How to Make the Best Out of Learning at Home

Susan Vachon

It has been two weeks since we launched SMUS remote learning and I have been incredibly proud of our teachers and students who have doggedly and skillfully navigated this immense change. Everyone, parents included, has been working so hard to provide our students with the support they need to continue to grow. But let’s be honest here, it is really, really hard.

First of all, this is not “home-schooling.” Home-schooling is a choice. This choice is made by parents who have the desire to act as their child’s teacher. Home-schooling involves being connected to a skilled and resource-rich homeschooling community. Home-schooling is trips to the museum and experiential learning.

Secondly, while we are all trying our best to make the best of a very difficult situation, we cannot ignore the fact that this is indeed a very trying time. Many of our families are on the front lines. Everyone’s personal situation has changed dramatically and for most of our youth, who crave novelty and social interaction, online learning is an insufficient substitute.

Third of all, teaching your own children is hard. I am a teacher who prides herself in being patient and understanding with my students, but having home-schooled both my children just last year during our sabbatical, I was constantly surprised by how emotional I was when trying to teach them. Those reserves of patience I have for other people’s children just didn’t seem accessible. And on the other side of the coin, my children, who according to their teachers are easy-going receptive students, were quick to become impatient with me as well.

So knowing how hard this is, how can we make the best of this situation so that our children can take advantage of all the well-thought out learning engagements our amazing faculty have spent hours planning?

Here are five suggestions for parents that will hopefully make remote learning more palatable:

  1. Be patient with the process. Think of this as a new school year. In September it is normal when your child can’t figure out their locker combination or find their science class or remember fractions; they figure it out quickly and most first week stresses disappear by week two. Also, as teachers we love teaching and connecting with our students and now we are on a steep learning curve and a process of daily refinement on how to do this best remotely. We, too, are highly invested in getting really good at this new format.
  2. Help your child make sense of their schedule and the expectations. Spend half an hour on the weekend and 10 minutes each night going over the next day’s expectations. There are new schedules, terms and processes we all need to learn. Even if your child says they have it all figured out, ask for proof. For the first weeks, students will benefit from some extra organizational help from home and school.
  3. Keep the long game in mind. As someone who has dedicated their life to education it may seem strange for me to say this but your child is not falling behind. I have pulled both my kids out of school for an entire year (twice) and while we did some formal schooling (four to five hours a week on average) my kids slipped back into their grade level the next year. And yes, there were a few areas where they needed a bit of extra help initially but they caught up quickly. At SMUS, we are highly invested in putting together an excellent remote learning experience for your child and this programming was also created with the understanding that, due to the exceptional circumstances, families may not be able to participate fully in the offerings. Feel free to take what works for you and leave what doesn’t.
  4. Remember you are your child’s first and best teacher. Your home environment is filled with enriching experiences for your child. Check out this blog, written by a teacher in Ontario, for some great suggestions about skills that can be learned at home during isolation.
  5. Reach out for help. As I mentioned in the beginning of this piece, this is hard. If you or your child are struggling, we want to help. Your child’s TAG teacher, classroom teacher, counsellors, learning resource and school administrators are all here for parents and students.

With the knowledge that none of us signed up for this, we will continue to do what we have always done: work closely as a passionate and compassionate community to support our amazing students and their parents.

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