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This school year will be like no other as parents, kids and teachers gear up for education amidst the COVID 19 pandemic. Based on experiences this past Spring, educators know more about distance learning and how to help kids succeed. Parents or other caregivers (grandparents, etc.) will continue to play a big role as well. Here are some basic tips to help the (remote) school year get off to a good start:

Have a routine: Try to stick to a similar routine as if kids were actually going to school. Up and out of bed at a reasonable time, brushing teeth, getting dressed, eating breakfast and getting prepped for the remote school day is important. Look at the agenda not just for that day but for the week to give you and your student an overview of what to expect.

Schedule breaks: Just like school, schedule brief breaks in between “learning blocks” of 30-50 minutes (or less for younger kids) with a longer break for lunch. Have 15 minute “movement breaks” as well during which your child can go for a walk, play outside, dance, etc. This short amount of activity has been shown to improve fitness as well as focus in school age kids. The “Daily Mile” program promoted 15 minutes of jogging or running daily for schoolkids pre-pandemic and is now encouraging similar “brain breaks” for kids learning from home. Look up “Daily Mile USA” or the “Daily Mile Ellensburg” Facebook page for more movement ideas.

Set up a space for learning: Have a designated clutter-free space set up for school; this might be a desk or a part of a table where there are minimal distractions. You want your child to be somewhat close but not so close that you are watching them all the time. On the other hand, alone in their room might be too hands-off and tempt your child to be doing other things instead of schoolwork. What will work here depends on the age of your child and how motivated and independent they are.

Digital quarantine: Help your child stay focused during their school day by removing cell phones, tablets and other devices until schoolwork is done. This encourages discipline and will allow them to fully focus on the school task at hand. If possible, having a device just for on-line learning is ideal.

Balance non-digital with digital learning: For little kids, screen learning can pose a challenge. Asking the teacher to borrow an actual textbook or printing out some materials can help. When not doing on-line schoolwork, make a point to read actual books, draw and do other hands-on activities.

Check in with the teacher: Communicating with the teacher is important especially if your child is struggling. Teachers know this is a challenging time for all and sincerely want students to be successful. If your child has learning difficulties, look over the expected work and discuss with the teacher what tools and strategies can be used to support your child.

Be kind: We have heard this a lot — and it applies to remote learning, too. Be kind to your child, the teacher and yourself as we all figure out how to help our kids be successful during this unprecedented time. Remember the “just for fun” stuff, too- bike riding, family movie night, playing games, having time for a relaxed conversation. This will help you and your kids stay connected and maintain emotional well-being as you explore remote learning together.

Dr. Elise Herman is a pediatrician at KVH Pediatrics.

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