Remote learning advice to parents from UO education experts

When it comes to starting a homeschooling program or overseeing a remote education program like the ones being launched by school districts in Lane County, parents should avoid simply trying to recreate a traditional school environment at home, education experts say.

 “Allow adjustment time. Let home be home for a while,” said Cathy Dorrah-Stewart, an assistant technology and assessment coordinator in the UO’s Center on Teaching and Learning. “Allow the natural learning opportunities that arise through conversation and play and navigating the particular circumstances we’re facing be enough for a little while.”

As a homeschooling parent with five children ages 15 to 26, Dorrah-Stewart has some good advice for parents who are now facing the prospect of overseeing their kids’ educational activities at home. Here are a few of her suggestions for parents, followed by advice from other UO researchers affiliated with UO’s College of Education:

  • Find opportunities for social learning. Homeschool families are very mindful of this aspect of learning. Homeschooled students are typically very active in the community, in social groups, in outside activities, co-ops, lessons, etc. Study groups, board game groups, story time, art activities, yoga classes, language instruction or tutoring and more can be done remotely.
  • Technology is amazing: video courses, instructional apps, podcasts, games, lesson plans. Choose a few things that work for you and try them out, then adjust as needed. It can be easy to get overwhelmed by the depth of resources available, so don’t feel like you have to do all the things right now.
  • Remember: Kids are resilient. They are going to learn. We are all in the same boat. In the long run, we will have flexed and problem-solved and learned new things, and the kids will be okay.
  • Read, read, read. Do read-alouds. Curl up on the couch with separate books for family reading time. Read and discuss a book together. Re-read old favorites. Read.

Additional advice for parents:

Cathy Dorrah-Stewart, Center on Teaching and Learning:

Advice for students: “Take some time to focus on relationship and family learning. Choose something that you all might enjoy learning together. We’ve started a family list: make donuts, paint to Bob Ross videos, plant the garden, sew a pair of pajamas.”

Remote education projects in her home: ”My sons’ Spanish, math, karate, dance and choir teachers are teaching classes through Facetime and Zoom and instructional videos.”

Suggested link: Reassurance for Involuntary Homeschoolers

Mari Strand Cary:

Cary is a senior research associate in the Center on Teaching and Learning and project director of the tablet-based math program KinderTEK. She is the mother of Verena, age 13, Vaughn, age 11.

Advice for parents: “Look for content and experiences that prompt ACTIVE involvement, real learning and discussion, and don’t assume your kids are highly engaged. Encourage them to work together (in real life with sibling or virtually with friends/relatives), share or teach what they’ve learned with others, and use what you “assign” as a springboard for pursuing their own questions and interests.”

Remote education projects in her home: Our family is working together to listen to, discuss and follow-up on podcasts and news stories; be more creative in the kitchen; learn real world skills that keep the home running; and plan (and do!) house projects, trips, and online or neighborhood businesses.

Suggested link: Lessons From a Homeschooling Researcher

Fatima Terrazas-Arellanes:

Terrazas-Arellanes is a research assistant professor in the College of Education. She is the mother of 13 year-old Lamar and 6-year-old Silvana.

Advice for parents: “Be patient and be engaged. Don’t expect your kids to go on the web and do it all on their own. Be prepared to be a part of your child’s learning.”

Remote education projects in her home: My son really likes making videos. We are doing science experiments and recording the experiments.

Suggested links: Learn more about ESCOLAR, SOAR and other e-learning resources developed through the U.S. Department of Education.

Kent McIntosh:

McIntosh is a professor in the Department of Special Education and Clinical Sciences and director Educational and Community Supports. He and his wife, Debra, a UO alum and special education teacher in Eugene, are parents of 8 year-old Mason and 10-year-old Madelyn.

Advice for parents: “Be patient and be engaged. Don’t expect your kids to go on the web and do it all on their own. Be prepared to be a part of your child’s learning.”

“Every parent can be a teacher, but we can all strive to do it better. Ease into remote instruction and to remember that attending to students’ social and emotional needs is as important as tuning into their academic needs.”

Remote education projects in his home: Creating regular, predictable routines that everyone in the family knows and are able to follow and work through. It’s important to set up really clear expectations for all of us. For example, if I’m sitting in the guest room working and the door is open, my kids can come in. If the door is closed, they know I’m on a call.

Suggested Links:

Nancy Nelson:

Nelson is a research assistant professor and director of clinic and outreach at the Center on Teaching and Learning. Mother of two third-grade daughters, plus one on the way.

Advice for parents: “Create a schedule. Kids like the structure and appreciate it. Include opportunities for kids to do things independently, but also things where they are going to interact with you. In conjunction with creating a schedule, don’t be afraid to break the schedule when needed for everyone’s sanity.”

Remote education projects in her home: “Collating resources with other parents of kids who go to school with our kids and providing opportunities for kids to connect safely while removed from school. Collective brainstorming is better than anything one parent might identify on their own! For example, we host a weekly book club for our daughters with about 15 of their peers. The group is reading books on the Oregon Battle of the Books (OBOB) list for 2020-21.

Suggested Links:

Lane Kids School district-provided “links for learners”National Center on Improving Literacy

Kate Mills:

Mills is a professor in the Department of Psychology. She is the mother of Celilo, 4, and Jerome, 8 months.

Advice for parents: “If you find that you’ve suddenly become your child’s teacher, remember to be kind to yourself. Also, pipe cleaners — don’t underestimate the value of pipe cleaners as a teaching tool.”

Remote education projects in her home: Her two children are playing roles in her course on Developmental Psychology, PSY308, and are featured in short videos explaining developmental concepts to her class.

Suggested Links:

Eugene BrainhackTrailer for Introduction to Developmental Psychology