There is very little about remote learning that is ideal. Outside of the extra time we get to spend with our loved ones (maybe a little too much time), learning from home seems to be a struggle for most families that are used to their students being taught in a classroom. Parents across the country are looking for the secret to how best to educate their child during distance learning.
But the truth is, there is no silver bullet. Every child, and every family, is unique and will require different things. That being said, I believe there are a few things that every family would benefit from, regardless of their unique circumstances.
1. Knowing the Why
Every family will struggle with distance learning in one way or another. A break in our normal schedules always throws things off, and we need to work to create a new normal. However, the struggle is only worth it if you understand what value will come from that learning. If you value something, you are willing to put the time and effort into it regardless of the adversity. Take the time to explain to your student why the continuation of their learning is important. When possible, use examples from stories they are familiar with, especially for the youngest ones. These stories can be from your own experiences, or you can point to a character from a favorite book or movie that has overcome difficulties of their own, relating it to your student’s current challenges.
2. Multum Non Multa (Much not Many)
Much not many is the concept that it is better to dive deep into a few things than it is to cover as much content as possible. The modern equivalent of this phrase might be “quality over quantity”. I believe that many parents right now are overwhelmed at the quantity of content that they need to cover with their children. I would simply encourage you to direct your student’s attention to the most important pieces of content and work to truly understand those concepts, rather than covering as much ground as possible. Attempt to do a few things well rather than do many things poorly.
3. Structure and Consistency
One of the greatest difficulties of distance learning is the lack of structure. Students are accustomed to consistent minute-by-minute schedules, varied in instruction and content. I can almost guarantee that your students have already asked you about when lunchtime is, or better yet, recess. While you likely will not be able to replicate the schedule of a typical school day in your home, you can do your best to stick to your own schedule. Human beings like consistency. If you do not structure the day, one of two things will tend to happen: Either your student will wander aimlessly throughout the day, not completing the work that was assigned to them (and more than likely driving you nuts), or the student will work through normal breaks, increasing the likelihood of burnout. So when you are making the schedule, plan in breaks, lunches, and even physical activity and music components. This structure will make life much easier for your child as they adapt to this new normal, and it will make your life easier as well.
Distance learning can often feel like a checklist of things that students need to complete and can lack discovery and genuine enjoyment. My hope is that if you take away only one of the tips from this post, it would be this: Expose your students to things that are awe-inspiring, allow them extra time to travel down a path of things that greatly interest them, or take the time to discuss something that interests you and your child. Students who are exposed to beautiful things will continue to chase that beauty throughout their lives. That is, after all, what we are looking to do as classical educators. We want to expose our students to a beauty that stirs up wonder, and that wonder turns their eyes towards those things which are good. That is what we want for our children—a sense of wonder, not a sense of checklist and boredom.
6. This Too Shall Pass
Know that the time will come when we can go back to life outside of our homes. In the meantime, it’s important to stay connected to the communities that you are a part of: community groups, churches, businesses, etc. Human interaction is important, but friendships are necessary for a good life. These relationships are important to maintain even from a distance, and a day is coming when you will again be able to spend time together in person. If nothing else, this time of social distancing is evidence that we need meaningful friendships in our lives, and we can be thankful for that.
Mr. Trent Kramer
Headmaster, Ascent Classical Academy Northern Colorado