Online -Distance School: Tips and Ideas


Routine and structure are good

Maximize continuous overnight sleep and avoid napping

Engage in non-school cognitive activities in addition to school-based ones



· Have students wake up at a time that is close to their normal school time, certainly no later than 9am.

· Many kids usually have small or no breakfasts (especially teens who get up really early and may skip breakfast). Try to have a better-than-is typical breakfast because you have no commute to school.

· Before engaging in school, follow the typical morning routine: Shower if that is their habit, personal hygiene (brushing teeth, combing hair, washing face and hands).

· PRO TIP: change out of sleeping clothes into ‘school clothes’ to indicate that they are entering a different part of their day. (Some private schools are requiring students who are participating via video to have their uniforms on for this reason.)

School Time:

· Have a well-lit supervised spot for students to work. This may need some figuring out if you have several children who need their own work spaces.

· Have the student have all their school supplies at the ready (backpack, device, pencils/pens, books, worksheets) in one place.

· There should be no headphones (unless on an interactive video class as some schools are doing) or other distraction (no TV, streaming video, music).

· If they are working via a computer or iPad to connect to school, their phone should be elsewhere to avoid distractions of texts and social media.

· Students should NOT work in their bedroom if at all possible, or lying down. Posture matters! Sitting in a chair at a table facilitates learning and keeps students from falling asleep.

· Since much of the work will be on their own pace and time, help the student set firm times for work and for breaks.

· Many of the assignments will be untimed and do not have the boundaries of a class period (or of a teacher monitoring how students are faring), so helping students set timers/limits to pace their work can help them feel that the day has structure.

· School time should be as defined as possible (e.g., 8am-3pm). Breaks during the school day should be as they are in school: outside play (recess), indoor movement if weather is bad, bathroom, and snacks (including a formal defined time for lunch, same time every day). Breaks should NOT include: videogames or TV or streaming or YouTube.

· Many schools are insisting that their students have at least one hour of physical activity per day. If your student does not have any required physical activity, do something after school work is done: take a walk, walk the dog, run a mile, jump on a trampoline, shoot some hoops, whatever gets their heartrate up and they sweat a little bit. (Maybe they can’t access their screen time until physical activity is done?)

· At the end of the school day, put school stuff away and prepare any materials/assignments they might need for the next day.

When school is done/Evening time:

· Try to have dinner together as a family! With the lack of evening activities, sports, and meetings, it is a time to be together.

· Consider non-electronic activities as well, board or card games, family walks, video conversations with friends and family who are far away but in similar circumstances.

· Read! Students should be reading materials outside of their school-required material

· Limit videogames – set a firm and enforced limit of time on screens, while realizing that for some students this is a primary means of socializing, especially while isolated from others.

· Set firm bedtimes that are not much later than their typical school-night bedtime (though considering that they may be sleeping a little later in the morning, some children will stay up a bit later).

· Discuss reasonable expectations for social media use, since this is how so many kids keep in touch including whether some brief checks of social media are appropriate during the school day.

Things to watch for:

· Students who become isolated and spend all of their time in their room and may become depressed due to lack of social contact

· Unexpressed worries about the state of things and specific worries about getting sick, grandparents’ health, parent health. Many younger children in particular are worried about their parents because their concept of “old” includes even their well-below-retirement age parents.

· Difficulties managing the lack of structure of the school day. Many students are simply accustomed to following the course of the day and the inherent structure it provides and will unexpectedly struggle with the lack of structure of online education. They may need some extra time in the afternoon/evening to make sure that they have done everything for that day and that they have looked ahead to the next day (e.g., are there times you NEED to be online?; are all assignments done and handed in?). Some high schoolers might be convinced that this is a good time to learn how to self-structure their lives for when they are in college.

· Eating habits: pay attention to changes in the student’s eating (too much or too little as compared to their typical patterns) as indicators of distress. Firm mealtimes and limiting snacks and “grazing” can also keep them healthy.

· Overexposure or age-inappropriate exposure to news. Make sure that your student is not getting too much information that overwhelms them with concerns about things they cannot control. This is particularly important for younger children who may not understand some of the nuances of the information presented in the media and may think in rigid terms about that information.

(c) 2020 Rolando J. Díaz, Ph.D.