By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer
Distance learning during COVID-19 shows a need for strong education strategies. Tips from experts can help kids get homework done with a minimal amount of stress. Researched, proven methods make for better remote schooling.
Aside from homeschooling, parents usually let teachers do the teaching while parents put out other fires, like work life, the students’ siblings, getting dinner on the table, or just other aspects of child-rearing.
COVID-19 changed all that. Nobody knew how long the novel coronavirus pandemic would last, but with schools now considering remote learning for the school year in fall 2021, it may be this entire calendar year before some school districts fully reopen. Faced with a drastically different society of social distancing, distance learning, and working from home, families are struggling to keep up.
How can parents stop homework from grinding the entire day to a halt? In his video series Scientific Secrets for Raising Kids Who Thrive, Dr. Peter M. Vishton, Associate Professor of Psychology at William & Mary, offered four suggestions.
Right Environment and Right Assistance
Dr. Vishton said that the target of his strategies isn’t simply for the student to get their homework done, but also to maximize what they learn about the subject matter while doing so.
“First, you should create a good environment in which your child can pursue homework assignments,” he said. “You should work with your child to create and organize a space that she can consistently use for doing her homework. The environment should be well-lit and quiet, but homework should be part of a set routine that takes place every day at around the same time.”
Although school days may vary in length with distance learning, children work best with routines; so developing schedules and building habits based on them will help motivate your child that it’s time to focus on homework.
“My second tip is that you, as a parent, should be available to help, but you should minimize how much help you actually provide,” Dr. Vishton said. “In order to maximize the learning that takes place during homework, you must resist the urge to help the child any more than he actually needs. Helping too much is not helping at all—in fact, it can be quite hindering.”
Scaffolding and Taking Breaks
Dr. Vishton’s third technique to help kids get homework done is to practice what’s called “scaffolding.” When a student is learning something entirely new, it may be necessary to provide extensive support their first time through so they can succeed in completing the task. The second time they need to perform the task, some support can be removed so the child performs more of the task independently, and so on until they can do the entire thing by themselves.
It can be difficult to balance scaffolding with helping too much, but parents will find there’s a time to let the child struggle a bit and a time to step in.
“The fourth tip is to make use of spacing practice techniques by encouraging your child to take frequent breaks when doing long homework assignments,” Dr. Vishton said. “Kids like breaks; you can even use them as rewards. More important, however, if kids take frequent breaks during their long study times, they will learn more effectively.
“So, give a good environment, let the child struggle, use scaffolding, and encourage spacing.”