What a challenge it has been to maintain some sense of sanity within the wake of a global pandemic. Add into that the impossibility of distance learning and online education that now has you as an active participant in your young child’s instruction. But, it shouldn’t be as time consuming as you think. An online learning schedule can help you determine what your day should look like during this temporary transition and can significantly help your child successfully take charge of their learning (which we all know will make your life tremendously easier!).

After reading this post you will:

  • Know the differences between online learning and traditional learning and how that affects kids
  • Understand just how much time young learners should actually be spending on online instruction daily
  • Learn how schedules can help you master online learning
  • Get some free online learning schedules for your littlest learners
  • Be able to provide the best support possible for your child
mother and child following online learning schedule

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Online Learning Looks Different Than Traditional Learning

Aside from the obvious, online learning is a very different structure than that of traditional learning in a classroom. While distance learning has its benefits, our littlest learners are suffering from a lack of social interaction among their peers and with their teachers. In addition, the structure of learning is different.

Instructional pace is Different

Without the support and immediate constructive feedback of teachers, the pace of instruction has significantly slowed. Teachers are having to break down what they would do in the course of 1 day into smaller chunks spread out over a couple of days.

Since your child is not physically attending school for 6 hours, it is not feasible to expect them to sit in front of a computer for 6 hours. especially our littlest learners.

Therefore, teachers need to break the standards down into smaller, more manageable chunks that allow students to complete a task within a smaller frame of time.

young boy on a computer

Task Completion is Different

Naturally, when you are removing social interaction and breaking down instruction into manageable chunks of time, the way that an instructional task is completed will look drastically different as well.

While there are capabilities for discussions in online learning, we are reminded of the fact that preschoolers and Kindergartners are still learning how to socialize and understand social cues. The removal of such an engaging way to learn, especially from kiddos who crave social interaction, is a real disadvantage.

Tasks now are less social and have less constructive feedback from the teacher as they look more like assignments that need to be submitted online. Videos, pdfs, and the like are increasingly becoming more popular as modes of instruction.

Kids Learn Differently Online

As I mentioned earlier, the structure for online learning is very different from that of the classroom.

Less Interaction with Teachers

We already talked about how online learning means less interaction with your child’s teacher. Not to say that the teacher isn’t available and ready to provide support to your child if and when he needs it.

I know the teachers at my school are always available to our students, making sure they are comfortable with assignments and understanding what they are doing.

However, the type and quality of interaction is different within a virtual learning platform. Again, not the fault of the teacher.

When in the classroom, your child’s teacher makes thousands of subtle instructional moves. Your child picks up on these “moves”, learning from them on a daily basis.

blond teacher reading to her class

For example, let’s say the teacher is reading a story aloud. Here are some ways that she subtly teaches through the read-aloud:

  • She points out the cover, title, author, and illustrator (raising awareness of how books work)
  • She points to the words as she reads, modeling left-to-right directionality
  • Her tone of voice changes as she reads, cueing the listener to understand the different tones, moods, and emotions of the text
  • She has students turn and talk with one another to answer questions she poses, allowing students to think about their comprehension of the text
  • She calls on students to point to words or illustrations that convey important points in the text

These are just 5 ways that the teacher interacts with students during a read aloud, but there are so many more. This level of interaction, while it seemingly can be accomplished during online learning, cannot reach the maximum learning potential and benefits as can be done in the classroom.

More Constructing own Learning

Without the teacher providing immediate feedback on student participation, students need to develop the tools to construct their own learning.

Teachers can assign videos, virtual field trips, online scavenger hunts, and more to help students make meaning of a learning objective. This is a great way for teachers to engage students in their learning and motivate them even though virtual instruction lacks that intense teacher interaction.

So How Much Time Should Young Learners be Spending with Online Learning?

siblings on computers sitting on the couch

Even though a school day runs approximately 6 hours, an online learning schedule definitely does not follow that same expectation.

While these schedules vary for different ages, young children ages 4-7 -ish shouldn’t be having instruction for more than 1-2 hours per day. This means 1-2 hours in all subject areas.

It is just not feasible to expect a young child to plop down in front of a computer for hours at a time. And considering the lack of interaction, the way that assignments are broken down, and the pace that instruction is taking place all play a key role in the importance of shorter days when it comes to online learning.

Why A Schedule Can Help

Since school should only be taking place for 1-2 hours per day, thinking about what can fill those other hours can be a daunting task. Schedules can help you stay on a routine and ensure that you are adding in activities during the day that will assist your child in developing other important skills aside from academics.

Young children also deeply adore routines. They enjoy knowing what they can expect throughout their day…it is comforting. Think about their days at school. They always know when math is and what time lunch is. They know what days they have PE and Music and for how long they need to read independently to hone their reading skills.

Children thrive in routines so setting a schedule will not only help them to understand the expectations of the “school” day, but it will also save your sanity. Not to mention the incessant pant leg tugging about when lunch is.

Daily Online Learning Schedule for Young Learners

The following schedule provides guidance for how a school day could look. The day is broken down into mostly 30 minute-ish segments that alternate work and longer breaks. I’ve added in activities that are necessary for early childhood development such as sensory, gross motor, fine motor and creativity, and downtime for independent exploration. Sprinkle in communication and social skills throughout the day!

online learning schedule

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    Providing Support during Online Learning

    Online learning was probably not a very easy transition for your family. Your child was used to playing with friends every day, following a predictable routine at school, and being active and engaged during learning. Now, sitting in front of a computer and not being able to to speak to her friends is probably getting old very quickly. Here are some ways that you can support your online learning schedule at home.

    Frequent Breaks

    If you haven’t noticed already, your child’s attention span is the size of a pea. Actually it’s more like 15-20 minutes, but that still is not a lot of time.

    You need to respect that attention span. As much as you want to get all of the schoolwork done within a 2 hour period, it is just not feasible and will cause you more frustration than necessary.

    Every 15-20 minutes, or when your child is showing signs of losing focus, take a brain break. These breaks can be quick breaks like dancing along to a YouTube video, or more of a let’s go take a bike ride break.

    Your child’s brain will thank you for understanding its needs. The brain will be able to work better and retain more when focus is restored.

    Take Deep Breaths and Be Patient

    Just as this situation can be frustrating for you, it is certainly frustrating for your child too. His world was thrown upside down. He doesn’t get to see his friends and school is now through a computer.

    He doesn’t understand why this is all happening and now he sees you getting upset and frustrated when he is just trying to make sense of the world around him.

    Taking deep breaths and trying to be patient is key for finding balance in this new world. As your child starts to learn the routines and understands how to survive in this transition, all will become easier. Patience is a virtue.

    Play is still a Priority

    mom playing blocks with her children
    Family activities in the kids room – woman and children sitting on the foor playing

    Despite the push for finishing online assignments, don’t forget just how young your child is. As important as academics are, at this age, play is equally important.

    Your child is losing a lot of opportunity to learn social-emotional skills from her peers. In addition to academics, school is a place where children learn how to share, make friends, communicate, and hone their gross and fine motor developmental skills to name a few.

    A lot of these skills can be accomplished through play.

    Need some alphabet activities that don’t involve a computer? Check out my bathtub letter and alphabet activities.

    Making Online Learning Work for You and Your Family

    Mother and son working through an online learning schedule

    As difficult as our current reality may get, you can still take control over what is happening in your household. Creating an online learning schedule allows you to make this situation work for you. You get to decide how your time is spent with your family.

    The extra time at home, however difficult, is a gift. Make the most of it by removing frustration and anxiety. Create routines that work for your little ones and let them know what to expect during these unexpected times.

    You’ve got this, mama!

    What do you do to keep the routines and sanity in your life? Let me know below!