Finding Balance

Learning Heroes
7 min readMar 19, 2021

Ideas and Resources for working parents during virtual learning

By Melissa Rayworth

In the past year, parents have done almost as much learning as children.

We’ve become tech trouble-shooters who tinker with webcams. We’ve sat in parking lots to access the wifi our kids need for virtual school. Like master planners, we schedule and reschedule our families to balance our children’s work with our own. And month after month, we strive like sports coaches to keep our kids motivated even when our own motivation is flagging.

This week, a panel of experts explored the big and small parenting wins of the past year, offering ideas and resources to keep the learning going and a whole lot of cheerful honesty about the unavoidably imperfect moments every family has experienced.

“Finding Balance: Ideas and Resources for Working Parents During Virtual Learning,” was held on March 16, hosted by Learning Heroes and Remake Learning Days Across America (RLDAA) as part of a series of webinars for parents and educators.

The panel, hosted by parenting blogger Lorena Taboas, included Yu-Ling Cheng, co-producer of the RLDAA festival, Meghan Stroh of EdNavigator (creators of The Kinda Guide) and Rocio Lopez, community partnerships manager at Common Sense Media (creators of Wide Open School).

As we mark one year since the pandemic left parents to figure out how to continue their child’s education while juggling work and family responsibilities, parents remain hungry for practical advice, authentic encouragement, camaraderie, and recognition. Here are several work/life balance questions along with successes and innovations parents can turn to:

“That is the question of the year for all parents,” Rocio told the audience.

With so much of daily life happening virtually, many parents wonder how much screen time is too much. But rather than counting minutes, Lopez said, “let’s change our perspective and think about screen quality.”

With tools like Common Sense Media reviews, parents can make informed choices about the quality of movies, TV shows, games and apps to ensure that screen minutes (or hours) are valuable.

“I absolutely love the idea of reframing it around quality time,” Stroh told the audience. She also suggested breaking screen time into three buckets: school time, social time and entertainment time.

“Evaluating the purpose of your child’s screen time can help you identify some of the pain points,” she said, “as well as identify some strategies for achieving the balance that you want.”

One way to make this bucket system work smoothly, Stroh said: Create “tickets” for a set amount of entertainment screen time, then let kids decide how and when to use them.

Another way to make the most of screen time (and shared time between parents and kids) is to choose projects and events that mix screen content with real-world activities. Cheng shared details on the upcoming Remake Learning Days Across America festival, which will offer nearly 700 (free!) events between April 22 and May 23 this year.

Most of the Remake Learning events are virtual and designed for parents and kids to enjoy together. One event Cheng highlighted is an online science project that teaches kids about oxidation as they create a pattern on the skin of a banana. This free “Let’s Tattoo a Banana” event is hosted by an organization in Eastern Kentucky and available virtually to families nationwide.

Stroh also shared details on Camp Kinda, which offers a huge library of learning adventures for kindergarteners through 8th-graders. The site saw more than 40,000 users last summer, she said, and they plan to add more content this summer to give “kids a chance to learn, move, create, play and engage with new content, and get interested in different ideas.”

Out of Camp Kinda grew The Kinda Guide website and e-newsletter, which Taboas said “feels like a caring email from a close friend”, full of resources, tips and “affirmations that you’re doing a good job along the way.”

And Lopez shared Wide Open School, a free site created at the start of the pandemic through a partnership between many education organizations, including Learning Heroes. At Wide Open School, parents can find free, high quality online and offline activities on a wide range of topics for kids from pre-K through high school in multiple languages.

Now that we’ve all finally gotten into a school routine, summer is arriving. As Taboas said, many parents are left wondering, do we use it to catch up on unfinished learning from this past year? Or do we give kids (and ourselves) a well-deserved (and needed) break?

Some helpful advice:

“Summer is an important time to think about learning, but it should be joyful learning,” Cheng said. “It should be learning that your kids are excited about.”

Once you’ve taken a breath, look for the free and fun in your community that can lead to important moments of learning and bonding for you and your child.

It’s also valuable, as summer begins, for parents to get a clear picture of how their kids are doing academically and what kinds of learning might be most beneficial this summer. Here are three great resources for parents as their child heads into summer:

  • EdNavigator’s Summer Learning Plan is a short page intended to help families and students set summer learning goals (academic or personal), determine action steps and track progress.
  • EdNavigator’s Academic Progress Snapshot, which parents can ask a teacher to fill out, captures a snapshot of student progress beyond grades, with questions about things like effort, focus, and interaction with other students.
  • Learning Heroes’ Readiness Check was designed by education experts to give parents a ‘gut check’ on their child’s readiness for the next grade. More like a game than a test, kids answer 3–5 grade-level questions in math or reading and parents receive resources, videos and ideas to support specific skills at home.

Remote learning and social distancing have kept children and adults from seeing friends and hugging loved ones. With a few months left in the school year, Zoom fatigue is setting in for many students. How can parents refresh motivation and excitement around learning while still keeping kids safe and connected?

Cheng suggested collaborative projects like a book club or building a shared Minecraft world. Families can do these projects together and invite friends to join in virtually.

Stroh mentioned that high schoolers may be having an especially hard time with all the social interaction that’s been lost this year. Although teenagers may not always be forthcoming about what’s on their minds, just checking in to ask how they’re doing can be helpful. They may also need some extra support as they begin making plans for life beyond high school.

If motivation is an issue, as it’s been for many, have a conversation about something they are aspiring for — and help them map a path to get there. “Nudging them toward a goal that they care about can increase motivation,” Stroh says.

Caring for our kids is incredibly important. But Rocio emphasized that parents also need to make time for themselves and maintain social connections. “Throw away the guilt,” she said, and “make sure you have a tribe of support.”

She shared information about Common Sense Media’s community group, which parents can sign up for via text (by texting “kids” to 21555).

Ask many families about their reflections from this year and you’ll hear comments about embracing the slower pace of life. You’ll also hear about the power of resilience.

“Parents have faced challenges and kept going,” Rocio said. “Our kids will look back and remember that about this year.”

To hear about all of the resources shared in this webinar, watch the recording here. Register here for the May 13 webinar “Make Summer Count: How to keep your child learning while having fun (offline and online!).” And stay tuned for additional details on our fall webinar to help families gear up for a really important Back-to-School season.



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Learning Heroes serves to inform and equip parents to be advocates for their children and best support their academic, social, and emotional development.