Boosting Independence in Young Virtual School Students
Starting kindergarten is a big step for young children, but whether they attend virtual school or a brick-and-mortar school affects the size of that step.
Many of the students who take the bus or are dropped off at a traditional school learn how to spend the day away from their families. In the virtual classroom, students don’t gain the same amount of distance from their parents, who often serve as their Learning Coaches.
Distance teaches students an important lesson in independence. It helps reduce a child’s dependence on his or her family members while boosting self-identity and self-reliance.
So, how do you help your student become more independent when you’re around each other all day in the virtual classroom? The answer is to offer him or her independent learning activities and socialization opportunities.
Some of the basic skills students develop in elementary school are to:
- Use good manners
- Express needs and feelings to others
- Understand that others have feelings
- Take turns and share
- Play independently without supervision
- Respect authority figures
Students develop these skills by way of guidance and experience. Since your student won’t be in a classroom full of his or her peers every day, you have to make an extra effort to expose him or her to different social situations.
Here are just a few ways to help your virtual student socialize:
- Sign up for art classes, music lessons, sports teams, or other after-school activities
- Set up playdates or playgroups with other young kids
- Coordinate a group field trip with other young virtual school students
It’s also important to teach your student how to interact with other adults. He or she should be able to respect authority, identify adults who are safe to talk to, ask adults for help when needed, and so on. To give your student the opportunity to interact with adults other than parents, teachers, and Learning Coaches, try the following:
- Encourage your student to ask a librarian for help in choosing a book.
- Ask an aunt, uncle, grandparent, or other trusted adult to take your student on an excursion.
- Supervise your student as he or she interacts with a cashier to make a small purchase.
Developing the confidence and communication skills to complete these exercises can help your student become more self-reliant and less attached to you.
Besides learning how to behave around other children and adults, students need to know how to behave on their own. Learning how to try new things and make their own decisions is crucial to the development of young children, especially when it comes to learning.
Here are some fun ideas to implement in the virtual classroom to help your student become more of an independent learner.
Implement a Reward System. A reward system encourages good behavior and motivation, but it can also be a way to instill some independence. When students know that they have to achieve something on their own to get a reward, they’ll be more persistent and gain more confidence in their abilities. Don’t forget to review the principles of motivation to learn how to promote long-term motivation.
Organize a Self-Serve Creativity Zone. Young students who learn the basics of reading, math, science, and more need a lot of guidance to understand new concepts. To teach them problem solving, however, you must let them work independently. Consider putting together a creativity zone, which is a station filled with various craft materials and tools that your student can experiment with. If you want to emphasize problem solving as well as creative exploration with this station, prompt your student with an idea to address using what he or she finds in the creativity zone.
Provide a Learner’s Toolbox. Young children are full of questions, and this only increases once school starts. Prevent your student from repeating questions or giving up too easily by providing him or her with a learner’s toolbox. This can be a box or folder that includes resources such as the alphabet, days of the week, colors, spellings of basic words, and more to which your student can easily refer whenever he or she forgets something. Getting into the habit of checking the toolbox will help your student learn to figure things out independently before seeking outside help.
Becoming an independent learner takes time, and it’s something you have to work on with your student every year. But it’s important to start as soon as possible to help your student become a confident and engaged learner.
If you have any other ideas for boosting independence in young students, share your thoughts with us.