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  • Pamela Newman, LCSW-C

Virtual Learning: Parent vs. Homeschool Teacher – Establishing Your Role


We are now several months into virtual learning and although some of this process may be getting easier, not everyone is comfortable and managing online learning with confidence. Try to go easy on yourself: remember, this is a learning process for all of us and we are still acclimating to all of these changes. Checking in and continually re-evaluating can be especially useful right now. Here are some ideas of things to consider if online learning isn’t working for your kids (or for you!)



Consider what is working and simply observe. Is there a certain time of day when your child is able to focus more? Are they struggling more at a certain time of day? With a specific subject? Is the environment as conducive as possible to learning? Are they more successful with a specific teacher? Do they perform better when they can’t see themselves? When they can see the other students or not? Look at the overall factors to see patterns. Then sit and ask your child these questions and see how they respond to gain more insight. Try to simply be curious.

Once you answer these questions, you can be better able to make adjustments accordingly.

Things that might be helpful:


First, try to create distinctive boundaries between “school time” and “home time.” Encourage students to dress as if they are going to school, plan out their own lunches, get their supplies ready daily as they would for in-person school. Once school time is over, they can do something to acknowledge the end of the day such as turning off their computers or moving to a different room in the house. This can also be a good time for a short family walk.

Make the environment for “school time” different if possible. Attempt to have them sit at a desk or table with fewer distractions. Would they possibly focus better with a fidget or being able to doodle on paper. Is their chair comfortable? Perhaps get a white noise machine to block out the sound from one room to another. Can you put up a temporary curtain or room screen for separation if necessary?


Second, consider how much to be involved: If your kids were in the school building, then you wouldn’t be seeing them all day. It would be up to them to stay focused in class, to reach out to their teachers and advocate for themselves, or ask questions if they don’t understand something. Think about what is age appropriate for your child and encourage independence. If they don’t know how to manage an issue, help them problem solve ways to do so without doing it for them. In general, also try not to check the any online portal or gradebook too frequently for grades and assignments if you have access.

Third, ask if you are taking on more responsibility than your kids for their schooling. Are you waking them up, keeping them on schedule, giving constant reminders, or doing assignments for them? If they are old enough and capable, try and take some of that responsibility off your shoulders. Consider how it can be adding to the overall stress level in the house and trust that your child can handle it. Empower and encourage them to remember that they are capable of doing things on their own.

Fourth, if your child is REALLY struggling, you might want to think about if there is a possibility of a specific learning difference or challenge. Reach out to the teacher and ask what they are observing. There are many more limitations with online learning and unfortunately, teachers don’t get the same type of face-time with kids, so they might not be aware without parents alerting them to concerns. They will likely be able to give you some guidance as to what they are observing.

Fifth, never forget about mental health impact of everything on all of us. Kids don’t want to be experiencing a pandemic any more than adults do! Always pause and think about is happening emotionally inside them that is causing the behavior. Remember that we are collectively mourning the loss of our lives and this is a traumatic experience. Everyone manages a trauma and grief differently. Know when to take a break from your kids (if you are able to do so) and make sure you are not giving up on your own self-care.

Ultimately, remember, this is challenging situation! Try to be kind to yourself, your kids and their teachers so we can all get through this the best we can.