Keys to Successful Distance Learning

Meredith Russell

Tags DIY, Education, Tips

With all the changes to our meetings and school classes it’s tempting to put rigid schedules and rules in place to try and control what we can. Instead, I suggest giving a little more leeway and allowing the schedule to flow. However, there are several tips that can make distance learning easier on your kiddos and yourself. 

Photo by August de Richelieu from Pexels

1. Learn all the Zoom tricks and tips. Knowing how to mute and unmute (use the spacebar!), starting the call with no video or a virtual background, and arranging the videos to your child’s liking are great ways to make virtual learning work for you and your family. 

  • To start the call with no video, head over to the video tab and simply check the box that says “always turn off video when joining meeting”. If your child is like mine and doesn’t want their face on the video, having it off when joining can be a huge relief.
  • If your child is okay showing their face, but doesn’t have a clean background, you can easily add a virtual background
  • Use Gallery View to see all the meeting participants at the same time. Don’t want to see the blank spaces? In the Video settings choose “hide non-video participants”. 
  • Use the Options screen to engage Side-by-Side mode during screen sharing so your child can see both the screen share and the teacher’s face. Looking at the teacher during learning can significantly improve comprehension for many children. 

2. Create a space. No matter where your child is conducting their schooling, they should have a space big enough for learning, reading, and creating. For some children the couch and coffee table, for others they may need a more structured space like a kitchen table or desk. Both my son and I prefer to work on the couch so we often sit side-by-side, but that may not work for every family. 

Resin journal and penWhatever space you choose, get it ready for learning by gathering materials that your student will need such as books, paper, and pens. A fancy journal or notebook  can give your child a place to write all the things they need to remember. 

3. Set a Routine. I know, I know. I said in the first paragraph that we shouldn’t follow rigid schedules and rules in order to have more control. And I do mean it, but…. setting an easy routine like getting dressed and ready for the day can help move both children and adults into a more learning-ready frame of mind. Think about how you feel wearing pajamas or sweatpants versus how you feel wearing work clothes. The way we associate clothing to different activities helps to get us in the right mindset. 

Breaks should also be included in your routine. Even at school children are given breaks in the form of recess, changing classes (for older kiddos), lunch, and even when the teachers are passing out supplies. Setting small breaks through out the day gives your child something to look forward to as well as helping them reset and recharge for the next task. Imagine trying to work without that first or second coffee break of the day…. 

4. Review expectations. We all have expectations for our children, but we need to communicate them as well as realize that our children may have their own exceptions. Go over what the school and teachers expect from online learning, including zoom etiquette. Answer your child’s questions like, “When can they expect to spend time with you? What should they do during their downtime? When should they avoid interrupting you?” And if they’re home alone, “What can they eat?” 

I know that my son has been much happier during school days if he has a reliable lunch that includes something he really likes. Again, it gives him something to look forward to during his lunch break. 

5. Encourage ownership and effort. Are you struggling to get your child interested in distance learning even though they love (or at least tolerate) going to school? Find ways to get them involved in some of the decision making. Reading books they’re interested in, creating your own science experiments, even playing Minecraft can help your child succeed in distance learning. 

Check in with your kiddo regularly about how they are feeling around distance learning, and if you need to, restructure some of their activities so they’re more engaged. Communicate with your child’s teacher and encourage your child to tell you about their day. Give detailed praise to your child - how hard they tried, what progress they’ve made, using new techniques, etc.  Displaying school work in your home is a great way to show you value your child’s work and learning. 

6. Lastly, make room for self-love and well-being. Teach your child to be a good friend to themselves by modeling positive behaviors. Explain why you take that bubble bath with a wine bottle and Netflix every night. Maybe they feel the same way about coloring or playing video games. Creating a gratitude list or saying what you’re grateful for each night is a good way to get in touch with the best parts of our days. 

Move your bodies! I know how much an evening walk means to our family. An easy stroll around the block gives us all time to decompress and relax, and physical activity has been shown to increase both happiness and memory skills. 

Be silly and wacky! My son recently asked for “the largest glass of ice water ever”. So of course I brought him my 8 cup Pyrex measuring bowl full of ice water and a straw. It was the best thing to see him smile and giggle - and he definitely got his fluids in that day! Celebrate the small things and add in some surprises along the way. 


I hope that some of these tips are helpful for you and your kiddos as we face online learning together this year. If you have any ideas that have worked great for your family share them below so we can all learn new keys for success!

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