How Parents can Support Online Learning
I created this blog to support parents with their kids online learning so that you have the help you need to give your children the best possible learning experiences at home.
I named the blog E-Learn Connect because I understand how important a parents role is for kids doing online learning and my goal is to help parents connect their kids with their learning.
I really hope that this post and the insights throughout my site are helpful to you and if it is then don’t forget to use one of the pins in this post to share it with other parents looking for help supporting their kids with online learning!
Also, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me if you’d like help with any aspect of your own child’s online learning 🤗
Parents Role in Online Learning
A Parents role in their kids online learning depends on the age and stage of the child and the ways your child’s school is using to deliver their education online. Some kids are enrolled in fully online schooling, others follow a blended learning approach and some are taught with traditional classroom learning.
Even kids who aren’t doing online or blended learning will most likely have some form of online or e-learning integrated into their education even if this is only in small ways like having a class iPad or playing educational games on the interactive whiteboard. These are ways technology can be used in the classroom but parents can also provide online learning experiences for their kids at home independent of schools if they wish. So, as you can see there is quite a spectrum when it comes to how much online learning kids do and it’s not usually quite as clear cut as online learning, blended learning or traditional learning.
Types of Online Learning
There are so many different situations, types of online learning and ways online learning can be made a part of kids education. Here are just a few examples of how kids could be learning with digital so that you can see that it’s not just as simple as full time or part-time when it comes to kids digital learning and that each child’s unique situation should be considered when thinking about how to support them in their online learning.
Online Learning Examples
Kids doing traditional classroom learning with elements of technology and/or online learning
Kids doing traditional classroom learning who do online learning at home with or without their parents
Kids doing traditional classroom learning with an emphasis on the use of technology, online resources and online communication and collaboration
Kids who are temporarily accessing their formal education online (maybe due to restrictions in place due to health crisis)
Kids whose formal education is only accessed online
Kids whose formal education follows a blended learning approach - part remote access to learning online and part traditional classroom learning
Kids doing digital learning courses, classes, tutoring sessions etc at home outside of school
Kids doing traditional classroom learning who use the internet and/or digital devices
Kids that are homeschooled by their parents and use technology
Kids in a flipped classroom - accessing content and instruction online from home which is then applied through hands-on activity in the classroom (Online content could form homework for kids who go to school full time or could form the asynchronous portion of remote learners education)
Any kids that go online ever - you could argue that all of our kids' experiences teach them something and so any kind of digital interaction could be considered online learning even if it isn’t specifically provided by their teacher or parent.
Parents should also consider any other factors that might have an impact on the amount of support kids need with online learning such as big transitions like relocation or seasonal effects like extra stress during examination periods.
There are so many different situations where kids are learning online and the role of the parent is different for each but also going to be unique to each family. Supporting young children in Pre-K or the Early Years is going to take a lot more help from parents because most young kids just haven’t got the skills they need to be able to work online yet, just as they wouldn’t be expected to be completely independent in their learning in the classroom or in doing their homework at home either. There are plenty of initial digital skills that young children should definitely begin to learn when they are ready though!
Many online learners have had to quickly get used to ways of working online including how to use new devices, how to navigate online learning platforms and how to work with digital tools instead of the traditional ones that they are used to. What can parents do to support kids with online learning technology? Parents who are already familiar with the devices and technology that their child needs to work with can obviously help their kids learn how to use them. Teaching kids how to do things themselves when they are ready is important in any area of kids lives and the same applies to tech.
For example in the past two weeks, I have started encouraging my KG1 (FS2) class to type their own morning greetings on our Microsoft Teams class channel. At four and five years old, the kids in my class are perfectly able to learn how to type simple words that are made up of the Phonics sounds that they already know.
I wouldn’t have asked them to do this at the start of online learning because they were still completely new to online learning not to mention going through some very sudden and traumatic changes including being in lockdown at home. Once I felt they were ready, I suggested they type their own “Good morning” message instead of letting Mum or Dad do it and of course, many of them quickly began doing it every day and even writing other things to me on Teams.
Kids Digital Skills Development
Typing is just one of the many digital skills kids can benefit from because it will help them to be able to interact with their online learning more independently. There are thousands of things kids can learn to do with technology ranging from skills that are super important for them to be able to learn online more effectively to highly specialized skills that kids can learn online like coding, animation and video editing.
Remember that kids are more motivated when we’re not always doing things for them and they will often surprise us by learning really complex things unexpectedly, so try to take on the mindset where you continually promote more independence in using technology and always encourage a responsible attitude alongside this. Consider what’s important for your own child to be able to connect with their learning and since you know your own kids better than anyone else, what you think that they are ready to learn next.
List of Online Learning Platforms for Kids
I created a huge list of online learning platforms that kids might come across with helpful information on each one about what the platform is generally used for, who needs an account, what kind of features it has and also which devices and operating systems are best for accessing it. You’ll also find links to How-To posts and posts where I’ve gone into a bit more detail about using the platform for some of them including Microsoft Teams, Google Classroom and ClassDojo.
Check out my Online Learning Platform list here.
Online Learning Sites, Apps and Tools for Kids
There are SO many websites, applications, add-ons, extensions, web-tools and programs out there dedicated to children’s online learning that it really is hard to know where to start - even as a teacher! As my online teaching and learning experience grows I add my favourite resources to the Online Learning Resources for Kids page which is organised by the type of resource as well as by subject. You can be sure that these are only the best online learning resources for kids on the web because I’ve used them all with my own class online and enjoyed them enough to add on to the list.
Browse my most helpful online learning resources list here.
Parent Support for Online Learning
This blog is here to support YOU as you support your children because I know how important parents are for their kids to be able to connect and learn effectively online. (This was the idea behind the name E-Learn Connect!) Alongside all the helpful How-To posts and the staple advice on online learning for kids, I have a collection of posts on the most important topics for parents. The Big Topics for Parents of Online Learners page includes links out to the most important subjects around children’s digital learning and digital well-being, so make sure you have a look here.
To easily navigate back to the Online Learning Resources page, the Online Learning Platforms page or the Big Topics for Parents page, just use the quick links at the top.
As kids hone their digital skills and interact more with the connected world, the more important it is for parents to emphasize good attitudes for responsible digital citizens so that kids can learn to thrive online.
What is Digital Citizenship for Kids?
Digital Citizenship is a topic which includes key areas where children can ensure that they are being responsible and positive members of the online community.
Apps & downloads
Texting & calling
Reputation & respect
Online videos & cameras
Safety & privacy
Why is Digital Citizenship Important?
Just like looking left and right when crossing the street or washing your hands before meals, there are certain key ways to stay safe and well online that all kids need to know. Awareness of some of the dangers and knowing the appropriate behaviour for the digital world students are now using all the time, can help to protect our kids and make their digital experiences more productive and enjoyable.
What is the Home Learning Environment?
The Home Learning Environment is basically made up of the experiences children can have in the home and with their family that contribute to their learning and development. The Home Learning Environment doesn’t just mean having a tidy space for kids to sit and do their work or how noisy your home is or how often parents teach their kids something - although these things are part of it - it’s about how well kids are supported and are able to learn at home through a combination of lots of different factors. This is different from a Home Learning Space which refers more to the specific area within the home that kids tend to use to do their online learning.
If your kids are doing online learning they may be spending more time at home than usual. Maybe they are spending all or some of their schooldays working from home and you're keen to make sure that your home is the best place it can be for them to learn in. You can set up a home learning space for each child or a shared space where your kids work depending on what works best for your family. Having children's books at home is essential not just for kids literacy but actually for their numeracy as well as I was interested to find out. Home reading corners are amazing for promoting reading skills and parents could even set up role-play or messy play areas for periods of time at home depending on the space you have available.
^I made this illustration to show what makes up a child's Home Learning Environment compared with what makes a good Home Learning Space for kids. You can see that a few things are important aspects of both.
What is a Home Learning Space?
Whereas the Home Learning Environment is made up of all different aspects of kids home lives and how they can learn there, a home learning space means a specific area IN your home environment where your child does their home or online learning. Why should you provide a home learning space and not just let kids lay in bed with their laptop or lounge on the sofa doing online learning with the TV on? Kids need a separate space which is quiet, uncluttered and set up properly for them to be able to focus and do their best learning.
What Makes a Good Home Learning Space?
As well as being peaceful and tidy a good home learning space will need everything that kids need for their home learning, stored in an organised way so that kids can find things easily. You might want to make sure that the space has a good wifi connection and stock it with resources as well as setting up your child's computer, laptop or tablet there. You will need to have a plug socket nearby for charging online learning devices and you’ll also want to choose an area of your home where it’s not too noisy generally and where there aren’t too many distractions. Finally, make it fun! You could use lots of colours or use your child's favourite colour as a theme, use pictures instead of written labels where possible for young kids and make sure that it's a space your child will feel proud of and excited to use. If you're uninspired then check out my Home Learning Spaces for Kids board on Pinterest for some ideas.
At Home Learning Resources
Consider resources your child might need during online learning and make them easily accessible in a neat and organised way. You may need to teach your child how to get to them or simply show them where they are so that when they need something, they can get it without delay. If you aren’t sure what resources you need for a home learning space, start with a child-sized table or desk and chair for your child to sit at with enough lighting. A good stock of stationery is important too - especially for younger kids and kids that are expected to do work on paper and then upload photos or scans of it. Paper (plain and lined), pencils, pens and colouring pencils and maybe child-scissors, glue, ruler, compass, protractor etc. Another TOP tip straight out of an Early Years classroom that could work for your home learning space is to put up photos of the space as it should look when it's tidy so kids know what they are aiming for when it's time to tidy up for the day.
^These are some photos that I have used in the classroom to show kids how a space should look when it's tidy. These photos would be stuck on the wall or the shelf next to the area so that kids can't miss them!
Your home learning schedule might be restricted because you have to follow the timings provided by your school but if you have some flexibility then it's worth considering what times work best for you. When are you free to support with online learning? What times are your kids most focused and productive? When does your child need to submit their work by, if at all?
Don't expect kids of any age to sit and work for long periods of time and always encourage kids to get up and move around regularly. Focused periods of time can range from just a few minutes for very young kids to much longer periods of time for older children and teenagers, but they should always be broken up with movement. As much as you can, make a home learning timetable that works for you but doesn't be afraid to adjust it if things aren't working well or to go off timetable when necessary. You're not at school now - you make the rules! 😎
Many parents find it difficult to support online learning, or any learning at home because they aren’t sure what exactly their child should be learning at their age. If you know what curriculum your child is studying then you can easily find out what content is covered according to your child’s age and the subject area.
When it comes to exactly what your child is learning about in a given week or on a given day, you might have been provided with this information already or you might be able to ask and find out. Most schools send out details of the weeks learning for parents or at least make it accessible online somewhere for parents to check. If your school doesn’t do this, or you’re not sure where to find this information, you could always check with your child’s teacher and they’ll be able to let you know.
Curriculum for Homeschooling
Bear in mind that a curriculum tends to specify the skills children will cover - for example adding suffixes to words - whereas topics and themes - like The Romans or The Lifecycle of a Butterfly or Adding three three-digit numbers - are more commonly chosen by the school or the teacher. In many cases, a curriculum specifies optional suggestions for topics that teachers can use if they want but they are also free to choose others.
If you’re getting involved with your child’s formal education in any way it’s definitely going to help to have an overview of what sort of things they are learning during the current academic year or this term. It can be really helpful for your child if you know what they’ll be learning next because you’ll be able to watch out for signs that they are ready to move on.
Here's a handy chart that I made while I was getting to grips with the grade, year group and educational stage equivalents between the U.S. and the U.K. school systems 🤓
After three months of teaching my class remotely, I can totally understand that live online classes are stressful. Parents and students alike might initially feel like online school is just too stressful, especially if the change to remote learning has been sudden or is happening as a result of other uncontrolled circumstances that are difficult to begin with.
This blog’s aim is to provide tips for online learning for parents who need support but also to let parents know that they’re not alone if they feel like online school is stressing them out. Browse the site, use the search box in the top right of every page and if you don't find what you need to help you cope with online learning stress, then get in touch.
How to Prepare for Online Learning
When online learning first begins you'll need to explain what's going to happen to your kids and answer questions that they are bound to have. Introduce them to the technology and make sure to emphasise the ways that learning online might benefit them! Let them know that you'll be doing it together if they are feeling uncertain about learning online for the first time and spend time getting familiar with your online learning platform in preparation for online lessons.
Stress Management for Online Students
A really good way to help kids deal with the overwhelming emotions that might come with a change to online or blended learning is through storytelling. I wrote this post about how kids of all ages can use different web tools to tell their story and how this helps kids to work through their emotions especially during high-stress times.
If your child's live sessions with their class are super stressful, try encouraging good microphone etiquette - I explained what the dos and don'ts for kids in group video calls are from the point of view of a teacher in this post.
How to Make Online Learning Fun
I believe that learning should always be fun! This applies to online learning too. As well as having a plan to prepare for online learning wherever possible and knowing that you’re not alone if online learning is really stressing you out, parents could try injecting some fun into their kids learning at home to help reduce the stress levels. Not only does it reduce stress levels when learning can be fun but it also helps kids learn better and learn more - so what's not to like? Since online learning looks set to be around for the foreseeable future, I decided to find out about how important play and games are for kids learning in the digital world - it turns out they are very important - and I wrote about what I learned here.
Consider your own kid's needs and family circumstances
Help younger kids access online learning and gain basic digital skills
Share what you know about the technology your child must use and learn more together
Promote age-appropriate digital skills to grow kids' independence in online learning
Encourage kids to be responsible and mindful digital citizens
Consider the impact of all aspects of the home environment on your kids' learning
Set up a good, well-resourced home learning space for kids doing online learning at home
Be aware of current topics and skills being learned as well as what’s next
Manage the stress of online learning by being prepared
Always keep learning fun! Don’t dismiss the importance of play in kids online learning
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