11 Remote Learning Truths From Parents Whose Kids Have Started School

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, this is already a school year unlike any other.

Many kids across the country are starting the school year from the confines of their own homes, as both large school districts and individual parents are keeping students remote this fall.

What can parents expect this fall? What’s been working and what hasn’t? A warning: It doesn’t seem to be going too great overall.

We asked parents in our Facebook community whose kids have started the school year virtually about what we should know. Read on to find out what they had to say.

“I live in Metairie, Louisiana, and my son is attending first grade virtually for at least the first nine weeks. He started yesterday, and naturally there were hiccups with the format. However, I am truly flabbergasted that in general the district seemed extremely underprepared for a virtual learning option. ... Teachers seem overwhelmed by the virtual format. So far, the majority of the class periods have been teachers telling students to mute their microphones. Our district had over half of the children sign up for virtual learning, and I am just really surprised at how poorly planned the whole scenario seems to be. I do not fault the teachers — this is out of their control — but I do question what the district leaders have done since they knew virtual was going to be a legitimate option.” ― Ashley Collins

“I have two children in middle school in Texas, so I can’t really speak for other grades. Our district is doing ‘synchronous virtual learning’ on the bell schedule, just like if they were changing classes. During the first two weeks or so, the teachers spent about 80% of the class time just making sure the kids were following along with the technology and troubleshooting. This caused a lot of frustration, as some kids were not paying attention, not tech savvy; software glitches, etc., would slow everything down. Depending on the day, my kids are kicked out of Zoom classes at least twice a day, and sometimes the teachers do not realize the kids are in the ‘waiting room.’ It took one of my son’s teachers 20 minutes to let him back in, and by then he had missed the lesson. Kids get called out for looking away from the screen as it is interpreted as not paying attention. Teachers are doing their best, but they are ‘building the plane while flying it.’ Lots of grace, patience and walking away to breathe.” ― name withheld

Kids around the country are starting their school year with remote learning.
nd3000 via Getty Images
Kids around the country are starting their school year with remote learning.

“I have been incredibly impressed by the organization, communication and patience of our teachers as my kids are learning virtually! The first grade teacher keeps the Google Meet open all day, even during lunch, recess and ‘specials’ (she turns off their microphones and cameras), and that way the kiddos aren’t having to try and log back in multiple times a day. The fifth grader can do almost everything on his own, and I’m impressed at how much he has taught his little brother. One struggle is that they don’t have the same lunch/recess/PE time, which means we make lunches the night before and set timers on our phones to make sure the kids go outside during ‘recess.’” ― Carrie McNeil

“My only child has declared, every other day, that she is not doing this (virtual learning). And every other day she doesn’t. Sure, we have consequences for that decision — but the toolbox is slim, and the consequences don’t change her mindset. We have positive reinforcement for good days as well! Today, however, she declared she is quitting school. She closed her Chromebook every time I logged her in. She’s 12 assignments behind. So. It’s going really well, I’d say. ADHD + anxiety + depression = a virtual learner does not make. We’ve tried everything. Learning pod with other students. Independent learning. Tutors. Teacher’s aide to be an in-person resource. We’re fresh out of ideas, fresh out of pivoting options, fresh out of energy. Week 4 and we’re all about to quit.” ― Ashlee Reddick

“We’ve been doing full remote with three kids, one in each school (elementary, middle, high). It’s fairly miserable. The technical difficulties are about 90% of the frustration. It has helped all my kids for me to print off a big sheet for each of them with their daily schedule, so it’s super easy to read and keep track of what they’re supposed to be doing at what times. I taped them up on the wall by their workspace.” ― Carrie Kindt

“My kids went back Aug. 10. It’s much better than the distance learning we had last spring. They’re in and out of live instruction during the day, with independent assignments in between. My best advice is to give it a couple of weeks before you judge. There are going to be technical problems or things that don’t work right. Be patient, help your kids be patient. Things were running very smoothly for my kids by the middle of the second week. (I have kids in fifth, eighth and ninth grades.)” ― Krista Karlsson Henderson

“I’m frustrated at how much my oldest likes it because it’s going to be a pain in the butt to get him back to in-person school without complaining.” ― Jacque Smith

“I have a first grader and a second grader. We have found that a dry-erase calendar is very helpful for documenting Zoom meetings, assignment due dates, etc.” ― Laura Carnago Lewis

For many families, back-to-school-season means struggling to juggle different remote learning schedules for different kids.
Klaus Vedfelt via Getty Images
For many families, back-to-school-season means struggling to juggle different remote learning schedules for different kids.

“I’ve been in a blended ‘one day at school, homeschool the rest of the week’ [setup] for eight years now. We have developed ways to work since we’ve been doing it so long. First, I have rewards cards. There are 50 spaces on the card that they have to fill. Once they fill that card, they earn a monetary reward. I have to sign each space for every lesson they do. DEVOTE SPECIFIC TIMES. If you don’t designate a specific time for schoolwork, your kids will lag. I’ve noticed if I start schoolwork later than our designated time, my kids will be very lazy about getting to work. If your kid is struggling, TAKE A BREAK! All you’re going to do by yelling at your kid is make them cry, make yourself cry, and get no work done. Tell your kid that you understand that they’re struggling, so say ‘let’s get some fresh air’ outside, toss a ball, play with the dog, have a snack, then get back to it. Let your kids look at the lessons and see what they want to work on first. ... They will always pick the easier lessons, so make sure they work on at least one difficult one a day. If multiple kids need your help, have one work on the ‘easy’ lessons while you help with the difficult one, and then switch.” ― Jessica Marin Ibarra

“We chose virtual rather than the in-person hybrid [option] because we wanted a more stable schedule than one that would be constantly changing based on infection rates. Our district seemed to have their act together when they sent out information on virtual school. It was supposed to be live Meets interspersed throughout the day with independent work. So far, it has been one live Meet that starts at 7:15 a.m. and lasts until 2:15 p.m. Our daughter (in fourth grade) just turns her camera off for lunch and recess. She hates it, and I hate it for her. She is not allowed to turn her camera off, even if she’s done with the work. We’ll likely be pulling her out to homeschool her by the end of the week. It’s not about patience while they work out the kinks in our case so much as this format is not going to work for my ADHD kid.” ― Ashley Lynn

“My kids started early August. Our struggle was that there was not a consistent schedule each week. My youngest is 5 and starting kindergarten, and her class had a 60- to 90-minute class call every day to start. She never sat through an entire class. The virtual programs that the district use required quiz questions to be read to them by the parent. We struggled so much that I withdrew my kids from the public school last week when they cleared the waiting list at an all-online charter elementary school. Today is our second first day of remote learning.” ― Erin Chappell

Quotes have been edited and condensed for clarity.

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