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Parents Speak Out About Online Learning

Parents Speak Out About Online Learning

We just heard a podcast episode that we thought you might want to check out! In the latest episode of Opportunity Thrives, a podcast committed to better supporting the needs of today’s secondary students, parents share how remote learning has impacted their lives and the lives of their students.

With the pandemic creating such uncertainty about how the fall will look, we know many of you are carefully evaluating your options. We thought this episode could provide first-hand perspective on what other parents are thinking and how they are feeling about the upcoming school year.

Meet the families

Amy De La Hunt has 14- and 17-year-old boys who attend Lindbergh High School, a large school in suburban St. Louis, Missouri. The sudden jump to distance learning in the spring meant that most families in her district had to fend for themselves the final quarter of the year.

The district has promised a more defined online model this fall with two options: one fully virtual and the other with a goal of returning to in-person classes when the number of COVID-19 cases are manageably low.

Steve Savad is no stranger to Apex Learning Virtual School. His son Justin recently graduated from the ALVS full-time virtual school in June. Although Justin grew up in New York City, he attended multiple boarding schools, a wilderness camp in Maine, a unique equestrian school in Utah, and he even participated in an archaeological dig at the University of Tel Aviv, before he eventually transferred to ALVS his senior year.

Justin experienced a variety of ups and downs and some personal struggles as a high school student. But despite all of those challenges, he was able to stay focused and graduate on time last spring.

Challenges with remote learning

Steve shares some of the challenges his son faced when attending a virtual school, but also has recommendations for others. For example, one of the challenges he shared was getting Justin into a regular cadence with his school work. This required establishing a scheduled time for schoolwork every day and staying disciplined about it. He emphasized the importance of dedicating a specific time so that the learning becomes routine.

Amy and Steve both shared that personalized curriculum makes a big difference in how students are able to connect with their teachers and engage in their learning. Steve enjoyed the personalized videos teachers sent through ALVS at the start of a course, introducing themselves and encouraging students to do the same.

Amy’s 14-year-old was required to use 11 different software tools throughout the course of his day. She said he had no problem adjusting to the learning management systems, but simplifying this could make things much easier on students (and especially their parents!).

Amy shared that although her sons experienced many disappointments and missed events due to COVID-19, she was impressed with and proud of their resiliency, which is an excellent lifelong skill.

Understand your student’s needs

It’s important to understand your student and if they need more guidance. Every student is unique. Some are very independent and are able to self-manage. These students are disciplined and have a sense of responsibility and will get things done on their own without much prodding.

Others require more structure and the support from a parent. That doesn’t mean you have to sit down and do the work with them, but it can mean minimizing their distractions and helping them develop a schedule. Encouraging the diverse, individual needs of each student can make a big difference in their success.

Sparking curiosity and intrinsic motivation

Amy shared her belief that all children have the intrinsic motivation to learn, but sometimes the adults around them funnel them into a tightly controlled outlet. That can stifle curiosity and a student’s natural interests.

Amy also encourages more parents explore the science of adolescent brain development and what students can do cognitively in their teen years. She feels that teenagers often get an underserved bad reputation. But because the period is so long, and brains are not fully developed until age 25, thinking about where students are in this magical progression, and how to best support them, is important.

The new norm

By virtue of the pandemic, both Amy and Steve agree that online learning certainly has become the new norm and they don’t anticipate that will change any time soon. With the right adult supervision and prompts, Steve’s son Justin was even more productive than he would have been in the traditional classroom setting.

And Amy hopes that parents are able to adjust to and embrace online learning and the potential it holds to help all students thrive.

Listen to the full podcast episode:

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