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8 Tips for Student Success During Distance Learning

Washington remote deskDistance learning is well underway in many schools across the country. Shifting to working at home takes time and patience for the whole family. Here are eight helpful hints to share with your children. We encourage you to download the form available to you at the bottom of this article and hope that some of these suggestions might be useful to you.

Manage Expectations

The school day looks very different than it did a couple of months ago, and your child should expect a few bumps in the road. Cut them some slack, take a deep breath, and give your child time to get back on track.

  • If technology isn’t working, have them grab a book or a board game instead and come back to the screen a little later.
  • If they are feeling stressed they can do some mindfulness exercises, like one of the activities suggested by

Establish a Productive Workspace

Your child might usually do their homework in a room or at the kitchen table, but if your whole family is at home during the day, you might need to find a new spot for them to work. Choose an area with enough space for your child to spread out all of their materials. You’ll also want to make sure the space is close to an outlet so that devices can be charged.

  • Having multiple workspaces may keep things interesting. Maybe have one in the morning and one in the afternoon, or do reading in a comfy beanbag chair and math outside on the back porch. 

Prepare Resources

Before starting the day, have your child look at the activities for the day and gather all the materials needed so they won't have to stop in the middle of an activity to grab something. 

  • Do a little (online) school shopping with your child! You could help your child spice up their pencil box with colorful gel pens, scented markers, erasers shaped like animals, or other little things that will make your child smile when they start their work.
  • Your family can also be a resource! If your child needs a study break, they could play a quick game with a sibling, or start a conversation with a funny question, like these 10 Creative Questions from Parents Together.

Stay Organized

Distance learning is not the same as taking a vacation from school, therefore a productive use of time will be particularly helpful. Your child can write down assignments in a planner and check them off as they complete them. Or, for a more interactive checklist, they can write each task on a Post-It, stick them in their work area, and toss them in the trash when finished.

  • If your child starts their day off right, it can help them stay on track all day. Even though everyone is staying at home, your child might still want to get dressed, do their hair, and eat a healthy breakfast just like if you were heading out the door for school. Sticking to your regular morning routine can help everyone be more focused when the day starts.

Manage Time Wisely

When you’re in charge of your learning, it can be easy to go to extremes. Without the structure of teachers and class changes, some children might spend all day feverishly working. Other kids might spend five minutes writing an essay that was supposed to take half an hour. Use a clock to ensure you child is following your teacher’s recommendations about how much time each activity should take. 

  • For younger kids who can’t tell time yet, try setting a timer for the number of minutes they should spend on a specific activity.
  • For older kids, have them think about how long they need to spend on an assignment (or a chunk of an assignment) and set a timer for that length of time.

Chunk Your Work

Instead of just writing “Do science.” on a schedule, actually break the day into 15-20 minute chunks of time and plan what needs to be completed in each block. Be sure to schedule in time for snacks and breaks, as well as academic time.

Stay Connected & Get Outside

When you’re at home, your child might be in a class of one, but make sure they don’t feel like they are alone! One of the benefits of virtual learning is that there is lots of flexibility in the day. Your child can use that time to connect with their friends and family members or to get moving and spend some time outside. 

  • Use video conferencing such as Zoom, FaceTime, or Google Hangouts to schedule a virtual play date with one or two friends. Kids can all plan to do something together, like follow the same recipe while baking some chocolate chip cookies, or take turns holding up a piece of paper and playing a game of digital Pictionary.
  • Try to find at least one academic activity that can be done outdoors. It will probably be easiest if the activity is something that doesn’t require technology, like reading a book or writing in a journal.
  • Call a friend and study together sometimes. It’s a win-win situation because they get an accountability partner to help you stay on task, and they’ll have fun connecting with a buddy.

Seek Help

If you need assistance with your distance learning, your child can count on your Sanford family to help! Email your child's teachers if you have questions or reach out to your child's counselor if your child is feeling overwhelmed. The Technology department is also available if your child is having trouble with using their devices. And, remember Tip #1: Manage Your Expectations and help your child not to get too frustrated if things don’t go as planned.

While this situation is a complete shift from your regular routine, hopefully, these tips can help your child be more successful in distance learning.

Download Tips for Student Success  in Distance Learning

Resources for Families:

Courtney Gregor is the Middle School counselor & learning services coordinator. She received her bachelor's degree in Psychology from Franklin and Marshall College and a master's degree in School and Mental Health Counseling from the University of Pennsylvania. She also has a National Counselors Certification. In addition to serving students as a counselor, Courtney is the head swim coach at Sanford.

Skye Rashkind is the Lower School counselor & learning services coordinator. Skye has been an educator for 25 years in a variety of roles and school communities. She has taught at the elementary school level, has been a museum educator, an admissions counselor, and a tutor. Skye holds a B.A. in Psychology from Dickinson College, an M.A.T. in Elementary Education from Brown University, and an M.Ed. in School Counseling from Wilmington University.

Sarah Satinsky is the Upper School counselor & learning services coordinator. Sarah is a Licensed Professional Counselor of Mental Health (LPCMH) in Delaware and was in private practice in Texas before moving into the school counseling world. She earned her bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Austin and received her master's degree from Southern Methodist University.


Topics: Education, Health & Wellness, Distance Learning