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Your Role as Parent of an Online Learner

Danielle Dahl, Lead Contributor

Many parents take on new roles in their student’s online learning adventures.

One thing that is important to remember is an online learning environment is like a more traditional learning method in many ways.

One of those similarities involves the role of a parent.

You are still a critical component of your child’s learning journey, even though the structure of online learning is a little different.

The internet can replace the parent’s interaction or encouragement.

That support is vital to your child’s success and attitude toward learning.

How do you help your child when involved in an online learning process?

It is simple! You just need to be involved, responsible, and have your support system.

These tips will work whether your child receives online instruction from a public or private school, is homeschooled using online learning resources, or attends a brick-and-mortar learning establishment.

“There is no school equal to a decent home and no teacher equal to a virtuous parent.” — Mahatma Gandhi

A parent’s role in online learning is to be involved

That might sound a little vague; if you asked many parents, they would probably say they are involved.

However, it is helpful to understand clearly what your involvement should look like for your online learner.

First, online learning requires parents to help with new lessons and information.

Think of it as helping your child with their homework.

You aren’t their teacher, but you are the person who helps them make sure they understand what was taught.

You are there to help fill in any gaps.

Sometimes, you might have to explain concepts to them they didn’t fully grasp.

You might also have to speak with their instructors occasionally.

A parent of an online learner is also in charge of arranging field trips and extracurricular activities.

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Let’s say your child is studying the metamorphosis of a caterpillar to a butterfly.

This is fascinating stuff, and if you have a butterfly garden near you, that would be a great way to spend some time together and help your child learn more!

Kids who participate in online learning also need the chance to have fun and connect with their peers.

Kids in school can engage in clubs and sports, and your online learner can too!

Check out your local library, YMCA, and park and recreation website.

My son participates in a free Dungeons and Dragons weekly club at the library.

He gets to interact with kids his age who share similar interests—exactly the point of extracurricular activities.

“Tell me, and I forget. Teach me, and I remember. Involve me, and I learn.” — Xuni

Your role as a parent of an online learner also means you need to be responsible

Part of your role as the parent of an online learner means you must be responsible. Remember, you make the rules.

This includes ensuring their homework and lessons get done.

You also create their at-home learning environment.

This means you ensure they have all the technology they require.

You will also need to make sure that they have reliable internet.

It is important to note there is no perfect school and go with what works best for you and your child.

Another part of being responsible means recognizing that you are the role model.

This means you will have to model good behavior. Does your child see you work hard and persevere?

How do you behave when you have trouble understanding something?

These are behaviors they will need in an online school, so do your best to show them what you expect—don’t just tell them!

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Finally, remember to help them set goals. Create daily lesson plans or milestones.

These goals should be attainable and interesting to your child.

They also need to be realistic.

Give your child a destination (which includes setting expectations), and they will arrive where you want them to go.

Also, ensure they are rewarded with something they enjoy for reaching their goals.

They deserve it just as you would for reaching your own goals.

It could be dinner at their favorite place, extra video game time, or a special treat.

Ask them what they want and help them reach their goals with the proper motivation.

“Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” — James Baldwin

Make sure you have a support system as the parent of an online learner

It is important to remember that we are not alone.

There are Facebook groups for homeschoolers and kids doing remote learning online.

Platforms like Outschool allow you to email teachers and connect with others.

When communicating with teachers online, remember to use basic online communication etiquette.

This means don’t use all caps, try to be clear and concise, and write full sentences.

Reread your emails and make sure the tone is how you intended it.

Other members of your family can also be helpful.

Every month, my sister helps me plan all of my son’s lessons into printable calendars.

She is an enormous help with the organizational side.

Retired grandparents might also be willing to take your child on fun field trips!

If you are homeschooling, there are also various co-ops that you join.

This can be a helpful resource for lessons or extracurricular activities.

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It opens you up to meeting other parents with additional experiences to share with your child.

This helps them not learn in a bubble.

Whatever your situation looks like, remember you are not alone!

Ask for help, and seek resources to aid your child’s learning journey.

“I believe that a parent’s role is to provide a path or opportunity for their children.” — David Soul

Education is the goal regardless of how your child achieves it

People might have an opinion about your decision to use online school or homeschool.

You can’t change that.

However, you can ensure that you give your child the best education they can get.

Know which areas you need help in, and don’t be afraid to find ways to supplement those parts.

You can tailor their education and help them learn new skills while pursuing their interests.

Teach them that learning is a constant process, and help them foster a love of learning new things.

This will be a lifelong gift you can give your little one.

The biggest role you play in online schooling for your child is to be their advocate by being present, responsible, and supported.

Who could ask for more than that?

Your child will feel all that if you get the support you need.

You can’t help them if you are overly stressed or frustrated with yourself.

“Education… is painful, continual and difficult work to be done in kindness, by watching, by warning, by praise, but above all — by example.” — John Ruskin.

Do you have some other tips on how to help your online learner?

You can leave them for us in the comment section below.

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