By Tracey Dowdy
If your little Einstein leaps out of bed, humming with excitement over sitting in a virtual classroom all day, this ain’t the article for you. If, on the other hand, solving string theory sounds more accessible than getting your little one excited about another day of virtual learning, buckle up. We’re going to unpack some tried and true strategies to keep them engaged.
Kids are far more resilient than the adults around them, and the secret to keeping your kiddos on track is to find what motivates them.
Follow the leader. Remember, your children will do what you do more than what you say, and they’re always watching. Look for examples in people your children already admire, real or imaginary – superheroes, characters from favorite books or movies, astronauts, soldiers, first responders, RBG – who fought hard to find success.
Stick-to-it-tiv-ness. As much as we all look forward to 2020 being in our rearview mirror, there’s a lesson in teaching our kids the importance of setting long-term goals. Suppose it’s something they’re passionate about, like a video game or TikTok dance. In that case, they have no problem applying themselves, so help them see the value of using that same work ethic to master fractions or the solar system.
Celebrate their wins. If you’ve got a student that struggles to sit still but managed to stay on task to write out their spelling list, celebrate that. If they struggle with math but learned their multiplication tables, celebrate that. If they did an assignment wrong but had a good attitude about correcting their mistakes, celebrate that. Wins don’t have to be a test with high marks or projects that got done early. It can be as simple as “Hey! You didn’t cry or lose your temper today!” This year has brought challenges no one expected – celebrate every victory.
Stick to your schedule except when you can’t. Regular school days are based on routine, and most students thrive in that environment. However, many students – especially those with IEP’s and 504 Plans – need special accommodations. Even neurotypical kids are struggling to stay on task, so when you see the wheels coming off, stop, redirect, and circle back around when they’re calm and able to focus.
Motivation Monday/Take That Tuesday/Wacky Wednesday…Come up with creative ways to make virtual learning fun. Virtual learning means no field trips to museums or the pumpkin patch, so inject a little happy by inviting their friends on a virtual play date and make distance less isolating and more fun.
Take a walk on the wild side. If your child is bored and struggling with a concept, try a change of scenery. Go outside and write out spelling words or times tables with sidewalk chalk. If they’re stuck on a writing prompt, let them get up and take a short break outside to help them get out of that thought rut.
Scooby-Doo the mystery. Sometimes the problem you’re trying to solve isn’t the problem you need to solve. Sometimes restless behaviors or bad attitudes are masking a learning struggle or stress. Reach out to their teacher, support staff, and principal for suggestions on supporting your child’s mental health.
Finally, remember that while we’re not all in the same boat, we’re all in the same storm. Don’t stress if your child isn’t achieving the marks they have in the past. Next year is a fresh start, and students across the board will need additional support. Educators are already thinking long term and are invested in your child’s success too. Don’t get discouraged – this is just a season, and like all seasons, it will end, bringing new opportunities for success.
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.