Families across the country are facing new challenges as the pandemic forces many students to begin the school year remotely. In Porter Ranch, California, two brothers, Eshan and Armaan, are starting high school and fifth grade from home.
“I’m just nervous, not about going into a new school, but how the teachers adapted to online learning,” said Eshan, who is preparing for freshman year.
Armaan said the worst part of online learning is not seeing his teacher, playing with his friends and having lunch and recess.
“I can sense that the kids feel the isolation,” their mom, Kiran Walia, said.
Walia is also worried about the quality of a remote education.
“I am definitely concerned that the kids are not learning enough in virtual school,” she said. “It’s a very difficult time. … We have to keep the kids positive, we have to keep them motivated. We have to teach them not to be afraid.”
For families like the Walias, Sal Khan, founder and CEO of Khan Academy, a nonprofit educational organization that provides free online lessons, gave the following tips for successful remote learning.
Don’t set expectations too high
“The key is not to set expectations too high because that will just set everyone up for stress and disappointment, and this is a time where we have enough things to stress about, especially for parents. If parents are stressed out, kids are going to feel stressed out, and they’re going to have a harder time learning,” Khan said.
Khan said to focus on the basics first.
“Obviously, everyone’s school is supporting them to different degrees,” he said. “If your kids can get their math, their reading, their writing, depending on the age of the student, it can be anywhere from 20 minutes a day up to maybe two sessions or three sessions of 20 or 30 minutes a day. If you can get that under your belt and then you get your legs under you, then you can think about layering on more subjects.”
Optimize connections for young kids
“A lot of times when we talk about distance school, we imagine school is first and foremost about learning the academic standards,” Khan said. “School is also about the connections, the social emotional learning, the connection with the teacher, and so, everything you do for your child, or if you’re a teacher, for the student, is try to optimize those connections.”
Khan recommended young kids use the Khan Academy early learning app with their parents.
“Kids can work on that for 20 minutes a day. Ideally they’re doing that next to a parent. They’re able to still stay connected while they’re doing distance learning,” he said. “Hopefully their teachers are able to do a couple of 20-minute Zoom sessions or video conference sessions every day, and then those should be pulling the students out of the screen as much as possible, getting them to do interactive things, especially for the younger age group, getting them to move around even.”
Set goals for older kids
“Try to understand what’s achievable in a day. A lot of the teachers who are doing this well are doing exactly that. They’re setting goals for the day, they’re setting goals for the week. They’re doing regular check-ins,” Khan said.
“When they get in on Google Hangout or Google Meet or they get on Zoom or whatever video conference they’re using, instead of it just being about a one-way lecture-based interaction, they’ve got to really pull them out, ask them questions, ask them to work on video conference breakouts, do some goal setting with them, do some small group sessions.”
Give them some social interaction
Khan said it’s important for the students to interact with each other.
“If you’re not seeing that from your child’s school, try to get some of that outside of whatever is being provided. You could do socially distance play dates in the parks, whatever,” he said. “I would say all ages, that social interaction, even for us adults, is super important.”