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For many students, it has been over a year of virtual learning since COVID-19 has created a new learning environment. School closings and virtual learning has required educators and students to adapt and learn new methods of achieving academic success. Success has its challenges as research shows virtual learning has disproportionately affected Black and Hispanic students, and those with disabilities. 

Stephanie Carter, a wife, mother of two teenage boys, and now author, knows exactly what it takes to get the job done and excel in this virtual learning environment. For the past 11 years, Carter has homeschooled her two teenage boys and is passionate about empowering other parents to set their students up for success. Stephanie Carter recently released her new book, Trials and Successes: Effective Teaching and Learning at Home.

BlackEnterprise.com recently spoke with Carter about effectively managing the virtual learning environment, strategies for parents and students, and tips for struggling parents.

How can parents effectively balance the need for structure and accountability with the emotional and physical challenges students face in a new educational atmosphere?

To effectively balance this need, the parents need to acknowledge this need as it relates to each child. Each child is unique, therefore parents have to customize this need accordingly. Some children are introverts and may enjoy the virtual space while others, who are very social may find virtual learning difficult. Parents should talk to their children and observe their children discover how well their children respond to virtual learning. Furthermore, parents and children can use this time to discover new skills (e.g., typing, computer), new ways of communicating, and new ways of using things inside of the home to enforce learning.

What strategies are high-performing students transferring into the virtual classroom from the traditional setting?

I believe that all students transferring into the virtual classroom can be successful. If they can adapt to learning while physically apart from their teacher, block out the distractions of being home, and have a great support system that includes their parents/guardians, teachers, and administrators success is attainable. Of course, some students will struggle with distance learning because of their unique learning styles so it takes creativity and ingenuity on the part of all involved to contribute to the success of the student.

When should parents begin to look for additional support for their students? 

Parents should consult additional help when their children seem frustrated, uninterested, or falling behind in their studies, or if the parents feel overwhelmed. Additional support may not only help the student’s morale and confidence but may provide the same for the parents, too. As a homeschool mom, there are days when I need to talk to someone or find a YouTube video to discover a different perspective on a topic I wish to teach my sons. So additional support can be in many forms. Parents should not think that they can do it all. Get a tag team partner to help. 

Who is responsible for the success of the student?! The student, the parent, the educational system, or all combined?

If your child is in the traditional school system, all parties involved, the student, the parents/guardians, and the educational system are responsible for the success of the student. Parents should have open communication with their children’s teachers to keep track of their children’s progress. Parents should verify that assignments, if any, are being submitted. If parents are available during their children’s virtual class time, they should observe to determine if their children are attentive, if they’re participating in class, and if they understand what’s being taught. By being proactive, parents will not be surprised at the end of the quarter or the end of the school year if their children are falling behind.  

What are your three most helpful tips for parents struggling with their students in the new virtual or hybrid school environment?

  1. Parents and students need to take many breaks. I know that it may be difficult because the classes are structured, but if parents feel that their child’s attention wanes after some time, they can talk to the child’s teacher to permit their child to stand, move around, or sit in a comfortable area within their learning space. At this time, the child needs to be comfortable otherwise, the learning process will not be effective. 
  2. If parents are available during their children’s virtual class time, they should observe to determine if their children are attentive, if they’re participating in class, and if they understand what’s being taught.  
  3. Parents should have patience with the process. It is a tremendous adjustment for all involved and it will take time, patience, and perseverance. But if parents focus on the main goal, which is a successful educational experience, the time and effort in doing whatever it takes to reach that goal will be worth it. 

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