The Coronavirus pandemic disrupted economic and social systems developed over decades to support the competing needs of career, family, and education. The education system is largely unable to safely teach our children full time in physical classrooms which means remote learning is here to stay for the foreseeable future. As September approaches, families are scrambling to come up with a plan to care for their children and provide remote learning while somehow staying employed. Parents need help educate their children while juggling many competing priorities. How can grandparents help with remote learning to ease this burden and make the experience the best it can be for your grandchildren?
Before we dig into how you can help, let’s start with some basics.
What is remote learning?
According to Tophat.com:
“Remote learning is where the student and the educator, or information source, are not physically present in a traditional classroom environment. Information is relayed through technology, such as discussion boards, video conferencing, and online assessments.“www.tophat.com
Whether you call it distance learning, remote learning, online learning, learning at home, or any of the myriad of terms being used these days, it means children are being educated at home, separated from their teachers.
There is a lot of jargon related to remote learning. Here are some of the key terms with a simple explanation of each:
- Asynchronous remote learning: The teacher or instructor prepares materials ahead of time that the student access at a time of his/her choosing.
- Blended learning: A combination of in-person and remote learning
- Distance education/learning: Student and teacher or instructor are in different geographical locations and connecting via technology
- eLearning: Any type of learning that occurs using technology as a medium
- Hybrid learning: Same as blended learning
- Synchronous remote learning: The teacher or instructor and the students are online at the same time and interacting while participating in a lesson.
- Virtual classroom: A digital version of the real thing. Software is used to allow teachers and students to come together, typically using video cameras, in a digital environment.
Are you qualified to help with distance education?
The simple answer is yes!
In times of crisis, people step up and do the best that they can to keep moving forward. There is no special training required to help your grandchildren with distance learning or home schooling. Grandparents know their grand kids, love them, and are often blessed with an abundance of patience. These are critical assets to a family thrown into chaos. But, there is training available if you would like to participate.
Reach out to your local school district, county, or state Dept. of Education. Visit their websites for materials. For example, In Massachusetts, WGBH TV cooperated with the Massachusetts Dept. of Education to create a Distance Learning Center full of information and resources for families and educators. Many states have similar sites.
What can grandparents do to help?
Grandparents are often in a unique position to assist. How much and what type of aid you can provide will depend on your health, financial situation, technology, and proximity to your family. If you’re social distancing from your family, there are still ways to be a part of their learning journey.
Below are five ideas for how grandparents can help with remote learning. I saved my favorite until the end!
Provide a quiet space
Schools are designed for education. Rooms are laid out for learning. There are schedules and rules, and they’re quiet. Our homes, on the other hand, were made for living. We share space with those we love. We laugh, talk, watch TV, listen to the radio, and even cry. These are not typically quiet places.
Many children find the activity at home too distracting to learn. It disrupts their concentration, sidetracks their thinking, and draws them away from the task at hand.
Can you provide a quiet space for your grandson or granddaughter to complete their lessons? If you have an extra room, or even an unused corner, you can setup a work space free of distraction. Another way to help with distraction is to give other children in the house a place to go for portions of the day to reduce the busyness at home.
Providing a quiet space for a child to work could make the difference between your grandchild thriving or just getting through.
Give Mom and/or Dad a break
This one seems obvious but I decided to list it anyway.
It’s still summer and parents are already exhausted. It’s only going to get worse when the school year begins. Consider creative ways to give them a break.
Usually when we think of down time for Mom or Dad, we think it terms of a “night out” or a “weekend away”. It doesn’t have to be that extreme. You could cover for breakfast one day a week so they can have the morning to themselves. Or how about tucking the kids in to bed or making lunches in the morning? There are many small things you can do that lighten the load for Mom or Dad.
If you’re not in physical contact with your family, you can plan a weekly Zoom game or Hangouts activity to keep the kids occupied and give you some Q-time with them. If you don’t know how to use either, ask your grand kids. They’ve recently become experts.
Consider a passion project
This is a moment for creative learning. Take advantage of this! Schools are establishing standards and goals but typically giving a lot of room for flexibility. For ideas to get started, download our list of 13 Passion Projects that you can do with your grandchildren today!
Does your student have a passion that they’d enjoy exploring? Do they love working in the garden or building rockets? Maybe she’s a budding artist. Her passion can be integrated into an educational project.
You will, of course, have to get approval from the school district. Once approved, you and your grand child can develop and execute the project together. Begin by brainstorming with your student. Encourage them to ask “I wonder why….” to come up with ideas. The foundation of a passion project is student choice. Allowing them to explore a topic they chose will increase enthusiasm and excitement for learning.
According to www.weareteachers.com:
“Passion projects are magical. They are designed to tap into the things that make our students’ heart race, their eyes light up, and their engagement increase to maximum levels.”Emily Aierstok
For step by step instructions for helping your grand child with a passion project, see this guide by Maegan Bowersox. But remember, it’s just a guide. Do what works for you and your student.
Provide equipment or supplies
Students will be learning in two locations this year, and possibly next. Many schools are restricting what can come in and out of the school buildings. This means that students may need two sets of supplies. Double the notebooks and pens and pencils.
In addition, remote learning is done best on-line. The learner will need a laptop or tablet and a solid internet connection. These costs add up fast. If you’re in a position to help financially, it’s a great way for grandparents to help with remote learning. I’m sure your family will be grateful for the support.
“Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do. Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children.”Alex Haley
Become a grand-teacher
I saved the best for last. Why not become a regular part of your student’s weekly learning routine?
I love this idea!
Many grandparents have now gone months without seeing or hugging their babies (“babies” can be any age). We call and we Zoom but meaningful interaction over a video camera is difficult. Unless, of course, you have a structured activity.
Parents are exhausted and don’t have the time needed to properly teach their children at home. Grandparents miss their grand kids and are getting stir crazy. If grandparents could take over a regularly scheduled part of the students lessons, we’d have a match made in heaven!
The beauty of this option is that it can be done remotely or in person. If you are remote, Mom or Dad can send you the materials and you can work via the internet with your learner. It’s a great way to connect regularly with your grandchildren. They’ll love seeing you and will appreciate the variety it brings to their education plan while learning at home.
The Broader Picture
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 19 million families in the United States with children between the ages of 6 and 17 years old, school age. Of these, 13.7 million families don’t have a parent who doesn’t work outside of the home. These are staggering statistics at a time when our children are being educated remotely.
Families need help and grandparents are a natural source of support for remote learning. Don’t be discouraged if all you can do is an hour a week or buy some school supplies. Every little bit adds up. Regardless of what we do, this time will pass and our children and grandchildren will move on. But, we can do better than that. We can be a part of their journey, grab onto this opportunity to participate in their lives, and help them to thrive.
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