child in front of the computer studying remotely

As is public knowledge, the Department of Education determined that the new school year of the public education system will begin virtually, following the recommendations of health experts. The typical classrooms of most public schools in Puerto Rico, and also private ones, consist of about 30 students, which does not meet the necessary standard of physical estrangement, which leads to this necessary determination of virtual education to safeguard the health of our students and teachers in the face of the threat of COVID-19.

This new reality can cause anxiety for parents because they will be serving as teacher assistants, and may not feel prepared or fear that their children will not learn. Recommendations that help them prepare to make the experience productive will lead them, from now on, to organize for what might become a good family experience, or at least prevent the atmosphere at home from deteriorating.

What are some recommendations for the success of virtual education?

1. Place of study. Prepare in advance where they will connect virtually. It should be one away from interruptions, constant noises, from television or toys that distract the student.

2. Chair and table. Place a table and chair for the student. The chair should be suitable for the size of the child so that he can place both feet on the floor and his back rest on the back of the chair. Avoid sitting a toddler in an adult's chair because he or she will be constantly moving trying to adjust his or her body and will affect his or her attention.

3. Structure. Create an organizational structure so that 15 minutes before connecting for class and your child and you are ready. Enter the digital platform and wait. Being ready implies that the child has already had breakfast, brushed, dressed (not in pyjamas), has gone to the bathroom and has all the materials ready on his table, plus a bottle of water. Water is necessary for brain function, so it should be kept hydrated. This early 15-minute period provides for last-minute issues that may arise.

4. Power. Provide the child with food that does not affect their attention. Breakfasts should be the perfect fuel for the brain. Avoid refined sugars, sweets, biscuits, chocolate, artificial or sweetened juices, and replace them with fruits, yogurt, whole-grain breads, eggs, etc. The more natural and healthier breakfast, the more likely your child is to focus on learning.

5. Rest. Put your child to bed early. Since you'll still be at home, you might get the wrong feeling that you're on vacation. Establish a sleep pattern as if it were for school. Children need sleep in order to concentrate and learn.

6. Technology. Reduce exposure to technology and video games. You'll be spending several hours, five days a week, in front of a computer, so after class and finishing assigned assignments, make sure your child is on the move, whether it's playing a sport or playing with other children or their siblings, away from technology.

7. Rules. Establish and discuss clear rules with your child, preferably in writing, about what is expected and not expected during class time at a distance, such as: not touching the computer screen, turning the microphone on and off only when the teacher requires it, getting up and away from the area only after the teacher's permission, and staying silent when the teacher is talking. They are rules that prevail in a classroom and will help the child, by association, to be able to exercise self-control and focus to learn as if he were in school. Remember the rules every day in the morning before you begin and reinforce proper behavior, while eliminating privileges (toys) for a day if you violate them.

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Finally, talk to your child enthusiastically about the new adventure you will experience for a while. If your child hears her complaining, upset, anxious and worried, she will convey emotions and predispose him for what he already anticipates as a negative experience, which could affect his attitude to learn.

Expect chaos, get ready and expect to learn from an experience that's complex and demanding, but it's nothing more than the beautiful experience of parenting. Parenting is a unique experience, sometimes painful, but more than rewarding. This will happen, the children will grow up and, for sure, this experience of virtual education will leave memorable moments in the family, despite the challenge of it. Preparation and a positive attitude are the key to this.