6 Positive Outcomes of Distance Learning

Girl student video conference e-learning with teacher on computer in living room at home.

This past year, the whole world waded in uncharted waters. ‘Unprecedented times’ has especially been true in the case of parenting and education. Children had to rely entirely on parents for support in the absence of a village. And parents had to readjust their lifestyles to be primary caregivers 24×7.  Schools were forced to completely change the creation and delivery of their curriculum. To say that the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year was anxiety-ridden for many families, would be an understatement.

Thankfully, for our family, the school year wasn’t so bad. With the support of amazingly creative teachers, my 6 year old actually enjoyed first grade. Although it was more work for me as a parent, I couldn’t have asked for a better experience for her, given the circumstances. At the end of the year daughter was heartbroken that she wouldn’t get to see her teacher every day. In a year with so many uncertainties, her teacher and school routine provided her with the much-needed stability kids crave.

Our family did not face any of the other insecurities brought on by the pandemic. However, it undoubtedly affected the ability for each of us to have our own space and opportunity to grow independently. For my 6-year-old, school was her independent time in her own little world, with her friends and the kind of one-on-one attention that only these amazing beings called teachers can provide.

For this upcoming school year, the obvious concern for most parents is the health and safety of kids and families. There are still many unknowns about this pandemic and how it affects children. Although schools are trying to find the right answer here, there are too many layers to this. It is challenging to choose between the mental health or physical health of kids. There are kids from such diverse and unique backgrounds that it is almost impossible to find a solution that pleases everybody. As a parent, I prefer to err on the side of caution. I am not entirely confident about how safe it will be for our kids, especially as they are still unvaccinated.

As we are nearing the end of summer, I feel a bit more anxious than I anticipated. Even in a usual year, I am the kind of parent who gets emotional at the start of every school year. It is just a reminder of how fast these little beings grow up. With many unknowns still present, this year will most certainly look differently once again. Many things will be out of our control. To ease my anxiety, I find it helpful to focus on the positive things from the past school year.

Here are my family’s 6 positive outcomes of distance learning:

1. Mid-day hugs and kisses
As hard as it was tending to the kids’ needs all day, it was nice to break up the monotony of the day with extra hugs and kisses. Regular in-person school does not afford us the same comfort badly needed on some days. This is one aspect that I truly enjoyed. Watching the tickle fests my kids snuck in between my daughter’s classes helped them forge a bond that a regular school year might not have allowed to. I guess we will just have to make up for it by fitting in extra snuggle time for everyone after school.

2. Better understanding of school work for the parents
My daughter attended in-person Kindergarten for 6 months. During that time, it was a significant change for me not to have the opportunity to interact with her teachers and get the daily updates that her daycare provided. As kids grow older, I understand that they might not need as much monitoring, but it is always good to know how they are doing when they are away from us. It is overwhelming to think about how much time they spend away from us and how much of their lives happen at that time. Attending school from home gave me a better understanding of what they were learning and the techniques used to teach them. It was easier for me to help my daughter with her schoolwork, using the same terminology that her teachers were using.

3. Moments of reassurance
This past school year, I would be walking past my daughter’s room and happen to pick up on a positive comment from her teacher (received for her participation). It would warm my heart to watch my daughter in her element. Although my daughter used to share tidbits of information from her school day in Kindergarten, she remembered only so much from school. There was no way I would have known these details. Of course, some would say it’s better that way. But, I felt reassured to see what she was enjoying, where she was struggling, what made her happy, where her personality shone. Parent-teacher conferences are meant for this purpose, but no teacher can remember or should have to remember these small, daily encounters for every student.

4. Getting to know your child’s friends better
Our daughter’s teacher used to set aside some time for the kids to interact in breakout rooms, as they would at recess or lunchtime. This was a treat for me as a parent. It is hilarious to see 6-year-olds navigate technology and still find a way to be their goofy, chatty selves. They would share jokes, books they were reading, quirky snippets about their siblings, and whatnot. Since the teacher couldn’t be present in each breakout room, this would be done as loud as possible. I would hear their giggles, and it truly was a ray of sunshine among all the chaos. After school, when we talked about who said what at school, my daughter would be thrilled that I knew the names and could join in the fun, talking about the funny incidents. It made me so happy to be able to share that part of her life.

5. Less tired child
Maybe it was because it was her first year of formal schooling, but my daughter used to be really tired when she got home from school. To be fair, it was a 30 min bus ride which might have been extra tiring for her. But, this past year, she was a happier, more relaxed kid at the end of her school day. It made for easy maneuvering around homework and bedtime routines since everyone was in a calmer state. It will be interesting to see how the commute time will affect her energy and composure this school year.

6. Bonus learning for sibling

This one was my absolute favorite from online learning. My 2-year-old was saying big words (‘civilization’), singing in Latin, and doing Jumping Jacks like a pro by the end of the school year. It was all thanks to him joining in on my 6 year old’s classes when he could or overhearing her teacher explaining a certain subject. It could very well be credited to his personality and ability to grasp things faster, but being able to participate with big sister in online learning was definitely a boost. It was so heartwarming to see him join her virtual holiday party, watching a movie in a blanket fort, snuggled up with his sister. Such a precious moment it was, and I am not sure it will recur soon. It’s not like schools have ‘Bring your sibling to school day’!

child's small school desk
As much as I enjoyed these aspects of online school, I understand that being in school is important for kids’ mental health and picking up social skills. I am grateful that we had a positive experience last school year, and I acknowledge that might not be the case for everyone. And the sooner things normalize, the better it will be for kids and adults alike. These most definitely will be school years to remember!

I spent my ‘growing-up’ years in India, and adulting years in America! Me and my husband moved from Nagpur, India to Eden Prairie, Minnesota 12 years ago; at once falling in love with the charm that every season brings to this warm, welcoming state. I am a mother to my feisty 6 year old daughter and my equally spirited 2 year old boy. When I am not participating in their hoodlum/shenanigans, you will find me obsessing over books of all sorts. A self-proclaimed children’s book enthusiast, with a slight problem of hoarding books. I am passionate about early childhood education and developing emotional intelligence at a young age. My formal education is in Microbiology and Public Health and I have held a variety of positions in the past, from research, undergraduate teaching to health communications at the University of Minnesota. Since the pandemic hit, I have primarily been enjoying being at hime with my kids. When I am able to, I volunteer with a Non-Profit called One Life to Love. A die-hard F.R.I.E.N.D.S. fan, I identify most with Monica! I enjoy gardening, books, coffee, and soaking in the world through my kids’ eyes. You can find me sharing tidbits about my parenting journey on Instagram @ohmycuckoolala

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