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The Quintessential Health Blog

Establishing Routine in the Home for Virtual Learning

As we all adjust to the new world of virtual work and school from home, it can be challenging to establish a routine. But, it’s important to keep in mind the many benefits of doing so!

Routines have been shown to help us better manage stress levels, make better decisions, sleep better, and focus on being productive. In helping our children to establish routines, we can teach them valuable skills like instilling good habits, prioritization, goal setting, and efficiency.

Although school from home does not involve standard routine items like bus rides or drop offs, and it does not allow for much distinction between “class work” and “homework,” children (and parents!) still need structure and routine to be as successful and stress free as they can be.

Here are ten tips for creating a routine as families adjust to virtual schooling from home:

1) Schedule a “wake up” time, and stick to it!

Although parents may not need as much time in the morning to get their kids ready to leave the house with backpacks packed in time for their bus rides, there is still value in giving enough time for morning preparation. Choose a “wake up” time for weekdays that will allow children enough time to get dressed, eat breakfast, and get situated in their learning space. This will also allow parents to take on the day without feeling overwhelmed early in the morning!

2)Schedule Mealtimes

Remember that when your kids are in school, they are used to eating lunch at the same time each day in a cafeteria with their friends. Find out when your child has a break for lunch and try to involve as many family members as possible in eating together at the table. Keep the social environment of lunch by using this as an “electronics free” zone, as they would not have access to these devices at lunch time in school.

3)Don’t forget about recess!

Be sure to include a “recess” break before or after lunch to give kids a time to burn off some energy from the day. Remember that kids are not used to sitting for such a long time and getting some exercise will help them to stay focused throughout the day. Include this recess at the same time on weekdays to provide children with a sense of consistency, and a break from screen time.

4)Integrate short brain breaks throughout the day

Taking breaks is just as important to productivity as is working hard. Rather than waiting until your child seems fatigued or restless to take a break, schedule them in advance! A good way to create structure and keep children on task throughout the rest of the day is to include several 10-15 minute breaks throughout the day, in between classes and activities. Make these breaks specific to your childrens’ interests and activity level. For example, if you have a very active child, it may be useful to schedule breaks for running around outside or have a dance break.

5)Write it down to keep everyone on the same page

The best way for the family to stick to a schedule is to make it visible to all, by placing it where everyone can see it. Make it fun by allowing kids to decorate it and star their favorite activities. Give your children a sense of autonomy by asking them what they would like to do during their breaks, which can also give them something to look forward to.

6)Go over tomorrow’s schedule with your children the night before

Keep in mind that your children will be used to a schedule that they can follow when they are in school, and it may be disorienting for them to find each day to be so different, even though it is within the home. Set aside ten minutes in the evening to go through the next day’s schedule with your kids to allow them to feel a sense of control and awareness over what has been scheduled.

7)Allow for flexibility by separating “must do” activities from others

There are going to be days where your schedule does not go as planned and that’s okay, life happens! Avoid stress by labeling activities that are necessary for the day (e.g. classroom sessions and parent meetings) as “must do,” to ensure that they are attended to and give leeway with free time/optional activities.

8)Designate a place for everything important

When your children are in school, you know that the supplies needed for learning and activities will be in the classroom, so it’s not something you have to give much thought to. When they learn from home, it can be hard to keep track of where school supplies are and which are needed for each class. Save time and stress by using storage bins or boxes that are labeled for each subject and place the supplies accordingly. This will allow children to quickly find what they need for each class and will give them a place to return everything so it does not get lost.

9)Check in with kids about how they are feeling, and adjust the schedule accordingly

Learning from home through a computer can be exhausting and stressful, especially for children who are used to seeing their friends each day and learning in an engaging and interactive environment. Kids do not often know how to express how they are feeling, so it can be helpful, especially for younger kids, to use a feelings poster or an emotion thermometer to check in with your children about how they are doing. If you find that your child is feeling particularly fatigued, sad, or overwhelmed. This will provide a great opportunity to make slight changes to your schedule to attend to their mood. For example, if you find that your child is feeling particularly burnt out one day, this may be a good chance to schedule a break from electronics with outdoor time. Scheduling the right breaks based on your child’s mood will allow for better refocusing when mandatory classroom activities arise.

10)As a family, choose a fun weekend activity for everyone to look forward to

Virtual school is stressful for everyone involved, and sticking to a routine will be challenging, especially in the beginning. A frequent problem that makes the virtual work-from-home world so challenging is that the days often feel as though they blend together. Every Sunday night, as a family, think of a fun activity for the following weekend that will help separate the weekdays from the weekend, and give everyone something positive to keep their minds on when the week gets stressful. This can also be used as a motivator for children to stay focused on their schoolwork.

Remember to not expect perfection from yourself or your children when it comes to routine- this is a new world that we are all navigating. Be patient, be flexible, and take things one day at a time.

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