Thoughtful Parenting: Tips for online or hybrid learning success

Jessica Speer
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

With parents balancing work and their kids’ home learning needs, it’s not surprising that many families are struggling to find their school groove. Distance learning requires focused attention and effort, which can be challenging for kids even under normal circumstances. 

The following eight tips support distance learning success. At first glance, this list can look overwhelming, so try one or two of these ideas at a time. During stressful times, it’s especially important for parents to take care of themselves too. 

  • Create structure and a study space at home: Neuropsychology research tells us that kids have better retention if learning takes place at the same time and location as much as possible. Work with your kids to set up a consistent workspace and daily schedule. What time will at-home learning start and end? Make sure water and supplies are on hand to minimize distractions.
  • Catch them doing right: Many students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder get negative feedback five to 10 times more than positive feedback. To encourage growth, acknowledge small successes, such as “I appreciate how you were at your desk this morning at 9 a.m.” “Do you know you just worked for 30 minutes straight? Great work.” Recognize the effort that it takes to get to the desired outcome. 
  • Movement breaks: Notice what blend of focused work and movement breaks work for your child. Studies show that 15 minutes of intense movement a day, such as jumping on a trampoline or jogging around the block helps with focus and attention. 
  • Encourage students to reach out for help: With less or no face-to-face time with teachers, it’s important for students to connect with their teachers or caregivers when they are stuck or need help. 
  • Clear consequences and rewards: Make sure that expectations are clearly understood and hold kids accountable for agreed-upon expectations. Maybe gaming or social media time begins only after school work is complete.
  • Establish one organizational system to keep track of schedule, classes and assignments: A simple, centralized system, such as a whiteboard, planner or to-do folder will help students manage daily tasks and assignments.
  • Break work into manageable chunks: A full day of online learning or a big project can feel overwhelming. Help kids break tasks into manageable chunks. 
  • Build a foundation for learning: A healthy diet, sleep, exercise and routine is foundational to learning. Establish consistent bedtimes, eat breakfast, and get outside for exercise every day. 

Jessica Speer is a children’s author and adjunct faculty member of Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs. To learn more and follow her blog, visit

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