Supporting Student-Learning at Home

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Drew Polly, a professor in the UNC Charlotte Cato College of Education, offers tips for parents and caregivers to support students learning from home.

It is unclear when the region’s PK-12 schools will open again, but that doesn’t mean your student’s educational momentum has to stall. Here are a few suggestions on how to support learning from home over the next few weeks.

Sustained experiences
Learning is a marathon not a sprint. Have conversations with your child about the importance of doing a little bit of school work each day.

  • As you think about daily routine, most children and adolescents benefit from having a set time of day that they will do their work.
  • Think about multiple, shorter study times. Researchers and educators tend to think about the amount of time on a task as age multiplied by 1.5, which means a 10 year old should probably do an activity for 15 minutes before transitioning to a different activity.
  • Every hour take a break for a few minutes.
  • Khan Academy shared a proposed schedule for students to follow at home. This website offers a free printable template for a schedule.

Authentic Learning
My family has spent 4 to 6 hours outside each day for the past few days. Today, we found worms, built a habitat for them and started telling worm stories to each other. My wife did this science experiment with our children to show them why we should wash our hands. Learning opportunities are everywhere.

  • Look for teachable experiences and moments that are embedded in activities in and around the house or outside away from other people.
  • What interests do your children have that you could end up being learning experiences?
  • Here are some ideas for hands-on experiential learning activities and projects that can be done in the house.

I have been focused on really embracing this gift of time that we have been given as a family. We are having more conversations with my children, walking a lot around the neighborhood and spending time together. Enjoy it!

  • What are some projects or chores that can be done together?
  • What games could you play together?
  • Here are some fun discussion starters for conversations at meals: for young children, for all ages.

Be an encourager and be supportive of your children as they work on school assignments. Your child’s teacher was asked to pull resources and materials together quickly. Be supportive of the activities and help them see value in doing some academic work. Questions to consider asking:

  • What do you already know that can help you?
  • Where can we look if we need to find out more information?
  • There are a number of educational companies offering 90-day subscriptions for free. My favorites are Dreambox Learning that has math activities through Eighth Grade, Reading A-to-Z and the Real Time Curriculum Project from National Geographic.

Drew Polly is a professor in the Elementary Education Program at UNC Charlotte. He can be reached on Twitter at @drewpolly or via e-mail at

*Note: This article includes links to external websites. These links are only to provide ideas and examples, and do not reflect endorsements.