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Throughout the country, we’re taking action to protect our children and families from the new coronavirus. For many families, this means learning at home for the first time. I’m the principal of Alabama Connections Academy, an online public school for students in grades K-12 across the state, and I have more than five years of experience with distance learning. To help students and parents tackling at-home learning, I want to share some insight and tips that I have picked up throughout the years.

First and foremost, it’s a difficult and stressful time for all, including children. The most important thing is that your family is safe and healthy. This will allow you to implement the first tip – conveying calm. Students learn best when they feel secure, so focusing on their well-being and creating a comfortable environment before turning to academics is crucial.

Once you’re ready to get started, make sure you know your teacher’s expectations. Review resources provided, like a list of lessons, activities and due dates that you need to be aware of. Try to attend “real-time” lessons that your teacher is hosting, and don’t hesitate to contact your teacher if you have any questions.

It’s also vital to keep a schedule and routine, just like your child would have at school. It will help your students, but also parents that need to work from home. Additionally, make sure your child has a quiet, dedicated space to learn.

One advantage of online learning is the flexibility. Since you’re at home, you can create a schedule that best fits your family. Organize learning in 30- to 50-minute blocks and take frequent breaks. These breaks will help moderate screen time, if that’s something that concerns you. Also, set aside time in the morning to get your student settled and logged in. During the day, check in to see how they are progressing. Remember, switching to online education will be an adjustment, and your support and involvement will help guide your child through this change.

Lastly, don’t forget to help your student socialize with others. Students at Alabama Connections Academy have rich social lives, from sports to clubs. While this situation should be temporary, keep in mind that a child’s school day also includes having fun and connecting with friends. This is the time to take advantage of communication tools like your phone, FaceTime, text and others to keep in touch with friends and families. You can also use technology to take virtual field trips to museums or foreign countries and play interactive games.

As we all face this uncertain time, one advantage of attending school from home is that parents can use this time to strengthen their bond with their children and become even more engaged in their education. Online learning may look different than what many are used to, but Alabama Connections Academy students demonstrate daily that it’s very effective. The solutions that are put together by individual schools during these temporary closures will vary and will certainly be different from a full-time virtual school experience, but these are still your children's teachers. Educators are committed to keeping their students on track during this time.

Our students have been doing this for nearly three years, so we know you can do this, too. Visit for more information and tips.

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