Manage Online Learning During COVID-19

By Tracey Dowdy

I don’t need to tell you that the 2020-2021 school year has been a year like no other. I live in Fairfax County, VA, just a few miles outside Washington DC, and to say that things here a bit of a mess would be an understatement. Some schools in Virginia have returned to in-person learning, but compliance with safety measures like masks is an issue and suspected or diagnosed cases of COVID-19 have closed classrooms or even entire schools for weeks. Currently, public school instruction is online, with select private schools opening their doors to in-person learning. To say parents are frustrated is on par with saying the Great Depression was a minor financial setback. 

There’s a reason teaching is considered a calling more than a profession, and let’s be honest, parents who read, ”Your son is a delight to have in class,” on progress reports have learned that is code for “Your child is the reason teachers need summers off.’ 

For many parents, school is a source of stress, anxiety, frustration, and even guilt. “Teacher” is a role few of us were prepared for. Parents are ill-equipped, untrained, sleep-deprived, and frustrated with online learning. 

Take heart mamas and dads who’ve been thrust into the career choice at the bottom of your career assessment in high school. These tips can help you adapt to online learning and ensure you and your children not only survive, but come out the other side.  

First, remember that though we’re all in the same storm, we’re not all in the same boat. That’s okay. You’re not the only parent balancing working from home with supporting their children – in fact, many teachers are trying to find that same balance. Reach out to your children’s teachers for advice and support on how to keep your kids focused and encouraged. They’re invested in your child’s success and have resources and tools that can take some of the burdens off your shoulders. Connecting with them helps you better understand their expectations and gives them insight into what’s happening at home. They are an invaluable resource in helping your child get the most out of online learning. 

Stick to a flexible schedule. That sentence makes no sense until you break it down. Structure is important to helping your student stay focused, but be mindful of when enough is enough. If they’re struggling with long division and you’re both frustrated, sometimes it’s best to walk away and have a snack, a walk around the block, or run around the backyard with the family dog before coming back to math with fresh eyes and a refreshed spirit.  

You cannot over-communicate. Teachers need to know if you’re working full-time, juggling other siblings, trying to accommodate a sibling with special needs, or if English is your second language. Ask for help with subjects or teaching methods you aren’t proficient in – I’m looking at you Common Core Math – so they can support both you and your child. 

Don’t be afraid to lean on neighbors and friends for encouragement and support. As I said, we’re all in the same storm, but we’re not all in the same boat. Buddy-up with another parent who is trying to manage home or online schooling and trade off your strengths. Are you a grammar queen? Help the parent whose child is lost in diagramming sentences or mastering the parts of speech. Is Algebra your jam? Help the mom who can’t tell the difference between a quadratic equation and an isosceles triangle. You’re not the only one that feels like they’re drowning. 

Finally, be kind to yourself and give your children and teachers grace. None of us signed for this, and most are making it up as we go along. Teachers, principals, and educators at every level understand that our children have not had their most successful academic year and that many will need additional support going forward. 

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.