AUSTIN, Texas — The new school year is rapidly approaching with many students starting off by learning from home.
The owner of Austin Learning Center, Becky Fliss, reached out to KVUE on Nextdoor to offer her advice for parents while they navigate online schooling.
"Parents have been really empowered to take on this role of helping facilitate learning in a new way, in a really new and challenging time. And I think they're doing a great job and they're incredibly hard on themselves," said Fliss.
Here's her advice for at-home schooling:
First and foremost, help students get the lay of the land.
This means looking at every teacher, every class and making a map for what is required, how to get materials, how to turn in assignments, when meetings are, etc. A student should be able to tell you, for example, my English class meets twice a week and the teacher posts assignments on Google classroom every Monday, we turn in one assignment every Friday, there are tests every two weeks, etc. They should really understand the total landscape before they begin anything else. If there is any part of the process that does not make sense, it is important to reach out to the teacher and ask for help. Students have to first know what is expected of them and how to navigate the system before they can really begin to learn.
"The non-negotiable piece is that parents and students sort of have to get themselves organized and know what is expected and know how to access everything and have their technology in place. That has to be sort of the baseline," said Fliss.
Help empower students to work independently.
The best way to do this is to have a morning meeting and help plan out the day, or for older students, perhaps a weekly meeting on Mondays. Mapping out the day is a great way to help them be a little bit more independent throughout their work time.
"Knowing how to learn, knowing how to plan their learning and knowing how to self check out the process, that's hard for a lot of students. So just scaffolding that through some planning is really is really good. And I really do think that if you do that, you're creating a really good, lifelong skill," said Fliss.
Collaborate with other students and parents.
Be creative with support! Rotate parents who will help a small group of students one day a week. Get the older student down the street to come sit with your child for a few hours a day. Have aunts/uncles/grandparents sit in with your child. Hire a tutoring center like Austin Learning Center. Parents are being brilliant and creative during this time, and that creativity will absolutely foster learning.
"If you were to do some sort of pod situation, where you did rotate with different families or different parents, you could have parents with different expertise to help the kiddos," said Fliss.
You don't have to be the teacher.
"Your teachers aren't going anywhere. You can still leave that part, the content part up to us, the educators," said Fliss. "You just have to bite off the things that you can handle, and teaching calculus is not going to be the bite that many parents are going to take, and that's OK."
Don't put so much pressure on yourself.
Remember that schooling didn’t always look the way it does now. We didn’t always have groups of students in classrooms at desks, and parents need to really understand the amazing and fruitful and valuable learning can happen outside of the classroom walls. Parents often don’t realize how much they are adding to the education of their students by providing them with rich learning experiences every day. When you plant a garden, you are doing biology. When you bake bread together, you were doing math. It’s really important for parents to know how much their involvement with their children help form the fundamental ideas that are key to future learning. In fact, I would argue that these experiences may be even more fruitful because we know that learning is meaningful when it’s personal. And there’s no better way to foster knowledge than by creating personal and rich experiences for children to learn.
"These kids are going to be OK. They're going to learn the things that they need to learn. And they're very resilient. So I think we just have to kind of give ourselves a little bit of a break there, too, and just keep being creative, because it's working," said Fliss.
While parents might be able to help with time management, certain schoolwork and schedules, most are not prepared to explain AP classes, advanced mathematics like Algebra 2 or Calculus, or science to their high school students, if they're learning from home.
Collegewise Counselor Laura Dickas said parents can help their kids by building flexible schedules this fall and reminds them to have patience. Dickas suggests digging into resources that can help kids learn.
"For some students it's a little more difficult just figuring out what system motivates them and that they kind of connect with a little bit better. They take a little bit of time to figure that out, but it's something worth looking into and talking to students," said Dickas.
Collegewise recently launched Wise(r)net, which is a digital learning platform. According to Collegewise's website, students can log into the system to communicate with tutors, view their current tutoring hours tracker, review session notes and tasks, schedule sessions and add courses or tutoring hours. Wise(r)net also syncs with text messaging services, so parents, students and tutors can communicate via text, and all conversations are saved in the platform.
"We're also hoping to add in some exclusive, really timely content as far as webinars hosted by our team of counselors, who are pretty much all former admissions counselors and former high school counselors. We have a lot of information that we'd like to share, and we're hoping that as it grows skills out to a larger base that we will have created a pretty unique ecosystem for families," said Dickas.
Dickas also suggests some free resources like Math Is Fun, Khan Academy, and College Board.