10 Distance Learning Advice for Parents

The Munich International School community is fortunate to have sophisticated digital networks and learning platforms that enable us to continue student learning while students are at home. Teachers and students are already adept at using these tools. However, the current situation will challenge families in many ways. Parents may need to think differently about how they can best support their children while they are engaged in distance learning.

Here are some advice gleaned from research and from experiences from schools around the world who have engaged in distance learning.

1. Establish routines and expectations

From day one, parents should establish routines and expectations for their children. MIS encourages parents to set regular hours for school work. We suggest that students start working on school assignments at 9.00am. Keep normal bedtimes (don’t allow students to stay up late and sleep in!). Children should move regularly and take breaks. It is imperative that parents establish these expectations from the beginning and NOT assume that their children can manage this on their own.

2. Define physical space for study

Although your child may have a normal homework space, this space may or may not be suitable for extended school work. We recommend that parents choose a public / family space for student learning, not a private space, like an individual bedroom. It should be a space that can be quiet and where internet service is available. Above all, it should be a space where parents can monitor either continuously or several times per day.

3. Monitor communications from your children’s teachers

Teachers will communicate with parents through e-mail when necessary. The frequency and nature will depend upon the role of the particular teacher and your children’s ages. We encourage parents to ask their children to show them how to use our learning platforms (for Junior School it is Seesaw; for Middle and Senior School it is ITS-Learning) and to ask to see the communication between school and home.

4. Begin and end each day with a check-in

Parents are encouraged to start and finish each day with a simple check-in with each child.

We suggest asking:

  • What will you be learning today?
  • What are your learning goals or targets for the day?
  • How will you spend your time today?
  • What resources do you need? Do you have them available and ready?
  • What support do you need? How will you get it?

Older students may resist having these conversations. Nevertheless, we strongly recommend that you engage in this process. This helps ground students in the realities of their days and helps to ensure that potential problems are identified quickly. Not all students will thrive in a distance learning environment. These check-in routines should be started immediately to ensure success.

5. Actively help your children to process and own their learning

On an average day at school, your child interacts with other students and teachers at MIS hundreds of times. These social interactions include exchanging thoughts or ideas, participating in discussions, asking questions for clarification, collaborating on projects, and countless other instances. Through distance learning we can recreate only a small number of these interactions. Humans learn best when they have opportunities to process their learning (thinking outside of their own heads) with others. Beyond the recommended check-ins, we also recommend regularly engaging your children in conversations about their learning. However, it is important that your children own their own work – do NOT complete assignments for them or provide them with your answers to questions and prompts, even if they seem to be struggling.

6. Establish times for quiet and reflection

In families with multiple children, you may be challenged to create a quiet atmosphere conducive to learning. We recommend having established times for quiet reading, reflection, and processing. You may need to coordinate this with planned times for online conversations and other noisier interactions.

7. Establish times for physical activity and movement

Make sure that your children remember to move and exercise. Movement is vitally important to human well-being and learning. At school, students move frequently throughout the day. At home there is the risk that students sit for long periods of time working on school work. Plan time for movement. Plan time for exercise. And plan time for children to help out around the house. Children like to use the excuse that they are too busy with school work to do chores. Don’t believe it! Put them to work!

8. Watch for signs of stress and worry

Under the current circumstances, children may their new challenges stressful. They may worry about the well-being of themselves, their family, and their friends. Grade 12 students may worry about their exams and completing their Diploma requirements. Try not to transfer your stress and worries to your children. Watch for signs of anxiety in your children. Try to make distance learning feel deliberate, planned, and manageable. And contact our school counsellors at DLI-Counsellors@mis-munich.de if you feel that more support is needed.

9. Monitor your child’s screen time

We do not want our students staring at screens for 7, 8, or more hours per day. We don’t do that at school, and we would not want students to do that at home. Teachers will try to provide assignments that allow for both online and offline learning. The balance will likely be difficult, as we are not accustomed to providing fully online learning, but we will try to find ways to engage kids in a range of activities. If your child seems to be glued to his/her device all day long, please alert your child’s Principal.

10. Create opportunities for interaction, but limit social media

Your children will likely miss their daily interactions with classmates, friends, and teachers. Interactions online can replace these only to a limited extent. You may need to intentionally increase the time that you spend with your children in order to provide them with real, human interaction. There is the danger that children will begin using social media excessively. While it may be useful to allow children and teenagers to use social media for communication, it should definitely be monitored and limited. Talk to your kids specifically and explicitly about limitations.

Timothy Thomas,
Head of School