How to Keep Your Children Engaged During Distance Learning

We know parents are juggling many concerns right now. We don’t think wondering about your child’s education should be one of them. As an educational leader in our community, Old Trail School wants to act as a resource for all families who may be looking for guidance, support or opportunities to enhance learning in the home. In the following blog, you’ll find tips and resources from our division directors, who are experts in developing curricula for children from the age of 2 through grade eight.


Make learning meaningful.

Active, hands-on experiences – whether at school or at home – are the most effective tools for engaging students in their learning. When children find learning exciting and meaningful, they dig deeper, apply their creativity and discover new interests. Learning is a skill children must develop through practice, not just for school, but for life.

“Let their interests fuel their learning. If they like basketball, use basketball as a framework for additional learning in spelling, math or any subject.”

Amanda Irwin, Primary School Director

Here’s an example you can do with your child at home:
Our first grade students are analyzing soil samples in their backyards, observing the colors, textures and characteristics of rocks, living and dead plants, moisture and more. You can even compare and contrast samples from different areas in your yard.


Identify resources for further enrichment.

By seeking additional content related to your child’s assignments, you create a more robust learning experience – one that causes your child to think deeply about the subject matter and from multiple angles. Especially for older children who can learn independently, the resources listed below offer interactive games, videos and other content that can keep them entertained and excited about school. While Old Trail students may be learning together in real time, there are plenty of resources available for all families to add to their school day.

  • Public library online databases
  • Cincinnati Zoo live stream
  • INFOhio offers digital resources for all grades
  • Code.org teaches kids the fundamentals of coding
  • Day-by-day projects from Scholastic
  • Cosmic Kids yoga classes for a break from studying

Build, make, do something together.

We know parents are already doing a lot more than they would in a normal spring. But if you have time, consider creating something that’s representative of the content your child is learning. For example, if your child is learning about medieval Europe, you could encourage them to build a castle out of Legos, construct a catapult using popsicle sticks or draw a scene of royalty. With your older student, you could follow a painting tutorial or film a “how-to” video sharing their talent. Children cherish the learning experiences they share with parents. You’ve likely never been closer to your child’s learning – enjoy it.

“No matter the project, if your child sees that it interests you, they’ll be excited as well.”

John Pintola, Intermediate School Director

Families could even take virtual field trips to places they’ve never been, such as Yellowstone National Park, the Johnson Space Center and even the surface of Mars.


Talk about it.

“So what did you learn at school today?” Even though we’re all home, this is still the most important question (along with follow-up questions, “How?” and “Why?”) you can ask your child at the dinner table. By reflecting on their day, your child places their experiences in context, and by rearticulating their experiences, they learn the content again in a new way.

“Our Middle School students are creating primary resource news stories during the coronavirus crisis. As they document their daily life and emotions, they not only develop as writers, they also learn to manage their own stress. Students feel they have a voice and recognize the important contributions they can make to the historical record of this time.”

David Chottiner, Middle School Director

“It’s been wonderful to see my son up close as a learner. I love seeing how his teachers engage him and everyone in the ‘virtual classroom.’ Even as a graduating eighth grader, he’s excited to start every day, see his friends and learn something meaningful together with them.”
—Missy McGinnes, Current Parent


Be mindful of screen time.

Lastly, as children spend more time learning on computers (active screen time) throughout the day, parents should try to manage the amount of passive screen time (TV shows, movies, social media, etc.) their child is experiencing. As the weather turns toward spring and summer, children of all ages will benefit from increased sunshine and fresh air, which will rejuvenate their brains and prepare them for the next day’s learning.

An increasing number of pediatricians and researchers are beginning to believe that it is not exactly the amount of time spent on screens but the kind of screen time that really matters. Scientists have identified two kinds of screen time—active and passive. Active screen time involves the child engaging either mentally or physically with the content being shown. … Too much passive screen time, which by definition is sedentary and mindless, is probably not the best idea.”

Aditi Subramaniam, Ph.D., PsychologyToday.com

Meredith Ondak, Parent of Old Trail Grade 4 and Grade 6 Students

During the past several weeks, Old Trail has been inspired by the commitment of educators, the dedication of parents and the resilience of children everywhere.

If you’d like to learn more about Old Trail or would like information about additional learning resources, parents should contact Susan Newman, director of enrollment management at snewman@oldtrail.org.

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