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How to Prepare for the Virtual School Year 8 ways to make at-home and hybrid learning a success

how to prepare for the virtual school year
Photo: Rohit Farmer / Unsplash

It’s back-to-school time, although for many of our children, that means back to Zoom rather than the classroom. To help you and your kids prepare for the virtual school year, we asked Sarah Brennan, a mother of two and a middle school teacher, to share her best tips and strategies for at-home and hybrid learning. Here’s what she had to say.

Find a work space

Even before Day One, consider a space where your child can efficiently and effectively work, whether for homework, remote learning or both. Just as learning styles vary, work station preferences may, too.


Think about how your kid works and have conversations about what might be best: a desk in their room or elsewhere in the house? The kitchen counter? The dining room table? A combination of these spaces, depending on the subject?

Giving your child some stake in the decision may leave you pleasantly surprised by their buy-in.

Set up your tech

Consider your technology. Do you have a functioning printer available? Even if students are submitting assignments electronically, some kids still benefit from having hard copies to look over or keep for other assignments.

Does your household have scanning capability? If not, know that even phones can scan documents quite quickly and easily with the right app.

With so many schools and districts beginning with remote learning, help your student create digital folders for each subject on their laptop/tablet.

Get organized

Reserve one substantial binder, divided into content areas, for paper copies of items that are sent via scan or photo.

Track those assignments

Another way to set your kids up for success before the year launches is to work with them on creating an assignment tracker. Keep in mind that there is no one-fits-all solution. Some may thrive with Post-It notes, others may keep a to-do list on a pad of paper or dry erase board. And for some, a tablet or laptop app may work best.

Read more: The creative ways kids made money this summer

Stick to the schedule

Encourage your remote learner to follow the school schedule as closely as possible. This will prove most beneficial whenever school is able to resume. In addition, following the order of classes on a given day, even during asynchronous instruction, can help students feel some sense of predictability during these times when so little feels normal.

Chunk time

Students (and teachers!) are simultaneously still new to remote learning and yet burned out on it from the spring.

One way to avoid the doldrums is to help your kids learn to “chunk” their time. A reasonable attention span is estimated as two to five minutes per year of your child’s age. A 10 year old, for example, can concentrate well for 20 minutes. Knowing this, weave multiple breaks into their daily schedule.

Have fun

Why not help put the fun back in education? Family games like Yahtzee, Connect Four, Qwirkle, SkipBo and Sequence can all help to reinforce math skills (Be sure your child is the one keeping score!).

To enrich language skills, try Boggle, crossword puzzles, MadLibs or Bananagrams.

Go shopping

Last but not least, if your budget allows, it never hurts to purchase a few special back-to-school items. Something as simple as new flair pens, crayons or markers can help your kids feel like their new year is off to a fresh start.


Sarah Brennan is a mother of two and a middle school teacher. Look for her Teacher Tips for remote learners and homeschoolers throughout this fall.

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