Beyond the Classroom: Living with — But Not Loving — Virtual Learning

For children to be active and engaged, they need to wonder Photo: on Unsplash

As Covid-19 upends our work and our social lives, we come to accept that Virtual Learning is not going away any time soon. We are rapidly adapting our routines to safeguard our family’s well-being while tending to our livelihoods.

Our children’s reluctance to be home schooled frustrates us. They miss connecting with friends and family. They miss after-school hangouts and sports and dance and theater…they are not as intellectually engaged.

What can we do to create a new normal for them?

For some, it means the day starts with getting dressed as if they are heading to school; for others it’s about being in PJs all day. The key is to create structures (with their input) that the adults reinforce.

Secondly, concentrate on how you communicate with your kids about school. Be curious. Don’t dwell only on the completion of a task and correct answers. Sure, they’re important, but don’t both they and we learn so much more when we engage them in conversation?

Next, let’s try to better understand the teacher’s perspective. The skills required to effectively teach and manage a classroom of children is, in some ways, in opposition to the skills needed to teach remotely.

A core element of teaching is connecting to an audience. Teachers are creative and improvisational. The high school teacher who’s my next door neighbor told me, “If I’m not Zooming with kids, I’m taking training on using Zoom; I am on the computer all day long. That is not me.”

It’s clear by now that Virtual Learning is not going to work anywhere near as well as building-based teaching for many kids, but it is all that we have to work for now.

As a parent and professional tutor, I have observed that one size does not fit all.

For some families, two hours a day of work is sufficient, while others want their children going at it three times that long every day.

Some are okay with open-ended assignments and others thrive on right-or-wrong answers.

Some are maintaining the same work pace they had before home schooling, and for others, keeping up that pace while homebound only adds stress at an already stressful time.

No matter the quality of the material and presentation, some children may find online learning depressing or they may not learn well from a screen.

For children to be active and engaged, they need to wonder. What we need to do is show them a positive, interested, and growth attitude.

Think back to setting up play spaces when they were little, structuring opportunities for them to discover and explore. And we need to keep a curious mindset of our own, open to whatever the future may hold.

Kevin Miller is a full-time tutor based in Tarrytown. You can reach him at or

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About the Author: Kevin Miller