By Sean Alexander

Distance learning has been possible for many years, but the COVID-19 pandemic brought the concept of virtual learning into sharp focus. The ability to attend classes, teach subjects, and generally transfer knowledge remotely became an imperative part of the educational system — and distance learning appears to be here to stay.

While distance learning is helpful, it does come with its fair share of challenges, including the risk of a student falling behind, so it’s important to keep distance learning best practices in mind. Parents can use everything from routines to tutors as they help their children not only survive but thrive academically, socially, and emotionally throughout their virtual learning experience.

1. Set a Routine

Your children may be learning from home, but they’re still on a school schedule. The best way to accommodate this time-sensitive demand is to set up clearly defined routines for your family to follow. Strive to keep these synced up with your child’s classes, homework, and other school needs whenever possible. The added structure can be a critical aid in helping them stay focused and on track.

2. Create and Review Expectations

Setting expectations is one of the cornerstones of success. Sit down with your child and create a list of school expectations that they can work toward. Do your best to make these SMART goals — that is, goals that are:

  • Specific;
  • Measurable;
  • Attainable;
  • Relevant;
  • And time-based.

If you can create purposeful goals like these, they can help your child stay motivated. Once set, make sure to review your goals with your child regularly and make adjustments whenever necessary.

3. Designate a Space For Learning

It’s easy to blur the lines between school and personal life when you’re learning from a distance. It’s an issue that has led to countless articles addressing the work-life balance. However, it’s just as important to consider school-life balance for your children, as well.

Determine how you can create clear boundaries between your child’s home life and their at-home schooling. One of the best ways to do this is by designating a specific space for learning.

This can be challenging, especially if you have multiple children. Fortunately, you don’t need to create large learning spaces — simply different ones. This can be anything from a spare office to the dining room table or even a desk in the corner of their bedroom. The important thing is to avoid areas like their bed, the kitchen table, or other areas where they sleep, eat, or engage in recreational activities.

4. Keep in Touch With Teachers

Another way for parents to be responsibly involved in their children’s distance schooling is to keep in touch with their teachers. Reach out to their teacher and ask for the best way to contact them. This provides a vital communication lifeline for your child — who isn’t seeing their teacher in person, as is the case in a traditional classroom setting.

By communicating, you can see how your child is doing socially and emotionally as they learn online. You can also get updates on their academic performance and ask any other important questions to help your child thrive.

5. Get Help When You Need It

You may be your child’s primary support system, but that doesn’t mean you have to do everything alone. If you find that you’re overwhelmed with other responsibilities or you simply cannot understand your child’s homework, it’s worth asking for help. Consider looking for experienced online tutors that can help with particularly difficult subjects like physics or math.

6. Encourage Exercise

By its very nature, a virtual learning lifestyle is a sedentary one. As a parent, this puts the responsibility on your shoulders to help your child get enough activity. There are many ways that you can encourage your child to exercise. A few suggestions include:

  • Find a good deskercise routine for them to follow a few times a day.
  • Have them go outside to stretch their legs and play.
  • Go for family walks to start or end each day.
  • Get a video game, like Nintendo’s Ring Fit Adventure, to make fitness more enticing.

However you go about it, look for ways to work exercise into your child’s daily routines.

7. Monitor Screen Time

The average American child between the ages of 8 and 12 years old spends 4 to 6 hours a day in front of a screen while teenagers see the number spike to 9 hours — and that was in February 2020, right before the pandemic drove screen time through the roof.

With remote learning only adding to the amount of technology use and its blue-light byproduct, it’s imperative that parents aid their children in moderating screen time. You can do this by:

  • Setting daily limits on screen time activities.
  • Creating “screen-free” zones in your house.
  • Establishing unplugging times for your family.

With so much time spent online, including during school, it’s more important than ever to keep tabs on your children’s screen time.

8. Take Regular Breaks

Consistent breaks are often prescribed for adults. This is because it’s generally recommended that a grown-up should spend no more than an hour or two working on a single project.

A four-or five-year-old, student can’t concentrate for more than 20 minutes at a time. This makes the need for regular breaks of all kinds, both short and long, a necessity during distance learning.

9. Display Your Child’s Work and Give Praise

Parents should take the time to praise their children. This can help them mature, grow, and remain engaged in their schooling.

When your kids are learning in a remote environment, this need is even greater. The lack of physically present support and praise can leave them feeling empty and discouraged. Make sure to frequently take the time to give your child praise for their work, their actions, and their own inherent value.

10. Help Your Child Remain in Contact With Their Friends

Remember to make an effort to bolster your child’s social life. Without regular interaction with peers in a classroom setting, a child’s friendships can atrophy.

Look for ways to keep your child connected with their friends. Set up video chats and phone calls, or if you can, get together in person for playdates or group trips to a museum or park.

From routines and expectations to exercise, breaks, screen time, and more, there are many ways that a parent can and should help their children as they learn from a distance.


  • Sean Alexander

    COMMAND PILOT, OWNER Sean has been a professional educator for 15 years and has taught math, physics, and astronomy at all levels.  His experience ranges from working at a high school for severe learning differences to teaching advanced physics at Stanford.  After completing his graduate work in theoretical physics Sean founded Alexander Tutoring, with the mission of revealing the deep connections between math and nature to as many students as possible. 

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