Establishing guidelines for virtual school helps kids and parents alike. A clear, detailed family plan can serve as a map for keeping everyone on the road to online school success. In part 1 of this series, we discussed Learning Space, Roles, and Responsibilities. In this post, we’ll examine what kind of “house rules” your family should consider for at-home education.
School Time vs. Home Time
When learning and living occur in the same location, children may become confused about how to act when it’s time for school. To avoid this problem, make sure your family planner details the differences between relaxing at home and acceptable school-time behavior. Don’t assume that your child will automatically turn the television off to do schoolwork—instead, put it in writing! Here are some questions to ask as you set your rules for learning at home:
- How will you let your child know that you have switched roles from parent to Learning Coach?
- Do you want your child to get dressed for school, or will working in pajamas be acceptable?
- Will watching television be allowed during breakfast, lunch, or other break times?
- Will you let your student listen to music while doing schoolwork?
- What restrictions will you place on cell phone use during the school day?
- Do you plan to let your child check text messages? If so, when and for how long?
- Will your student work only in a designated area or wherever is comfortable?
- Will you have hours when visitors are not allowed? Will you set a limit for how long a visitor may stay?
If other family members are at home during the day, think about what they normally do during the hours when your child will be learning. You may want to talk with them about limiting activities that could be distracting. Here are a few ideas to begin your discussion:
- If family members watch television or videos during the day, would they be willing to limit their viewing? Could they watch in an area far from the home classroom?
- Can you ask family members to steer clear of the learning area during certain times?
- Are there loud or distracting activities (mowing grass or practicing the drums, for example) that you should ask family members to schedule outside of school time?
While you’re establishing the rules at your house, be sure to also familiarize your family with the rules for your virtual school. Most schools publish an official School Handbook that will provide important information about the school calendar, required hours of attendance, absences, and other policies. It’s always good to remind students to treat others with respect, and to refresh their memories about the rules against cheating and plagiarism.
The Rules of Online Behavior
The anonymity of interacting with people online makes it easy to slip into bad habits, even for grown-ups! Be sure to take time to sit down with your students to discuss appropriate online behavior for school. It’s important to make kids understand that virtual school is not the place for rudeness, teasing, or goofing around. Be sure to establish guidelines for:
- Respectful behavior toward teachers and other students
- Using appropriate language
- Paying attention to lessons—and not socializing too much
- Not distracting other students
- Participating in class discussions
If you haven’t already done so, talk to your child about keeping private information private and other aspects of online safety. In this “digital age,” it’s also important to educate kids about online bullying!
Studying vs. Surfing
With YouTube, Facebook, Tumbler, and game sites conveniently accessible on the computer they use for learning, many virtual school students are tempted to “surf” during school time. Nip this behavior in the bud by putting your Internet usage rules in writing—and checking up on students periodically. Be proactive, and provide ways to help your online student avoid these distractions. Mull over the following aspects of using the Web to help you set clear-cut standards.
- What websites will be off-limits during the school day?
- Will you schedule regular breaks for “’Net surfing”? If so, how often—and how long will they last?
- Will gaming be off-limits entirely, or will you allow gaming during breaks?
- What websites will your student be allowed to use during the school day? (Setting up a folder of allowed “bookmarks” or “favorites” would be helpful.)
- Will you need to establish time limits on computer-based school activities?
If multiple students will be using a single computer, you’ll also want to establish rules for sharing fairly. Consider these aspects of sharing technology to determine how you will keep everyone involved peaceful, content, and positively engaged in learning.
- What will determine who uses the computer first?
- How long will each turn last?
- How will disputes be resolved?
- How will electronic files be arranged so everyone can easily find what they need?
In part 4 of this series, we’ll continue to define your plan for becoming a happy and harmonious virtual school family!