How to Help Your Child with Screen Anxiety in Distance Learning

I’m writing this morning on a topic that many of us are facing as we work to transition our children and teens into virtual learning environments during the pandemic. Screen anxiety shows up in children and teens when they resist, avoid, or shut down in the face of demands to participate in asynchronous and especially synchronous instruction during distance learning.

As a family therapist in Washington, D.C. and nearby Bethesda, MD, I have been treating many families with children who crashed and burned when virtual learning was introduced last spring. As a mom, I experienced it first hand at home. We all might have experienced the introduction of distance learning in different ways–some of us had no exposure in the first month of COVID and then were expected to get our kids online for video classes and live calls; others may have had live classes from the start after a week or two of spring break; and others of us might have been offered a hybrid of live classes, video instruction, packet learning, online learning tools, and interactive group projects to complete through the computer or independently. Yet, all of our children were quickly isolated at home, removed from their regular learning environments, distanced from their friends, deprived of social motivation and in-person connected learning from teachers and classmates, and traveling on a somewhat chaotic, uncertain path of learning.

Many children did fairly well with less than ideal learning circumstances. Most children/teens struggled a bit, and some suffered mightily especially school-aged kids. Despite the hard work of dedicated teachers and loving, committed parents, the problems that occurred were vast. I’ve heard countless stories.

My child refused after day #1! ~My son wouldn’t do anything other than online learning games.~ My child cried and screamed whenever asked to be on camera.~My child would always stay on mute.~My daughter learned nothing. ~My kid needed 100% one-on-one support throughout the entire school day, and therefore I couldn’t work at all.

And now, here we are in September and we are being asked to continue virtual schooling indefinitely. Kids are discouraged, parents are tired and teachers are trying. Yet, I think we have all learned some things from last spring. I know that I’ve spent the summer working on the systems that I will use to help my family with distance learning and coping in the midst of COVID. My colleague and friend, Ann Dolin, who is the Executive Director and Founder of Educational Connections, worked tirelessly over the summer to develop specialized tutoring and support programs to help families manage during this crisis (https://ectutoring.com).

And, as a family therapy practice treating hundreds of families weekly, our team has gathered some tips and suggestions from our lessons learned from COVID distance learning last year.

  1. This is not a one size fits all method. Please realize that distance learning in this manner and for lengthy periods of time especially for school-aged children is not developmentally appropriate. Under normal circumstances, teaching professionals would not support this model. Teachers are working hard to offer the best version of learning through online experiences, yet it will have some problems.
  2. Be kind and flexible with your child and yourself. Every child and family is different. There are no absolutes in what will or what won’t work. Commit to a schedule and plan, and be willing to flex it regularly.
  3. Communicate with your teacher about what your specific goals and plans are for your child. Send your child’s teacher an email with the following information–how distance learning went for your child last year, and what your goals are for your child with distance learning this year (i.e stay on camera, participate in live classes more and more, raise their hand on the camera, listen off-screen and on the mic until more comfortable, etc.)
  4. Create a good learning space. Have a separate desk for your child. Ideally, set up their own laptop, headphones with a good mic, and a wireless mouse. Work on a cleared desk. Use a whiteboard for the daily schedule. Have a separate folder with printouts. Have a box or drawer of good fidgets.
  5. Prepare for siblings learning together. Consider having break-out learning spaces for other siblings so they can work together and apart when needed. Use headsets for kids to minimize distractions. Separate desks at least arm lengths apart if you can. Designate a parent/person for certain blocks of the school day, or hire a childcare provider to help facilitate distance learning while you work.
  6. Buy back to school supplies to get prepared/excited. Help your kids get excited by buying some school supplies and setting up their work space. Everyone loves new notebooks and pens! Get something fun like erasable highlighters or a new wireless mouse, fun gel pens, and composition notebooks with cool designs.
  7. Try to start the same way daily. For the first couple of weeks, try to develop a routine. Have the same point-person start the day if you can. Try to have a routine and a fun outing daily to do during lunch break/recess (i.e. walk the dog, run a fun errand, etc).
  8. Follow the learning schedule flexibly. Write out the schedule daily on a dry erase board. Cross off each class and task when your child completes it. If your child is overwhelmed by how long the day looks, break down the schedule into morning and afternoon and only write out half the day at first. Let your child take body breaks when needed.
  9. Start with realistic and customized goals for your child. If s/he is scared of being on-screen with his or her mic on, s/he can participate off-screen and off-mic at first. Just be sure to tell his/her teacher that is your plan and that you are working with your child to increase their comfort. Then gradually add a feature–turn on the mic, or turn on the screen during fun activities, help your child respond in chat, or raise their hand virtually, etc.
  10. Ask your teacher not to call out or on your child at first if you are worried that they will become too anxious or meltdown. Advocate for your child’s feelings while still expecting them to grow in becoming more comfortable on screen. Expose them to other less threatening virtual interactions (i.e. zoom calls grandparents regularly, interactive apps or facetime with friends, etc).
  11. Create a ladder. Write out with your child their fears or resistance about being in a virtual class. 10 is the scariest and 0 is all ok. Help them think about instances that might make them anxious and write them down and rate them (i.e. Being called on in class. Having my teacher ask me to respond on mic. Getting the answer wrong in the chat. Having everyone see my face on the screen. Having to look at everyone’s faces all at once on-screen.) Try to build a list of coping strategies for each level of concern.
  12. Be willing to accommodate and adjust your child’s learning experience. If your child is fearful or averse to looking at everyone fully in the face on-screen, you can have him/her sit to the side and just listen to class at first, doodle, or play with a fidget rather than focus on the screen images. You also can have them minimize the zoom window so they don’t see everyone, or they can hide their image.
  13. Expose them gradually, kindly, and steadily to new screen skills. Start at the bottom of their ladder and pick a strategy that they can use that day that helps them get more and more comfortable with working on-screen. Pair that new skill with a relaxing activity or coping skill. For instance, they might take a screen break or “shake it off” after showing up on-screen for 5-10timed minutes. Or they could play with thinking putty while they are off-screen but on-mic and answering questions. We are working towards progress, not perfection!
  14. Recognize that they are learning a multitude of skills at once which could cause information and emotional overload. Most school-aged kids don’t have typing skills. Some may not have any computer skills. So trying to learn math, while using OneNote, and typing their answers while also talking and listening and watching on-screen may just be too much, right!?! Have paper and pencils ready to replace OneNote if needed and type their answers for them. Consider practicing a typing program as it makes sense.
  15. Emphasize, empathize, empathize–And Still Return Certain Standards. When your child complains, share in those feelings…”This IS awful!” Match their emotion and intensity and then return to a calm voice if you can. Don’t forget to return to certain goals and standards (even if just silently to yourself in that moment) and consistently ask them to participate. If we give up, we teach our kids that they can’t do hard things and that we can’t help them overcome difficult tasks. Don’t pressure, yet do be kind and firm.

Look: what we are doing as parents is really really challenging—working, teaching, coping with chronic stress, and uncertainty. It actually can feel impossible and insurmountable in the moment. Yet, we can do hard things for the sake of our kids. We just have to keep them in mind as we flex and work. Don’t forget to start by acknowledging and appreciating yourself each morning. You make your home run, and get to bring joy or angst into the day. Try to acknowledge the worry that you wake up with, honor it, and then calm yourself for a minute. Then, if you can, try to consciously choose how you want to feel with your child that day. Try to imagine the relationship that you want to create (even when it isn’t playing out that way at that exact moment) when faced with too much adversity in your school day. If your child is resisting or avoiding, take a minute to reconnect with them through a 5-minute break that is light and easy and then start again. And, if you find you need additional help, give yourself that help.

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How to Ask a Teacher for Help When You’re Virtual

Last spring, the shift to a virtual learning environment represented a sudden, emergency shift for schools, students, and parents alike. Everyone was adjusting in numerous ways.

Looking towards the start of the new school year, Educational Connections is dedicated to helping make this transition as smooth and effective as possible. Parents have a LOT of questions.

One common concern we have heard a lot is that kids are finding it much harder to reach out to their teachers for help when they are behind a computer across town, instead of behind a desk in the same room. What are some ways or tactics kids can use to get extra help, clarification on assignment, or speak up when they’re struggling? What can parents do to help?

In the physical classroom, kids can give subtle physical signals for help, hang out after class, or go find a teacher at lunch. In the virtual environment, it’s not that easy. 

Here are some ways to ask for help within the virtual learning environment:

  • Be sure to speak up when the teacher asks, “Are there any questions?”
  • Use the “raise hand” feature within the online learning platform during class
  • Put questions in the chat, using the “send privately” option if that feels more comfortable
  • Email the teacher directly after class while the question is fresh in your mind
  • Ask questions on the teacher assignment page
  • Schedule time virtually with teacher one to one during the teacher planning time
  • Ask for a recording of the class or/or a copy of the teacher’s notes

If the child is very reserved, nervous or shy, you can help them write an email saying something like, “I’m having trouble understanding how to do [are of difficulty or confusion]. Can you please help me with this?” The approach works well because the student is likely to get a positive response. And when they do, they’re more likely to ask for assistance again.

Alternatively, if the student is young or especially timid, you can send an email saying, “I’ve noticed that my child needs help, but is very nervous about asking a question in front of the other kids. Do you have any suggestions?” This allows you to be helpful without taking over or being confrontational in any way. 

Most importantly, please know that teachers want and expect kids to ask for help. We do as well. Please click on the button below to talk about your specific concerns, and schedule your free consultation with one of our learning experts.

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How to Create the Ideal Virtual Learning Space

Student desks are the new toilet paper! Here’s why they’re running out—and what we recommend for your family this fall.

Today, I want to share three practical tips for creating an ideal virtual learning space in your home. This will set your entire family up for success as you navigate the semester ahead. (By the way, if you find this email helpful, don’t miss our upcoming free parent webinar with more virtual learning tips! You’ll find all the info at the bottom of this email.)

If you’re like many of the families we serve, the sudden switch to virtual learning in the spring didn’t go so well. As a result, you might be feeling nervous about this upcoming school year. But we’re here with some good news how to Create the Ideal Virtual Learning Space: If virtual learning was a struggle for your child in the spring, that doesn’t mean it has to be a struggle again this fall!

Tip #1: Create a Dedicated Work Space

If your child was easily distracted in the spring, consider setting up a space that’s dedicated to just virtual learning—no video games or other activities! Having a dedicated work space helps their brain differentiate between work and play. 

I recently spoke to a mom of four. Without dedicated work spaces, she found it really difficult to keep her kids organized and on task with virtual learning. Now, she’s setting up a space in her basement for school where each child will have their own desk. This will help her kids make the mental switch to “work mode” when they sit down at their desks.

As I’m recommending that you get your child a desk if possible, I should mention something: Desks have become the new toilet paper! With so many parents preparing for at-home learning this year, many stores are running out. I believe Overstock and Wayfair still have a good selection, so you can check there if you need one.

If getting each child their own desk isn’t feasible, consider using a card table or old folding table. If all else fails, you can absolutely use the dining room table. In that case, we recommend purchasing or making study carrel dividers to turn that table into a dedicated work space when it’s time for study mode.

Tip #2: Get Quiet (But Not Too Quiet!) and Organized

As much as possible, ensure your child’s learning space has reduced distractions (not in sight of a TV or video games) but isn’t too quiet. For most students, the isolation of their bedroom is inherently distracting. One parent told me she went to check on her child and he was sleeping in the middle of a teacher-directed lesson! This isn’t all that uncommon, because working alone in a silent bedroom room for six hours simply isn’t doable for children.

To get organized and make the “back to school” transition feel a bit more fun, let your child set up their learning space with school supplies and any decorations they’d like. This can help them feel more excited and prepared.

If you find their space is getting too cluttered, use their backpack to store books, folders, binders, and other supplies. Using a backpack reinforces the idea that kids are back “in school” while also keeping their dedicated work space clear and organized.

Tip #3: Equip Your Child for Success

In addition to a desk or other dedicated work space, there are three tools we recommend to set your child up for success in virtual learning:

  • Password Card – Many students struggle to remember their passwords, especially when they’re using multiple devices and accounts. Keep an index card handy with all of your child’s logins, and they’ll be more prepared to work without your help.
  • Headphones – If you have more than one child—or need to do some work of your own—consider getting your child some comfortable headphones. This will ensure their online lessons aren’t distracting to others (and cut out any noise that could be distracting to them).
  • Chair – Ensure your child has a comfortable place to sit and work. If your child is fidgety, consider one of these options that allow your child to discreetly bounce and wiggle while they learn.

Bonus Tip: Get Help If You Need It!

If you’re nervous about this school year and don’t want to be the “School Police,” remember that you don’t have to do this alone. We have expert tutors available for virtual or in-home tutoring. Click below to schedule a free consultation to learn which solution might be best for your family. We’re here for you!

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Supporting Your Middle Schooler During Covid-19

If you’re the parent of a middle schooler, preparing for another non-conventional school year can feel intimidating. After working with hundreds of middle schoolers and their families, I get that and I want to help. Read on to discover three priorities to keep in mind as you support your middle schooler in the year ahead. 

School closures in the spring weren’t easy on anyone. After talking with hundreds of families in recent months, I’m hearing that middle schoolers were hit particularly hard. Middle school is never easy. The typical stress is even more intensified with the loss of peer interaction, in-person teacher support, and hands-on classroom time that they’ve experienced during this pandemic. 

Make Decisions That Work for Your Family

A few weeks ago, local school districts announced that parents would need to choose between two days of in-person learning or four days of virtual learning this fall. If you’re a middle school parent grappling with this decision, I want to reassure you that there’s no one decision that’s right for everyone. Each option has pros and cons.

For example, four days of virtual schooling might provide a more consistent routine and academic experience, but children will miss out on beneficial social interactions. On the other hand, two days of in-person school will provide that social interaction, but you may find your child needs extra academic support while learning from home the other three days of the week. Neither choice is all-good or all-bad, so simply choose whichever is best for your family’s needs. Then, do what you can to “make up” for what’s lacking—perhaps by keeping the next two suggestions in mind.

Prioritize English and Math

As you monitor your child’s progress over the next year, pay special attention to Math and English. The skills learned in those middle school classes are foundational for the rest of their academic careers. In English, they’re honing their reading comprehension skills, which prepares them for the analytical and critical thinking that Advanced Placement subjects in high school will require. Similarly, in pre-Algebra and Algebra, they’re learning skills they’ll need in every math class still to come. 

Unfortunately, research suggests that school closures caused by COVID-19 could lead to serious academic setbacks. As reported in The Hechinger Report, one study suggested that “sixth and seventh graders would retain an average of only 1 to 10 percent of their normal learning gains in math for the year, and just 15 to 29 percent in reading.” Such losses could set these students back not only for the 2020-21 school year, but well into high school.

If your child needs additional help to catch up or keep up in these subjects, don’t wait for a normal school schedule to resume. Instead, seek out a tutor or use online resources to supplement your child’s learning. When your child enrolls in more advanced classes in the coming years, you’ll be glad you took the time to give them a solid foundation!

Make Room for Social Development

We can’t underestimate how critical the middle school years are for children’s social development. That’s why this age group seemed to struggle more than any other with the sudden loss of in-person relationships in the spring. Spending time with peers and mentors isn’t just a way to stave off boredom. It plays a crucial role in their mental and emotional health at this stage. 

Just take a look at what reporter Steven Yoder from The Hechinger Report found in speaking with adolescence specialists:

When puberty hits, the brain reorganizes dramatically, said Laurence Steinberg, a professor of psychology at Temple University, who specializes in adolescence. The neural pathways dealing with learning about social connections become more active, helping adolescents become attuned to what other people are thinking and feeling and how best to relate to them.

It’s at this age that, through interactions with peers and adults, young people acquire the ability to read facial expressions and interpret nonverbal communication, Steinberg said.

Kenneth Ginsburg, a pediatrician who specializes in adolescent medicine at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told Yoder that isolation “flies in the face of what their brains are telling them they need.”

This fall, remember that middle schoolers don’t just want social interaction. They need it. Look for opportunities to provide that however you can. Maybe you opt for two days a week of in-person school. Maybe you set up Zoom calls between your child and their peers. Maybe you arrange socially-distanced hangouts for your child with one or two friends in your backyard. How you do it is up to you, but ensure your child has opportunities to safely but consistently develop their social skills over the next year.

In the months ahead, I expect most middle school parents will face an overwhelming number of opinions, decisions, and concerns. Instead of getting bogged down in it all, try to remember these three priorities: Make decisions that work for your family. Prioritize English and Math. And make room for your child’s social development. Do that, and you’ll set your child up for success in middle school, high school, and beyond—no matter what the future may hold.

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What does it take to be a tutor at Educational Connections? 🧠

Have you ever wondered what it takes to be a tutor at Educational Connections? Do we hire high school students? College students? Teachers? Who exactly will be supporting your child in their academic journey?

It’s a great question, and we hope today’s email clears it up. Read on to discover what we expect from our tutors—and how we sift through our extremely skilled team to match each student with the best possible tutor for them. Then, click below to find the best tutor for your child!

Distance Learning Programs

What We Require of Our Tutors

Our standards for our tutors are extremely high. When you get a tutor from Educational Connections, you can expect your child to work with someone who is:

  • Highly Trained – 87% of our tutors have a master’s degree or higher. We require at least a bachelor’s degree and proven experience in the classroom.
  • Continually Learning – We require and provide ongoing professional development and tutor training to keep our tutors up-to-date on the best strategies for supporting your child in private, one-on-one sessions.
  • Creative and Engaging – Our tutors use games, online activities, and more to make every tutoring session fun and engaging. Parents regularly tell us their kids always look forward to their next session with our tutors!

How We Find the Best Tutor for Your Child

While any one of our tutors could likely provide a great experience for your child, we take the time to match each student with the best possible tutor for them. After talking with you to learn more about your child’s needs, we use a proprietary software to match your family to the best fit based on four important criteria:

  • Skillset and Background – The tutor must be skilled, trained, and experienced in the specific area where your child needs help.
  • Personality – The tutor’s personality and techniques must match what you’ve told us about your child’s favorite teachers.
  • Location – The tutor must be able to provide convenient, in-home tutoring if necessary. (For the time being, our services are virtual, but we still consider location to ensure your child can continue working with their tutor when in-home tutoring can safely resume.)
  • Schedule – The tutor must be able to meet with your child at a time that fits your family’s schedule. We offer tutoring seven days a week with flexible times to meet your needs.

We’re proud of our high standards and unique process because we’ve seen how well this works. In the past 21 years, the families of over 10,000 DC students have trusted us to support their child’s academic journey!

Whether your child needs help with summer learning, subject struggles, test prep, or executive function skills, our professional tutors help them reach their full potential so they can enjoy a future full of opportunities.

Click below to schedule a consultation and learn more. We can’t wait to help you find the best possible tutor for your child!

Distance Learning Programs

Our Tutors Told Me Their Best Tips and Tricks 🤫

Over the weekend, I met with a team of our expert tutors (virtually, of course) to learn more about how online tutoring is going and how students are responding to virtual learning. After what has felt like weeks of difficult news, I was so encouraged to hear they’ve found many creative ways to effectively engage kids during this time!

I asked them to share their best tips and tricks with me so I could pass a few on to you today. Try these strategies out in your own home or contact us so we can do it for you! We’ll get you matched with a tutor who can meet with your child virtually and lead them through the perfect activities for their age level, personality, and academic needs. Click here to schedule a consult to discuss how we can match your family with a tutor.

Use a Conversation “Cheat Sheet” to Dig Deeper

Tutor Sonia told me she got tired of asking students how school was going just to hear, “Oh, it’s fine. It’s going well.” So she created a conversation “cheat sheet” to help her dig deeper. Here’s what it looks like:

By working through each subject one at a time and asking specific questions, Sonia found kids were more likely to open up. This helped her figure out where they were truly confident or struggling so that she could adjust her tutoring sessions accordingly. If you’re struggling to gauge how your own child is really doing right now, try using this chart to ask strategic questions about their online schooling.

Make Learning Fun

In talking to my tutors, I was thrilled to hear that some students are thriving and even doing better with online schooling than they did in the traditional classroom. Others are dragging their feet a bit, but even those students are getting engaged when our tutors get creative and make learning fun! 

For example, one tutor discovered that a student who was struggling with fractions really loved to cook. She decided to make him some cooking lessons—but instead of asking him to simply follow the recipe, she also had him convert all the fractions into quarters. He was able to practice multiplying, dividing, and doing mental math with fractions. He loved it!

Another tutor traded out traditional math problems for a packet of math-driven puzzles, jokes, and riddles. Others have found fun activities on sites like Happy Numbers, IXL, or XtraMath.com. If your child is reluctant to do optional work assigned by their teachers, try finding a creative way to practice the same skills—or contact us to get matched with a tutor who can do that for you!

Form a Virtual Book Club

Unless your child has always loved to read, it can be extremely hard to convince them to put down their device of choice and pick up a book right now. Some kids find reading boring, difficult, or isolating and would rather be online, connecting with friends. One of our tutors found a way to incorporate reading and social connection with a virtual book club. She’s finding readers of all levels love this opportunity to connect with peers.

If your child isn’t interested in reading, consider forming a virtual book club with their friends or classmates. Suggest a few books, and let them pick one that interests them the most. Knowing they’ll get to discuss the story with others can be just the motivation they need to crack open a book. Plus, they’ll practice important skills like critical thinking and information retrieval in their virtual book club meeting.

I’m so proud of the many ways our tutors are keeping students engaged and on-track during distance learning. These tutors take the time to get to know each student personally and plan sessions and activities just for them. Not only do kids enjoy the sessions, but parents love seeing their children thrive in online schooling—especially without their help!

If you’d like to learn more about pairing your child with one of our expert tutors, just click below to schedule a free consult. You can also call us at (703) 934-8282 or hit reply to this email. We’re here to help!

P.S. We’ll be rolling out information about online group classes, including live virtual book clubs, later this week. Stay tuned!

Creating a Schedule Is Easier Said Than Done (But These 3 Tips Can Help) ⏰

Today, I want to share some helpful tips for creating a schedule that works for your household—but before I do, I need to take a quick moment to draw something important to your attention. 

As you may have heard, the College Board canceled the June SAT test. Whether or not this affects their testing plan, we highly recommend all sophomores and juniors use this time to move forward with test prep so they can achieve their best possible score later. 

To help, we’re offering a VIRTUAL mock SAT this Saturday. Students can take the mock SAT at home, under timed conditions, and with a proctor present (via Zoom). They’ll gain familiarity with the types of questions and pacing, so they can be ready for test day later this summer or fall. We’re also offering virtual, one-on-one sessions with test prep tutors to help students stay on track and prepare for the SAT. If your child is a sophomore or junior, please click below to learn more about those services.

Now--on to today's helpful hints! One of the most common tips we’ve seen for people navigating quarantine life and virtual schooling is to “create a schedule.” A schedule can help you maintain a sense of control, normalcy, and predictability when your family needs it most. 

But creating a schedule—especially right now—is easier said than done. There’s no “one-size-fits-all” solution, and it takes time to find what works best for your family. If your attempts to create a schedule keep falling flat, try the following tips to find a rhythm that suits your family’s needs. 

Pick a Schedule That Fits Your Personality—And Your Child’s

When it comes to time management, people typically fall into one of two categories: the quiet clock or the loud clock.

“Loud clocks” seem to have a knack for time management. They’re generally aware of what time it is throughout the day, how long projects will take, or how much time is left before an upcoming deadline. Loud clocks thrive on clearcut schedules and feel best when their day is blocked out and planned ahead of time.

“Quiet clocks” don’t have that same awareness of time. This doesn’t mean they’re lazy, unproductive, or unskilled; they simply don’t have a strong internal clock that keeps track of passing time. They may find it harder to follow a strict schedule and prefer looser routines that don’t come with hard and fast boundaries.

When you’re trying to figure out a schedule that works for your family, take your personality—and your child’s—into account. If you’re a “loud clock” parenting a “quiet clock,” you may find yourself frustrated as you try to force your child to follow a strict schedule. Consider shifting from scheduled time blocks to more general rhythms and routines.

If you’re a “quiet clock” parenting a “loud clock,” you may find your child is floundering a bit without clear expectations for their day. Consider whether a more structured schedule would make him or her feel more comfortable.

Encourage Older Children to Take Ownership

While young kids may thrive on being told how the day will go and what’s expected from them, this level of oversight won’t always go over well with older kids. 

Instead of forcing your high schooler into a specific schedule, I recommend asking intentional questions that encourage them to take ownership of their responsibilities and day. You can ask questions like:

  • Tell me what you’ve got going on today. What do you hope to get accomplished?
  • What are your priorities during quarantine? How can you work on those today?
  • On a scale of 1-10, how motivated do you feel right now? Why do you think you feel that way? 
  • Which subjects do you need to tackle today? Which one would you like to do first?
  • What do you like about our routines and rhythms so far in this quarantine? Is there anything you think we could do better?

These conversation starters encourage independence and responsibility while also cutting back on the tension that arises from disagreements over the minute details of your day-to-day schedule.

Adjust Expectations and Get Help If You Need It

In a normal school day, there is a lot of “filler” that happens throughout the day—from socializing to changing classes to eating lunch. No one can work for eight straight hours, and you may be surprised to know many homeschooling families only devote a few hours a day to actual instruction. And that’s okay! 

Instead of expecting your middle schooler to stay in their room all day and do their work, ask them to focus on schoolwork for just 25 minutes at a time, a few times a day. This is more realistic and still offers sufficient study time to stay on track academically.

On the other hand, if your child has little or no assigned work, they may need your help finding some activities to keep them engaged. In my free ebook on homeschooling during this crisis, I share a handful of great online resources you can check out to fill your child’s days in a productive way. You can click here to download that.

If you need some extra help, we also offer virtual homeschooling sessions. You can be completely hands-off and leave the homeschooling to a professional tutor—whether your child has a long list of daily assignments, optional work, or nothing at all! We have flexible options, ranging from daily sessions to as-needed support, all conducted virtually to keep your family safe. Just click below to learn more and match your child with their ideal learning coach. 

3 Tricks to Keep Kids from Interrupting While You Work from Home 🤫

You wake up, pour a cup of coffee, and set your kids up with schoolwork at the kitchen table. As they focus quietly on their work, you retreat to the solitude of your home office to tackle your work to-do list. Ahh, another day of working from home as a family… right?

Oh, if only. It’s only a matter of minutes before kids will yell for your help from the other room, burst in on a big conference call, quickly abandon their schoolwork for Fortnite, and so on. But your job has real demands, and you can’t skirt those responsibilities until school reopens in the fall. What’s a working parent to do?

Today, I want to share three tricks that can help you communicate to your kids that you can’t be interrupted (without all the tension and yelling) so that you can finally get some work done in this very strange season.

#1: Use the Red Light System

When we’re setting boundaries with kids, verbal cues are never as effective as visual ones. If you simply tell your child you’re going to be on a conference call for the next half hour, you can pretty much count on them interrupting you before the time is up. That’s why I recommend visual reminders of boundaries with the red light system instead.

To make this work, you’ll need a red, yellow, and green item. You can use cups set on the kitchen counter, markers set on the corner of your desk, or sticky notes or pieces of colored paper stuck to your home office door. Explain to your child that each color represents certain expectations:

  • Red - You absolutely cannot be interrupted unless it’s a true emergency. 

  • Yellow - You’re working on something important. If their question or complaint can wait, then please wait, but you’re available if they need you. 

  • Green -  You’re available, don’t mind being interrupted, and can pivot from your work as needed.

These visual cues are much more effective than verbal reminders and make it easier for kids to understand what you’re expecting from them throughout the day. Just remember to keep your expectations realistic—your children are more likely to respect the red light when they know you will change it to yellow or green soon enough.

#2: Use Block Scheduling

If you have a high schooler, you may already be aware of how block scheduling works: Chunks of time are scheduled out and dedicated to particular classes. But did you know you and your partner can use this system in your home as well? 

If you’re fortunate enough to have two adults at home right now, you can use block scheduling to decide who will be the go-to person throughout the day. For example, a mom might tell her kids, “Ok, if you have any questions from 9:00-11:00, you come to me. Then, we’ll eat lunch. If you have any questions from 12:00-2:00, go to your dad.”

By blocking out hours and designating one person as the go-to parent at a time, you can count on working certain stretches with few to no interruptions—which also makes it easier to patiently deal with interruptions when it’s your turn to be the parent on duty!

#3: Prep What You Can the Night Before

During a normal, busy school year, many families cut down on the morning rush by prepping the night before. However, with everyone stuck at home all day and nowhere to go, you may have let go of this habit in recent weeks. Now is the time to bring it back! 

If you’re like most people, you’re at your best and most ready to focus in the morning. But if you’re not careful, the morning can quickly get away from you as you tackle “quick” chores, fix breakfast for the family, and so on. Try protecting those precious hours for work by doing what you can the night before.

Instead of leaving dishes for the morning, knock them out before bed so you can wake up to a clean(-ish) house and focus on work. You can even set out supplies for breakfast and encourage kids to fix their own while you focus. By prioritizing your work in the morning, you’ll increase your productivity during that time and reduce your stress for the rest of the day—win, win!

Bonus Tip: Outsource the Homeschooling!

These systems can go a long way towards minimizing interruptions while you’re working from home, but if you’re still feeling overwhelmed by your children’s homeschooling needs, it may be time to get some support. Did you know you can outsource your homeschooling to a professional tutor? 

We are now offering online homeschooling sessions to make your life a little bit easier. Whether your child has school-issued assignments, optional and ungraded work, or nothing at all, our tutors can meet with your child virtually to keep them focused and on track. We have flexible options, ranging from daily sessions to as-needed support, all conducted virtually to keep your family safe. Just click below to learn more and match your child with their ideal learning coach.

5 Reasons to be Really Proud of Yourself Right Now

There’s no doubt these are trying times. Each day, parents call our office looking for help with an array of homeschooling challenges. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, please hear this: Not one single parent I’ve spoken with claims to have it all figured out. We’re navigating massive shifts as parents, as educators, and as families. It’s hard, but you really are doing a wonderful job. 

At EC Tutoring, we’re proud to cheer you on. Read on to discover 5 reasons we believe you should be really proud of yourself right now—and 5 ways we’re here to help when you need an extra boost!

1. You’re figuring out how to homeschool in a crisis.

Homeschooling in a crisis is not like traditional homeschooling. It’s sudden. It’s scattered. It’s scary. But, day by day, you’re adjusting. Celebrate your little victories along the way—the single completed assignment, the successful virtual meeting with a teacher, the 30 minutes of reading your child did today—to stay positive and on-track.

Of course, it’s still normal to feel overwhelmed or discouraged, so I wrote an ebook to help and I’m giving it away for free. Click here to access my free ebook, “Homeschooling During COVID-19: 7 Stress-free Ways to Keep Your Child On Track.” And please feel free to pass that link on to friends or share it on social media! We want to give it to as many parents as possible.

2. You’re a great advocate for your child.

Even as you manage the stress of our “new normal,” you’re continuing to care about your child’s long-term mental health and academic future. It’s a lot, and no one can balance it all perfectly, but we’re so proud to come alongside you as you fight for your child’s best in the present and their future.

If you’re parenting a high schooler, part of that “long-term advocacy” is preparing them for the SAT/ACT. We’re here to help. We’re offering a Virtual Proctored ACT Exam This Saturday, April 11th from 9:00 am - 12:30 pm. Students can take the ACT at home, under timed conditions, and with a proctor present (via Zoom). They’ll gain familiarity with the type of questions, pacing, and stamina required for test day. We’ll even schedule virtual meetings afterward to review a detailed, color-coded score report that identifies your child’s strengths and areas to improve. It’s only $20 to register, so click here to make sure your child doesn’t miss this Saturday’s exam.

3. You’re finding new resources for your child.

You parents are nothing if not resourceful! We’ve seen you master new online tools and discover all sorts of homeschooling tips across the internet. Take a moment and think about all the new apps or websites you’ve used in the last few weeks to help your child connect with others and stay on track. You’re doing a great job tracking down helpful resources!

If you’re still looking for resources to help your AP student prepare for the updated AP Exams, don’t miss our Online AP Coaching program. Studying for an AP Exam is a massive undertaking—even under normal circumstances—and this year’s students may find themselves overwhelmed as they review all of the material, identify which concepts are important to know, make connections between big ideas, and practice timed writing. Our AP Coaches are here to help. Click here to learn more about changes to this year’s exam and click here to match your child with an AP Coach.

4. You’re teaching your child lifelong skills in executive function and focus.

We know it’s not easy teaching your child to work independently and focus on schoolwork from home. But your persistence is worth it! Not only will it give you a few moments of quiet while they work, but it’s also instilling really valuable skills for the long haul. 

We believe this is important work, but we also understand it’s a big challenge—especially while quarantined. To help, we’re putting on a free webinar to share some tips, tricks, and suggestions. Click here to register for our free webinar on April 8th: How to Keep Distracted Kids in “Study Mode” (Even If They Have ADHD).

5. You’re getting creative and staying connected.

We’re all practicing social distancing, but none of us is in this alone. We see you getting creative to keep your family connected. As you schedule virtual playdates, family FaceTime calls, and more, you’re reminding your child that no matter how weird life gets, they never have to do it alone.

To help your child stay connected with the outside world and on-track academically, we’re now offering online homeschooling sessions with expert learning coaches. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or isolated, let an expert learning coach take care of all the details of homeschooling and motivate your child to get everything done without your involvement. Whether your child has school-issued assignments, optional and ungraded work, or nothing at all, click here to match your child with a credentialed tutor who can meet with him or her every day—or just as-needed. Get matched, stay connected, and pass off the homeschooling burden to us. You don’t have to do this alone! 

“HELP! I didn’t plan to homeschool!” 😩

With schools closed through the end of the year, many of you are scrambling to figure out homeschooling, an educational journey you didn’t choose but still have to navigate.

First, please hear me say this: You are doing a great job. Whatever schooling looks like for your family right now, we are cheering you on. We hope our content brings encouragement and inspiration, not pressure or shame. Virtual schooling during a pandemic is completely unprecedented, and everyone is figuring this out together.

Now, one of the biggest hurdles we’re seeing families navigate is learning how to keep kids in “study mode” when their worlds have turned upside down overnight. 

Figuring out a new routine and structure is a challenge for any family, but if your child struggles with ADHD, an inability to focus, or executive functioning weaknesses, you may really feel like you’re in an uphill battle.

I want to help, so I’m putting on two free webinars in the next few weeks—one for parents and, after many requests, one for students!

I believe these webinars will help you create some (realistic!) structure for a more peaceful and productive environment in your home. Learn more about them below and register to join me.

How to Keep Distracted Kids in “Study Mode” (Even If They Have ADHD)

A Webinar for PARENTS

Wednesday, April 8th, 12:15-12:45

Whether your child struggles with executive functioning skills, has ADHD, or would simply rather be playing Fortnite than doing online schooling, this webinar is for you. I’ll share tips to help you dial back the drama, get your child to focus, and create realistic expectations that make the next few months manageable. You’ll learn all about:

  • The ‘Framework 5’ for setting a daily routine that can work for just about any kid
  • How to create the ideal structure for a positive homeschool experience
  • Ways to collaborate and not dictate in order to get greater buy-in from your child
  • The cup system that can help you get your own work done without interruption
  • Simple yet powerful tools that teach kids to take ownership of their work
  • Two ways to break up assignments to get more done
  • Free software to teach your child so that you don’t have to be the ‘homeschool police’
  • Top apps that allow kids to better manage their own media use, increase focus, and decrease procrastination

Learn More in Less Time:

Practical, Easy-to-Use Strategies for Staying Focusing and Finishing

A Webinar for STUDENTS

Wednesday, April 15th, 12:15-12:45

School’s closed. Assignments are ungraded. What’s the rush? Can’t I just do my work later? It can be tempting to procrastinate when you homeschool, but that only leads to more stress and frustration later. In this webinar just for kids, I’ll help students learn… 

  • The surprising science behind procrastination and ways to outsmart it
  • “Hacks” to make yourself get started, even when you really don’t want to
  • Simple strategies for getting motivated when you’re tired of being quarantined at home 
  • How to chunk work to make big assignments a lot more manageable
  • Apps to keep you focused and on track when online
  • The best times of the day to focus, finish, and get work done 
  • Where scientists say to work if you want to be more productive 
  • Why mental “to-do” lists are stressful and a better way to tackle everything that needs to be done

Need additional support to help your child keep learning?

We’ll put structure to unstructured time with our online support programs using video conferencing, document sharing and white board solutions to make learning fun. Our credentialed instructors are experts in their field (75% have master’s degrees), but more importantly, they have a knack for motivating kids to stay focused and engaged. 

Learn more here.