School’s in Session -- Coping with Distance Learning
an exclusive feature from Victoria Waller, ED.D*

It has been a challenging time for parents, grandparents, and children during the Covid-19 crisis. Children and adults feel the isolation from family and friends and the security of attending school. Distance learning has become the norm. Teachers are trying to figure out how to teach without having the children in school and parents have had to adjust to being 24-hour parents, a teacher, a friend, working from home, and keeping it all together physically and emotionally. Your adult children may have asked for your help as they work from home. Not all of us are in the same city and can help, but if you are close by and can assist, here are some good pointers both for you and your grandchild’s parents.

Begin by talking to your grandchild, let them express their feelings, let them know you feel some of those feelings and give them HOPE. Tell them it is a different time, but eventually life will go back to normal. First and foremost, listen to your grandchild and let them express their fears.

There are certain ways to make your grandchild’s school online time productive. It’s important that your son or daughter connect with the new teacher to talk about your grandchild’s strengths and their challenges. Be a team with your child’s parent! When you are with your grandchild, you need to make sure your he/she is online and working. One mom told me, “I left my son on the computer and went to another room because I work from home. I thought he would love Zoom because he loves being on the computer. After a week the teacher called and told me Jason had not been online all week. When asked, Jason replied, “Well, I was playing Fortnite.”

Reduction of Distraction

– If you have a grandchild with attention or anxiety, reduce the distractions in the room they are working in. It will greatly help your grandchild’s learning. One teacher complained that a child’s little brother was speeding through the room on a scooter during the Zoom session. Not only was the older sibling on Zoom distracted, but the whistling and yelling of the small brother distracted the whole class!

– If possible, separate siblings in different rooms while on Zoom.

– Change the setting your grandchild works in every day. Maybe go from the bedroom to the family room to the kitchen. A 4th grader confessed to me that she used her laptop on Zoom and laid in bed, sometimes playing with other toys or falling asleep during classes.

– Pets are a big distraction, too, for all the obvious reasons!

– Make sure your grandchild’s internet connection is working before the Zoom class begins. One child told me all during her Zoom there would be “glitches,’ like her face would be cut in half.

– Do not bring meals to your grandchild when s/he is online. That sounds simple but you’d be surprised how many teachers say children eat during Zoom or talk to a parent or leave the room to go to the bathroom for a long time.

– Your grandchild will get more out of classes if they can stay focused. In school a teacher will call on them, but at home on Zoom they can be playing with a toy or even playing a computer game.

– Parents can be a distraction, too. Susan, a working mom, had Lilly, her 3rd grader, in her bedroom on Zoom. Susan forgot and walked out of the shower right into the view of Lilly’s entire class!!!!!

– Make sure your grandchild not only goes to class, but arrives on time. The constant interruption of students going online at different times makes it difficult for children to focus and be able to pick up where the teacher is at that time. Denise said, “I got so bored hearing the teacher repeat the directions 5 times because kids kept coming into the class on Zoom every 5 minutes.”

Preparing Your Child for Online Learning

Most children work well within a structured situation. Work with your adult children to set up a station where their child’s work is located.

– Have your child get an old box (Amazon) or a plastic box about 10×13 inches and about 8 inches high. Materials for working can include pencils, markers, paper and any work the teacher has sent to do.

– Suggest to your child to have a white board in their home. They can write the daily schedule on it so you see what is expected of your grandchild online. In that way your grandchild isn’t running around during Zoom looking for materials.

– Make sure you know what assignments and activities the teacher sends to do. If anything has to be printed, make sure it is done before you arrive at the house or they arrive at yours. Your grandchild has to be ready for their Zoom class.

I know this is difficult for parents and working parents, but right now this is how you can really help your grown children and your grandchildren. I overheard a wise child say to his mom, “These times call for hope.” Truer words were never spoken!


*As an educator for over 40 years, Dr. Victoria Waller has taught thousands of students to read and write using their passions and strengths: sharks, roller coasters, rocket science, the Titanic and even Pokemon, to name a few. The children learn to read, but more importantly, “love” to read, which lasts a lifetime!