun as filing reports with your boss. But why are you working if not to better the future of your child, and this is really the moment where it starts to happen.

First of all, we’re in a pandemic, your boss probably gets it. Let them know you’ll need a couple of hours a day where your attention won’t entirely be on the job. Being transparent about your home situation is better than failing expectations at work and then trying to explain away the problems later.

Secondly, your kid is probably smart and keen enough to get into this routine pretty quickly. In preparation for kindergarten, our child has been getting some tutoring for a teacher over zoom, and she’s now more protective of her learning time than we could possibly be.

That creates a great opportunity to work while the lesson progresses. That might not be ideal if you’re the type of person to be easily distracted, but assuming you can tune out lessons you learned 20 or 30 years ago, you only really need to get involved if there’s a problem. If you’re fortunate enough, that should be rare.

Take advantage of the situation

For so many of us with children, school might be the opaquest part of our children’s lives. Parent-teacher conferences only give you a small glimpse into how the process works, and if you’re really busy with work, you might not have the full picture of how your kid’s education is progressing.

With that in mind, this is a very valuable opportunity to see how you can add to their education, and help the teacher.

Assuming your child is learning well enough, you can reinforce lessons by talking about it later on in the day, giving them a fun opportunity to show what they’ve learned. If they aren’t, you know what homework they may need extra encouragement with.

And you can help the teacher know what’s working and what isn’t by regularly chatting with them, maybe before or after lessons. Some teachers have already started insisting on some elements to help instill a routine, some of them a little crazy like school uniforms, but others that make sense, like using the features of Zoom to like hands-up to make it more like a class-room experience. Some insist on having cameras on, while others let children choose virtual backgrounds to hide embarrassing home situations, or just to make the whole thing more fun.

All of that could be discussed with the teacher to see what works for you. It could help you understand what they are trying to accomplish, or give you a window into if their demands are unreasonable for your child’s situation.

In any case, assuming your children have the privilege of remote learning, I hope this has been of some help with you. With the right perspective and the right approach, you can make this one of the best learning experiences they could have, and save you the outcome of Super Intendent Gary Chalmers