Remote or home learning: what is it?
Remote learning is when children learn from home.
Children might need to learn from home when schools close because of natural disasters or other traumatic events, including floods, bushfires or pandemics. Children might also need to learn from home if they have a serious illness or chronic condition, or for other personal reasons.
If children are learning remotely because schools are closed, classroom teachers prepare and provide learning activities, just as they do when children are physically at school. Also, school support staff usually keep supporting children who need other services, like occupational therapy.
Remote or home learning is different from home-schooling. With home-schooling, you’re your child’s teacher, and you’re responsible for setting all your child’s learning activities.
Tips for remote learning: children with disability, autism or other additional needs
Our tips below can help you and your child get the most out of remote or home learning.
It might help to remember that your job is to support and encourage your child as best you can. It can be an opportunity to be involved in your child’s learning. But you’re not a teacher. It’s the responsibility of your child’s school to make learning and services accessible for all children, including children with disability, autistic children and children with other additional needs.
If you’re not sure about or satisfied with the way the school is handling remote learning, you might need to be an advocate for your child.
1. Communicate regularly with the school during remote learning
If your child is autistic or has disability or other additional needs, you might have regular emails, phone calls or meetings with your child’s classroom teacher, home-room teacher, year coordinator, learning support coordinator or student welfare coordinator. But these might be disrupted following a major event like a flood or bushfire.
Maintaining this regular contact is important during remote learning. It helps you, your child and your child’s teachers keep on top of learning tasks, assignments and your child’s wellbeing.
At the start of remote learning, you might need to set up a phone or online meeting to discuss your child’s individual learning plan, including any changes that are needed to help your child work towards their goals while remote learning.
After this initial meeting, you could make a regular time each week to check in with teachers on how your child is going, what’s working well and what might need to change.
2. Check your child’s remote learning resources and supports
Your child might use specialised resources at school, or they might need extra or specialised resources for remote learning.
To ensure that your child can keep learning remotely, you can ask school staff about things like the following:
- Learning materials in different formats – this might be important if you don’t have access to digital technology or if online learning doesn’t work for your child. For example, you might be able to get printed worksheets or books from the library.
- Adapted learning aids and other supports – this might make it easier for your child to use these supports at home. For example, the teacher could help you adapt a visual support to include a modified learning timetable for your child.
- Flexibility – this might be important so your child can learn with different or fewer supports at home. For example, if it takes time for your child to get used to learning at home, they might be able to get extensions to assignment deadlines.
You can use your regular check-ins with teachers and other school staff to ask about remote learning resources and make sure your child has what they need.
3. Aim for a daily remote learning routine
Learning from home will probably go well if you aim for a daily routine. A routine will help you ensure that your child has enough time for learning each day.
For example, your child’s daily routine for remote learning might include:
- getting up at the same time each school day
- getting dressed and having breakfast before school starts
- joining online group activities like roll call at the start of the day
- doing social learning activities like projects they can work on with friends
- having regular breaks between learning activities
- doing physical activity and having time outside
- finishing the ‘school day’ with something that they enjoy.
You might use your child’s usual school timetable as a model to help with the remote learning routine. But remote learning can also give you flexibility to adapt the timetable to suit your child. For example:
- Your child could do maths or writing in the morning before they get too tired.
- You could keep lessons short to match your child’s concentration span.
- You could repeat lessons if your child is tired or having trouble remembering what they’re learning.
- You could alternate between activities your child likes and doesn’t like.
A routine for remote learning allows you to create an organised and predictable home environment. This helps children of all ages and abilities feel safe and secure, especially when things are stressful or when families are going through major events like bushfires or floods. But these events can be very disruptive, so it’s OK if you don’t always follow your routine exactly.
4. Use social stories, visual supports, video-modelling and special interests to help with routines
If your child is autistic or has disability or other additional needs, the following strategies and aids might help them follow a remote learning routine:
- Social stories – a story for remote learning could cover why your child is learning from home, how and where they’ll do their schoolwork, what their daily routine will look like, and how they might be feeling.
- Visual supports – this might show your new morning routine, with pictures of getting out of bed, getting dressed, eating breakfast, brushing teeth and sitting at the table to start school. Your child could help to write it out or draw it.
- Video-modelling – this might show you telling your child that it’s time to start school, your child getting ready to start lessons and then your child getting praise.
- Special interests – this can be a way of motivating your child to do parts of the routine. For example, you could use the family pet in writing or counting activities.
Children are more likely to follow routines that they’ve helped to make or have some control over. For example, you can ask your child what they think should be in the routine and when. Then your child could create a visual timetable using the routine or use an app to record and monitor it. Your child might also be able to do parts of the routine themselves – for example, by using a timer to finish one activity and move to the next.
5. Set up a good remote learning workspace for children and teenagers
If you have a child in the early years of school, they’ll probably work best in family areas like the kitchen or somewhere near you. This also makes it easier for you to supervise and help them.
If you have an older child, they’ll probably be spending more time doing schoolwork, so a workspace with more privacy and space could be good. It could be in a bedroom or family area.
A good workspace can help your child focus when they’re learning at home. A good workspace can also help your child with healthy posture and reduce your child’s risk of physical problems like neck, shoulder and eye pain.
If possible, a good workspace for learning is somewhere that:
- is quiet and ideally doesn’t have distractions like the TV or younger siblings playing
- has plenty of light
- isn’t hot, cold or stuffy – you might be able to leave the door or window open for more airflow
- has a desk or table where your child can sit to write or use a computer
- has space for books, pencils, pens, craft materials, communication aids and a computer or tablet for online classes.
You can customise your child’s workspace to suit their sensory sensitivities and minimise distractions. For example, you could alter the lighting, take pictures off the walls, or cover craft materials with a sheet when they’re not being used.
6. Tune in to your child’s feelings about remote learning
Your child’s feelings about remote learning might depend on why they’re doing it. Their feelings, energy levels or motivation might also change throughout the day or the week. The key thing is tuning in to your child regularly to see how they’re feeling and to show that their feelings are important to you.
Here are tips for tuning in to your child:
- Find a good time to talk regularly with your child. It might be when you’re going for a walk, having a cuddle in an armchair, or reading a story before bed.
- Ask open-ended questions like ‘What was good about today? What didn’t you enjoy today?’ You can also prompt your child to share their feelings. For example, ‘It sounds like you felt frustrated when I couldn’t help you with your question this morning’. Your child could use emotion cards or a feelings thermometer to share how they’re feeling.
- Actively listen when your child tells you about their feelings. Also pay attention to your child’s facial expressions and body language.
- If you notice your child getting agitated, restless or upset during the day, think about what their behaviour is telling you. For example, they might need a break, something to eat, or physical activity to burn off energy.
- If your child is feeling strong emotions, support your child while they calm down by being patient and calm yourself and staying close by.
- Let your child know that it’s OK if they’re finding things hard and encourage them to show self-compassion. For example, they could say to themselves, ‘I’m doing the best I can’ or ‘It’s OK if it’s taking a bit longer to do these maths problems. Things take longer when you’re learning from home’.
7. Make the most of everyday learning opportunities
If your child isn’t getting through their lessons or is struggling, it can help to remember that your child is also learning a lot as part of everyday life. For example:
- Keeping score in a board game develops your child’s maths skills.
- Cooking together from recipes helps your child learn how to follow written instructions, and measuring out ingredients helps with maths skills.
- Reading builds your child’s literacy and language skills, especially if you and your child read together.
- Watching and talking about documentaries together helps your child learn about topics that interest them, like nature, sport, art and more.
- Playing cubby houses or putting on puppet plays builds your child’s creativity, problem-solving, language and physical skills.
- Saying hello and talking to the people you meet when you go for a walk builds your child’s social skills.
- Going for walks and spotting the return of trees and birds after a bushfire or flood helps your child learn about the environmental recovery process.
8. Praise and encourage your child’s efforts during remote learning
Praise and encouragement shows your child that you’ve noticed that they’re trying and you appreciate it. Praise can motivate your child to cooperate with the routine or keep going with a learning task.
Praise and encouragement work best when it’s specific. For example, ‘I like the way that you tried to work out that maths question by yourself’.
You can also encourage your child to reward themselves for effort by doing something nice for themselves. For example, ‘You’re doing so well! Why don’t you finish that off and then go on the trampoline’ or ‘You’ve worked really hard today. Do that last maths question and then watch something fun on YouTube’.
Your own wellbeing might be affected by the events leading to remote learning for your child. When you look after yourself, you’ll be better able to care for your child.