Our tips and suggestions for distance schooling

News / 01.06.20

As the days of the COVID-19 pandemic drag on, many of us find ourselves in the unaccustomed position of working from home. And if we have children of our own, not only are we juggling our own work schedules, but we are also trying to help those children navigate the new world of distance learning.  Like it or not, distance learning will be the norm for the immediate future.  Here are some tips and suggestions to help you cope.

Distant schooling/learning

Firstly, it is not home schooling. There’s a huge difference between home schooling and distant schooling/learning. Home schooling is where the parent researches and follows a curriculum, and then delivers (teaches) the content. They also have to mark homework assignments and tests.

What we have during COVID 19 is the school teachers delivering their lessons via video meetings, Google classroom and other specific subject sites. The student is expected to ‘attend’ their lessons, do their homework assignments in a timely manner, study,and take tests. The parents are expected to encourage their children to ‘attend’ school, do the work that is set for them and study for any assessments.

What we must remember is that all this happened almost overnight, and started just a couple of months ago. The teachers, children and parents have all had to learn a great deal, and cope with change, quickly.

The children are missing their friends, feeling isolated, and are no doubt struggling with a new routine and the self-discipline required to complete it. The teachers will be missing their students and trying hard to teach & motivate them remotely. The parents (us), most probably feel like all they do is nag, wish their child was more self-disciplined and hope everything can get back to normal as soon as possible.

So, what can you do to help your children, yourself and your household?

A place to work  

Your child, just like you, needs a place where he/she can work. There should be enough space for laptops, books, and any required school materials. They should also be undisturbed by the hustle and bustle of everyday life in the house. Especially when they have their lessons.

A routine

Your children no longer have bells to tell them to move to another lesson or have a break. They quite possibly have no fixed start time, either. With fewer predictable routines, that can cause anxiety and challenging behaviours. So, it is important for them to have a fixed start time, lesson or not, each day.  Then they can get up, get dressed, have breakfast and be ready, in time, to start their day. Create a schedule that allows times for a morning and afternoon break, and lunch, with set starting and ending times.  Include a defined homework/study time. Make sure they have a final stop time, they need time for family, fun, staying in touch and relaxing too. Don’t forget exercise time. They would normally have PE, so why not at home too? If they have a routine it can be posted for the whole family to see. They can also tell their classmates/friends when they might be free to chat. Maintaining an appropriate bedtime is also important.  They need to be able to wake up on time, and function the following morning. 

The technology

As with your own video meeting requirements, they too need access to printer, a laptop with a camera, mic and speaker, a decent internet connection, WiFi or hard wired ethernet connection and the bandwidth. Help them to make sure the position of their camera is not unflattering, and the lighting is adequate for them to be seen. For more info on video meetings, please click here. 

Keeping track of tasks

It will be all too easy to lose track of what is due and when. So, help your student to develop a rolling task list and schedule of when the work should be being done and when it is due. The best part of that is being able to cross things off when they are done. Here’s where parents will probably need online access to check for themselves what progress is being made. Familiarise yourself with the teacher’s method of posting assignments, and make sure the contact information you have for the teacher is up-to-date.

Taking notes

If they aren’t good at doing this already, they will need to be. Unless they want to email their teacher or a friend afterwards for information they missed during a video lesson, they will need to become more self-sufficient. Some teachers will automatically record their lessons, which is very helpful for a recap. 


Even we adults find it hard to avoid distractions and get on with the task in hand. At home, your kids are surrounded by distractions and temptations.  Before they know it, petting the cat, getting a drink, visiting the loo, texting a friend, getting a snack and popping downstairs to see what’s going on, and 2 hours has slipped by with no work being done. If they go to the loo before they start, have a drink already, keep their door shut and don’t look at their phone until their next break, they will not fall behind.

On a more general note, most of our kids use social media to communicate with friends.  Albeit that most of the time, we think that are discussing nothing of any real interest, it is worth noting that they do use the services to discuss schoolwork, find out when tasks need to be completed and even compare notes.  Take care not to instantly accuse them of wasting time but remind them that anything other than the task at hand only delays the time until they can relax.

Your help and encouragement

Take an interest, see how they are keeping up and help when they are stuck. Don’t forget their teacher is available too. Be their study partner when they are revising for tests. Don’t forget to praise them when they do well. 

The future

Quite possibly their classes will be behind their planned curriculum by now. So, don’t be surprised if the normal school year is moved to suit. When schools do start to phase re-opening, social distancing will likely restrict the class sizes and number of children able to be at the school at any one time. So, this probably is not just a temporary blip.

Good luck!

Further information:

Video meeting tips

Working from home tips

Taking care of your mind and body

Virtual games