Monday, August 17, 2020

11 Ways to Do Home, Online Education and Stay Healthy

I'm taking a break from my usual topics to discuss online education because:

I have read a lot of posts at various sites about the problems with online education and home education. As someone who homeschooled two daughters, has used online platforms, and has taught in schools, in a homeschool cooperative, and online, I have some ideas on how to do this well.

First, before I get into the how-to, I have a small note of knowledge I need to share. What is going on right now, with quarantine, and online home education is not actually homeschooling. Homeschooling involves choices made by families for their children and also involves activities outside of the home. When my daughters were homeschooling, they were also involved in dance, sports, choir, two different homeschool cooperatives, church, volunteering at an animal shelter, and community service. We visited zoos, aquariums, science centers, living history museums, museums, art galleries, parks, theaters, and playgrounds. Tuesdays were the only day we didn't go anywhere - and that changed as they got into middle school. Then, we were on the go every single day of the week. 

If you are in quarantine and you haven't seen anyone in more than a week, this is not the same. 

If you are in quarantine and you haven't been outside to get some fresh air (yard, rooftop garden, walk somewhere), this is not healthy. Get outside, somehow.

Okay, onto the positive. Please note: this is written for students as readers. (Parents and educators are welcome, too.)


1. Take breaks every 20-45 minutes. Do not try to do it all in one sitting. You need to stretch, move, breathe fresh air, and give your brain (and eyes) a break. If you are in an online class that goes longer than 45 minutes, at least stand up to stretch after 45 minutes. 

2. Build up your endurance and concentration for homework over time. Most educators start with an "easier" first few weeks. Try to do all of the homework you need to do in 10 minute spurts for the first week. During the second week, do 15-20 minute homework sessions. Build up to 45 minutes. This may seem a little crazy the first week, but it's important to take breaks (see #1) for your health and ability. There have been studies done to show that students really do their best work in shorter clumps of time. 

3. Break up the information into shorter clumps. Research has shown you learn best when you focus on one small area within a larger whole, then take a break, then focus on the next area. While the teacher is talking, organize the information she/he is giving into those short clumps by taking notes in columns under a larger heading. 

4. If you are a struggling with a specific subject area or concept, review it for five minutes (only!) just a half an hour before you go to bed. Do not stress out about it. Just read over your notes, then let it go. It really does help. If you do this and struggle with sleeping, then do your five minute review two hours before going to bed. 

5. Find a way to chat with your friends about what you are learning. Ask them about their studies. Tell them about yours. This is review. (And it's actually social, too). Do this over the phone in real live conversation, or if you must, text. 

6. If you have the capability of using a chat box area in your online class, use it! Converse with your teacher, ask questions, or chat with your peers. Challenge yourself to come up with a question about the material every hour you are in class. 

7. Always, every day, take time to exercise physically. If you can do this outside, go outside! Your brain works best when you have physical exercise. (Again, lots of studies prove this to be true.) Start with twenty minutes of exercise and build to one or two hours. 

8. Get outside! This may be tougher depending on where you live, but fresh air and sunshine/rain really do help you with your thought life and they are healthy for you. Try to get outside and stay out there for a minimum of one hour - two is best. 

9. Make your homework as active as possible. If you are working math tables, spelling words, grammar rules, or anything you have to memorize, make flash cards and create a scavenger hunt with them, or work on them with sidewalk chalk. Find ways to create jumping exercises with your memorization. Reward yourself with movement - five math problems done, run around the living room (mom permitting). If you are reading or doing some other sustained sitting homework, either stretch every 45 minutes, or do yoga while reading. Really, put the book on the floor, and stretch out next to it. You can do this during online classes, too. 

10. Wiggle. If you have the option of turning off your video, wiggle with the video off. This can include: stretching, jiggling your leg, jumping up and down (if you can still listen at the same time), marching in place, tightening your stomach muscles for five seconds at a time (I used to do this in school when I felt like I would fly apart if I had to sit any longer), or tightening other muscles for five seconds at a time. Tapping your pencil or your foot can work, too. Wiggles that usually do not distract strict teachers on full video include: tightening your muscles five seconds at a time x 20, wiggling your toes, and tapping your fingers silently on your desk.

11. Find a way to talk to friends and family members your age. Ask your mom and dad if you can have a Zoom call with just family or friends every week at the same time. Send them text messages or videos. Write a story together or a play. Create goofy collages. Do Zoom Olympics/Gymnastics. Challenge each other to a joke contest over several weeks. If you are a teen, one really fun thing to do is to collect the cheesiest pick-up lines for dating - then create a book of them as co-authors. Create movies together by splicing together scenes you each create. Go on socially distant bike rides or walks, if possible. Create scavenger hunts for each other. Or Home Education Bingo games. Do something to interact. Watch shows together, play video games together, and if you can, go outside together. 

Possible bonus idea: Ask your family if you can have a quarantine buddy family (or two). This buddy family would ideally be your germ bubble buddies until all of the quarantine is over. Also, this family ideally would have a few people of your age in it. If you have a buddy family, you can get together with them for outdoor dinners, soccer, hiking, or other activities. 

Two reasons I wrote this post:
1. I am genuinely concerned about the health of students of all ages - those I tutor online and those I just hear about from other teachers and tutors.

2. I have opened up my online tutoring and teaching for students grades 9-12 at a new website here:
Words Take Flight. I hope that anyone who partakes of these services stays as healthy as possible. 


L. Diane Wolfe said...

Getting outside is important. There are other places to go now.

I really worry about the kids right now and the damage it's doing to them mentally, emotionally, and socially. They need interaction so desperately.

M.J. Fifield said...

Those are excellent tips—and not just for students. I think a lot of writers could benefit from them, too. Thanks for sharing!

Sherry Ellis said...

This is all great advice! Sitting at the computer all day stinks! It has to be so hard for kids to stay focused staring at a screen so long. (I should take more breaks, too!)

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great tips. I'm glad my daughter just graduated with her master's and has a job. I would not want to have to contend with working while helping her with online learning.

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Getting outside is crucial! The fresh air is reviving!
Great tips!!

James Tech said...

Nice post...,