Preventing Education Overload

Is anyone else completely overwhelmed by all of the free resources that are being offered online for learners? My heart is full and I am completely blown away by the generosity of educational organizations, individual professionals, schools and everyone who is focused on supporting our children and teens. It really is quite amazing. But, even as a seasoned educator and darn-good parent I struggled with all the information out there, how to find what would meet my daughter's needs best, how to organize it and keep track of her progress. I found a solution that allowed me to set up my daughter’s daily schedule, create the learning experiences she wanted and stay on top of her work. Read on to learn how I conquered education overload.

First Steps

My first step was to identify exactly what I felt was important to have on her schedule. To keep things simple I looked at a typical daily schedule and identified the meaty subjects: Language Arts, Math, Science and Spanish were those that I felt needed to be addressed directly and daily. History, Art, Music, Physical Education/Recess, electives and all other coursework was the gravy I would spread over the main courses. Are you getting hungry for more? Read on. (Sorry, I just could not resist that pun.)

Then I paused and chatted with my daughter Natalie about what she would like to learn in each area. I asked her to just write down a bunch of things she wanted to learn more about, things she enjoyed learning, how she preferred to learn and ways she wanted to demonstrate her learning. I really wanted this experience to be based on her needs and wants so that it would motivate her to engage with her online learning; I wanted her to be a more self-directed learner. This is the beauty of self-directed learning- when it is based on the learner’s interests they are more excited about learning, tend to engage more fully and achieve higher levels of academic success. I gave my daughter three days to work on her word web and at the end of Day Two when I asked to see how it was progressing, her page was blank. Admission of defeat. 

And now, I can address the difficulty in expecting students to transition into self-directed learning environments. It isn’t easy under typical circumstances and we really cannot expect our children to immediately “get over” not being in a physical school; having their entire routine swiped away and redesigned; the roller coaster of emotions and fears of the pandemic; and jump right into online learning with motivation and determination to succeed. Could you?

So, my first attempt at igniting my daughter’s excitement for learning from home failed. I was expecting too much of my young teen and needed to spend some time with her talking about the educational changes happening, the opportunities she had and how she wanted to approach learning.  What we discovered was that she wanted a blend of virtual learning, hands-on activities and the ability to modify as she progressed if she was not happy.  We then worked together on identifying some clear expectations and learning outcomes. For example, I expect Natalie to work for at least 4 hours a day and demonstrate progress in each activity. However, I do not make her adhere to a structured schedule. You will see in the next section that she has freedom in deciding when she needs a break, needs to eat, wants to go outside and get some fresh air or even when she wants to check in on her favorite YouTubers. That freedom is resulting in an increase of productivity because she has control of her day.

Organizing Learning

We have created an interactive schedule for her on Trello. If you aren’t familiar with Trello, it is an online collaboration tool that shows you what's being worked on, who's working on what, and where something is in a process. You can use Trello from either the website or by downloading the app. Natalie’s board looks like this today: