Blended learning is the combination of using technology and in person learning. During Covid-19 this means either being supported by parents at home or being supported by the teacher at school, with technology as a primary tool. It is crucial that educators carefully consider learning outcomes and expectations, but it is also critical that as parents/guardians you set yourself up for success. Last school year we were all thrown into this process, however, for the upcoming school year we have a chance to prep and do things a little differently! Here are some tips for a successful blended learning experience.
Tip #1 Set a schedule for when you will do school at home
A great tip on how to keep your sanity is to set some household norms around how your family is going to be doing home based learning. Some of your parameters will be based on teacher/school expectations, such as arriving for a live classroom video time. It is important to show up for live classroom time, however, much of your school day can be tailored to your family needs. You and your partner may both work full time, and your child might not be able to do their work with their caregiver while you’re at work. Create a schedule that works for your family, and share this with your child’s teacher. Be up front about it. There’s no need to apologize about your child’s schedule based on your family’s needs, and your child’s teacher is most likely to be grateful for your openness.
Tip #2 Assess and remedy your family technology needs
If you need support with the variety of tools your child is being asked to use online, please reach out to your child’s teacher immediately. Let them know you need help. Remember they have 20-35+ students in their classroom and every family has needs that have increased in the pandemic. Give the teacher grace, but be persistent. Send a kind email and let the teacher know you need help.
If you need assistance with access to usable technology, please reach out to the principal of your child’s school. Many, but not all, school districts may be able to help families gain access to better functioning technology. Reach out to the school to see if your family can borrow a laptop or tablet from the school. If this is not possible, ask them to refer you to local family services programs for support getting what your child needs.
Tip #3 Be aware of your limitations and ask for help
This can be so hard. Perhaps you don’t understand the particular way your child is being taught a concept, which can make it hard to help them do their work. Maybe you’re stuck on technology troubleshooting, or how to get your child up and ready to attend a live lesson due to their emotions/behavior. Please ask for help. You don’t need to go it alone. Share with your child’s teacher and your school’s principal. Ask for support. They want to help. The teacher or principal may put you in touch with multiple resources, such as the school counselor to video chat with your child. Perhaps the teacher will do a video call with you and your child to show you how they want your child to do the work, that way you can be on target together.
Tip #4 Have a good attitude about learning from home
Your child will mirror your feelings about them learning at home. If you are excited and have a can-do attitude, your child will likely follow in your footsteps. If you’re frustrated, hate the computer, screech about their pre-algebra and don’t know how to help them upload their work, they’ll feel the same way. This is hard for the children. This is hard for their teachers. And this is hard for parents. Make “have a good attitude” part of your learning from home norms. Make a reward system to give kudos to family members showing a good attitude. Perhaps you have a “good attitude” jar, and when people do or say something that shows they have a “good attitude” a token gets placed inside. Determine what reward will be when the jar fills. Celebrate as a family with a game night, movie, or treat when the jar is full. Remember, this is something you are all experiencing together. It can be as meaningful as any big family memories. As the parent, you can choose to make it a great memory.
Tip #5 If your child has an IEP/504/Learning difference have a video/in person meeting w/their team
It’s really important that you communicate with your child’s support team as soon as possible this school year. In Special Education that means their classroom teacher, the special education teacher, the principal, and perhaps a psychologist or specialist(s) in areas your child needs. If it is for a child with a talented and gifted plan, the members of the meeting aren’t much different. Ask for a meeting, to understand how your child’s plan will be served during blended learning. Understand this is challenging for everyone and that your child’s team wants to do the best by your child and by you.
Ask questions. Give grace and understanding. Advocate for your child! Honesty and openness about what your expectations are, and a kind delivery of your wishes, goes a long way with your child’s team.
Most of all, remember that eventually all the dust will settle and your family will find its own rhythm. Keep it real for your family, and you’re sure to have great success with Blended Learning.