< Back

FAMILIES: Strategies for At-Home Learning

“It’s like drinking water from a fire hose,” a high school freshman told his mom when she asked how remote learning is going so far.

That mom is NMSI’s own Danielle Towns, manager of community and family engagement. Like many, she is working from home while helping her three kids manage this new education space. We know it isn’t easy, which is why Towns and NMSI program manager Jim Smithwick – father of two – shared their expertise in two Facebook Live sessions this week.

Teachers: For advice on designing a successful online classroom, go here.


Understand expectations
Read or listen to all communications coming from the school and teachers to fully grasp what’s expected of students. If your student needs Internet access, a computer or another resource, the school is likely to communicate what is available in your area.

Take time to familiarize yourself with the platforms students are using. Figure out the contact phone number and email for tech support for each platform, and write it down for easy access whenever a problem arises.

Common types of assignments remote learners are asked to complete include asynchronous, or on-demand resources and videos available via Google Classroom and other platforms. Synchronous content is real time/live with teachers, such as on Zoom or Google Meet, where they will receive direct instruction and get the social interaction they’ve been missing these last few weeks. Students also may have printed materials they need to complete.

Find a learning buddy
Connect with another family who has a child in the same grade as yours. Help each other with any questions or advice that comes up along the way.

Bite-sized learning
To make learning more manageable, introduce concepts in small pieces, also known as scaffolding in the education world. When introducing a new concept, start with recognizing vocabulary for the subject. Then, model and demonstrate when possible, like building a physical representation, acting out a skit or using gummy bears to substitute numbers.

Give yourself and students plenty of time, practice, patience and grace – knowing this is new to everyone. Set aside time to take a few deep breaths each day. Students may fail but let them know that’s OK and to try again. This is how confidence is built.

Acknowledge Your Role
Parents and guardians should recognize they are facilitators of learning, but they don’t have to master all the content – and that’s OK. Help students reinforce what they’re learning by simply talking to them and asking questions, like describe what they learned. Holding that space sacred each day – and closing anything online that’s unrelated to this work – will help students thrive.

Create a Schedule
We’re not talking about a minute-by-minute breakdown. It’s simply setting a time when online coursework will be addressed and sticking with that schedule.

In a traditional classroom, teachers often circulate the room to make sure everyone understands the content. Online, students often stumble because they don’t know how to ask a question. Talk with students about how they can ask a question and raise their hand virtually.

Relax and Have Fun
While many states are closing schools through the end of the year, we know we’re in this for the long haul. Parents can help alleviate students’ stress by finding ways to make learning fun and a good experience for students, including beyond the coursework. They can tour Mars, explore the Lourve  Museum and more online. Students are looking to parents for guidance. It’s all about how you frame the experience.


Not familiar with a subject? YouTube has many videos where teachers explain concepts like the Pythagorean Theorem. Khan Academy has a free, searchable section where you can learn about different subjects.

Helping students cope with changes resulting from COVID-19” from the National Association of School Psychologists

STEM resources for at-home learning

Any further questions? Contact us.