The concept of distance learning isn’t that hard. It’s an adjustment, but it’s do-able. Now, times that by 3, 4, or even more kids. If you’re reading this right now, you’re probably trying to figure out how in the world you’re supposed to do distance learning with multiple kids. Especially when each kid is in a different grade, or has a challenge like being gifted or ADHD. And yes, you’re probably working from home while doing this too.
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Distance Learning With Multiple Kids
I KNOW. It’s hard. You may have found yourself crying in a closet, hiding in the bathroom to eat without being bothered, or feeling like you’re going to have a nervous breakdown. I’ve been there. We’ve all been there. No one is doing this right now because it’s easy. We’re doing it because we need to, for everyone’s safety. So, let’s make this as easy as possible.
Have Everyone Do School At The Same Time
I have all of my kids do school at the same time, and in the same place, every day. This helps them maintain a constant routine which is vital to keeping everything flowing smoothly. My kids are in elementary and middle school. If you have high schoolers, it may be easier to have them go to their rooms and work independently. However, my kids have questions and need help constantly. If not with the work, then the constant problems that come up with technology when the school is trying a bunch of different options to see what works best.
I can’t be running back and forth all day to answer questions and solve problems. If I’m doing that, then I’m not getting my own work done. So we have all of them sit down at the dining room table after breakfast. School is usually done by lunch, unless someone has a big project they’re working on. After lunch is my work time, and their free time. Have any materials your kids may need easily available, and let them know that this is the time you’re available to help. I can easily bounce from kid to kid, and handle teacher calls and problems as they come up.
If kids are working at random times all day, then I have to be constantly on call. It also means that the other kids have to be quiet so it’s not difficult for the kid doing school to concentrate. I live in a fairly small house, so if someone whispers on one end of the house we can hear it everywhere. That can make for a very chaotic atmosphere if everyone isn’t thoughtful of others.
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Plus, it’s just nicer to have school time and non school time. It’s easier for you and the kids, and helps to create separation in the day which can be difficult when you’re literally doing everything at home.
Communication With Teachers
Clear, consistent communication with your children’s teachers is key to distance learning successfully. If you’re homeschooling, you don’t have to worry about this because you are the teacher! However, with distance learning kids have to follow lesson plans set by their teachers, turn in assignments and tests on time, and may even have to attend classes online at a certain time during the day.
Make sure the teachers know how to get a hold of you, as well as how to directly contact your child if they’re old enough. For my elementary school students, the teachers communicate to me through email and phone, and they can send messages to the students through the website they use to teach. For my middle schooler, the teachers rarely have to contact me, as they email her directly through her school email and she can contact them individually to ask questions and turn in assignments. This will depend on how independent of a learner your child is, as well as their age and responsibility level.
Also, make sure you have ALL of your children’s usernames and passwords for every website they use. I check my kids’ school email and messages regularly, both to make sure they’re keeping things school appropriate AND to make sure they haven’t missed anything and are doing the work they’re supposed to.
Creating A Calm School Atmosphere
Keeping kids focused at home can be a huge challenge. I have one child who is diagnosed ADHD, and one who is suspected but not officially diagnosed yet. Having a calm, quiet atmosphere is an absolute requirement for our school days to function.
The tv is not on during school, ever. Neither is any music, and no one is allowed to play any loud or distracting games. When each kid is done with their work, they can read or color quietly, or go find something to do in their room. I have my kids who have difficulty focusing sit in places at the table where they can’t see anyone else’s computer screen. Screens of any kind (even a paused tv or a screensaver) tend to be highly distracting for my ADHD kids, and this helps them a lot. The kids also use headphones. So if they need to watch a lesson or play an educational game, the noise won’t distract anyone else.
We do our best to respect everyone’s learning style, so my middle schooler is allowed to listen to music while she works, because it helps her focus. My other kids, not so much. Also, if you have rambunctious pets try to keep them in a different space during school. I’ve also found that the less cluttered a space is, the better my kids are able to focus. The only thing on the table during school is their computers, paper for working out problems, and pencils. Big projects like art or anything that makes a lot of clutter wait until after main school time is over, so it’s not distracting to anyone else.
Making Schoolwork Less Overwhelming
This is easy for my elementary students. They get daily schedules with checklists, so it’s pretty easy for them to just focus on their work day by day. However, my middle schooler gets a full week of work at a time, with several long term projects every week. The first time she got the work list for the week, she broke down crying and had a panic attack. Showing an 11 year old a full week of schoolwork at one shot is bound to be overwhelming! I reminded her that she had a planner, and walked her through breaking down the schoolwork day by day so she knows what she needs to do for each class every day. I’m including an assignment planner printable along with several other helpful printables below so you can do the same thing.
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Once she had all the work broken down by day, she was able to see that it wasn’t actually that much work, and she was able to get it all done in less than 4 hours a day. This relieved her anxiety, and allowed her to just focus on just what she had to do that day.
If your younger students are given a full week of work at a time, I recommend breaking the work down for them and just showing them what they need to do that day. It’s a whole lot less scary to see one math worksheet than five!
You Can Do This
Distance learning with multiple kids can seem really overwhelming, but just remember that the first week is the hardest. Getting used to communicating daily with teachers, figuring out how to fill out worksheets online, and creating a routine for your family all takes some time. However, once you realize that it’s not impossible and you actually can do this, it gets easier.
There are still going to be challenging days, but also understand that the teachers know that this is hard. They do it every day, and they will help you in every way they can. Just make sure to communicate with them! No one expects you to do this perfectly, and it’s going to take time for everyone to adjust to a new way of doing things. I hope these posts make distance learning with multiple kids a little easier, and remember that you’re not doing this alone!