Keeping Your Kids Engaged in Remote Learning: One Mom’s Top Tips

The first few weeks of remote learning have left me feeling pretty lost as a parent. My 5-year-old couldn’t sit through a movie he wanted to watch in a theater for two hours let alone a 2.5-hour lecture on a screen in our living room.

This was something I not only worried about in the weeks leading up to the start of our virtual school year but absolutely dreaded. I had no idea how I was going to manage remote learning on my end and there didn’t seem to be any resources available.

Did the decision-makers expect the teachers to be engaging enough to keep the attention of small children for this long? Or had they not considered the equally large burden being placed on parents?

So far, remote learning has been brutal on my end. His classmates know me as the shoulder in my son’s thumbnail, needing to sit glued to him the entire 2.5 hours. The only tools I came in with were bribing, begging, and sometimes physically carrying my child back to his chair repeatedly. We were both frustrated and crying the first few days. It wasn’t working.

remote learningMy main concern was that this environment was going to ruin my kids’ natural love of learning. So on the third day, I reached out for help, starting with his teacher. I also emailed the principal with my concerns and even threw a Hail Mary to the superintendent.

It’s always best to communicate any problems you’re having to your child’s school first. My son’s teacher was accommodating. His principal directed us to a website for resources. And the superintendent was not only sympathetic but also excited to deliver his plan to reopen schools to a very frustrated parent. We had a light at the end of the tunnel.

But in the meantime, we needed real, practical tools for my wiggly little learner. So I also reached out to a few experts including an early education specialist, a few experienced homeschooling moms and teachers, and all of my mom friends sinking in the same boat.

Physical Tools

Give your child something to fidget with. Putty to squeeze, velcro to pull apart, something they can click. Anything that will keep their hands busy while they listen.

Give their feet something to do too. If they can’t sit for long periods of time, let them stand. Cut a tennis ball and have them push down with their foot. Let them sit on a ball.

remote learningWrap a band around their chair legs to kick and stretch. This was by and far the best idea I NEVER thought would work. I used a heavy resistance exercise band and on the first day, my son made it the entire two and a half hours in his chair. I’ll admit, the novelty wore off after a few days, but it gave us a small reprieve.

Behavioral Tools

I received mixed reviews on incentive-based reward charts or clip-up charts. Some educators swear by them, and some loathe them. I know one of my sons does really well, and the other not so much. Once he has nothing left to lose, he behaves like a kid with nothing left to lose. 

His teacher also offered to allow him to earn extra breaks. If he sits for five minutes, then he gets a five-minute break and they can build his attention stamina from there. This also didn’t work because once he’s allowed to completely disengage, it’s really hard to get him back.

Trust Your Mama Bear Heart

Three weeks in, things haven’t gotten much easier. We still have some really awful days where we need to end the call early. When I’m frustrated and he’s crying, we walk away and resolve to try again tomorrow.

He’s not a bad kid. I’m not a bad mom. We’re all building the plane as we fly it, so they say, teachers included. And while some are naturally engaging on a screen, others have better success in the classroom. The best we can do as parents right now is the best we can do and that’s enough.

So now I’m reaching out to you: What techniques are working for you to keep your kids engaged in remote, online learning?

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Born and raised in Grand Blanc Michigan, Christine and her husband are big fans of “do what works for you” parenting. She’s a stay at home mom to two boys, born 13 months apart, and stepmom to a creative and compassionate grown daughter. Michael, a sensitive and resolute 4 year old and Andrew, a 3 year old wildly spirited soul, keep Christine active and on her toes. She hopes to instill her same love of the Michigan outdoors in her kids by keeping busy outside. They can often be found walking their two German Shepards, cheering on the Detroit Tigers, exploring local parks or enjoying play dates anywhere kids can expend large amounts of energy with minimal destruction of property.


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