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How to monitor and help your child during distance learning

How to monitor and help your child during distance learning

Apr 13, 2020 | ASPIRE

As Connecticut Governor Lamont recently announced that schools will be closed through May 20, many parents are facing a new reality of home schooling and monitoring e-learning. In our ASPIRE after-school program, our educators are mentoring children one-on-one via video conferences and phone calls, keeping up with assignments through the schools’ parent portals, and continuing groups and social connections through group video calls. Amy Jeffereis, Director of ASPIRE, shares some helpful information for parents working with their children to continue their education through this challenging time.

For many families, the COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated that parents help their children learn at home through distance learning classes and assignments from teachers. Many find that this is a new, and often difficult, job, and can challenge and change their role as a parent. There are several techniques that you can use to help ease some of the difficulty and build in success as you work with your child.

First and most importantly, be kind to yourself and your family. It can be frustrating, so be gentle with yourself and forgiving with your child, especially as everyone adjusts to this new way of learning. You as a parent know you what is best and should honor that. If a child needs a break, that’s okay. And if you need a break, that’s okay too!


  • Create and stick to a daily schedule

Children function best if they have a routine. Set regular hours for learning. Write down a schedule for your child with built-in breaks for snacks, outdoor movement and exercise, and playtime. Check off items as completed – children love the sense of accomplishment! Setting timers can be helpful to keep kids on a schedule. Around lunch time, encourage them to get up, get some fresh air, go for a walk or bike ride, or have a snack so that they are not sedentary for the entire day

 Maintain regular sleep routines and wake times

 Set clear expectations and review them each morning

 Create an optimal learning environment
This should be a “learning” space and learning expectations apply. Organize resources and materials like markers, paper, rulers, etc. This can be a shared family space so you are accessible to check-in, monitor progress, and assist/support, but needs to be distraction free area.

 Limit devices and distractions
Limit their use of their devices, other than what is needed to complete their work, until their schoolwork is done. If you choose, you can allow your child to play on a device during a designated break, but make them aware that they only have a limited amount of time until they need to get back to work. This will help keep your child’s attention focused on their schoolwork. Just as cellphones are kept in backpacks at school, keep cellphones away at home until assignments are completed (or use as a social break after a certain number of assignments are completed).  

 Use hands-on activities
It’s important to create real practice with hands-on learning activities, especially when it comes to writing and math. Check out the end of this post for ideas and resources!

 Don’t forget to read
The best way for children to improve reading skills is to simply read some more! Spend some time with your child to read together.

 Check your email for updates from your child’s school

 Don’t let your children treat this as a vacation
This time at home might feel like a vacation for your child, but it’s important to remind them that their education still comes first. Obligations like class assignments, grades, tests, state exams, SATs, and ACTs aren’t going away just because classes have moved online.

 Start and finish each day with a simple check-in with your child(ren)  
This can look like a series of questions, including: 
What are you learning today 
What are the learning goals 
How will you spend your time (Refer to the schedule that you’ve made to manage time)
What resources do you need 
How can I help

 Encourage Exercise
Children need movement in order to learn and thrive. Let them they have opportunities for unstructured play.

 Remember to schedule time for fun
It’s important to have some fun with your children while they are at home. It’s rare that you have this much time with your children, so use it as an opportunity to bond when possible. Play games, go for walks together, cook together or read a book and discuss.

 Avoid negative news and media coverage

 Plan calming, comforting activities before bedtime

 Allow your child to stay in touch with friends 


Hands-On Learning Ideas:

  • Declare a fraction war
    War is one of the original math card games, but this version adds a fraction aspect. Students deal two cards, a numerator and denominator, then determine whose fraction is the largest. The winner keeps all four cards, and play continues until the cards are gone.
  • Gumdrop Bridges-engineering:
    What to do: Use toothpicks and gumdrops to construct a bridge. Test it to see if it will bear weight, then challenge students to build the strongest bridge with the fewest materials. Let them eat the gumdrops they don’t use!
  • Learning with M&M Math:

Below you’ll find all sorts of activities we have done for M&M Math. Most of the ideas could easily be used with other types of candy pieces, too.

Estimation: Fill a jar with M&M’s and ask your children to estimate how many they think are in the jar. The older the child, the bigger the jar should be.

Sorting: Place a pile of M& M’s in front of each child and have them sort the candy into color groups. Older kids can sort according to various attributes, like colors containing red vs. those not containing red, for example. Let them sort as many times as they can think of a new attribute.

Counting: If you have younger children, count and tally the various color groups of M&M’s.

Add/Subtract/Multiply/Divide: Depending on the age/ability of your children, offer various operational problems to your children.

Red + Green =

R + G =

(R + G) x (Y – Bl) =

2(R + G) x 3(Y – Bl) x 12 =

Fair Shares and Division: Invite several stuffed animals over for a party. Divide the M&M’s into fair shares and determine if there are any remainders. Do this several times with varying numbers of “guests.”


 Links to more resources and ideas:

Interactive Videos to encourage moving

Wide Open School

Scholastic Learn at Home