By Nathalie Kunin

Nathalie KuninWhen the Great Plague of London hit in the late 1600s, Isaac Newton was sent home from school as a precaution. At home, he developed many of his most famous concepts, from the beginnings of calculus to theories on optics. And whether he sat under an apple tree or not, it was during this time that he articulated the theory of gravity.

Today, the COVID-19 pandemic has upended our daily routines and has forced many of us to stay home and work digitally. Countless schools have temporarily closed and transitioned to online platforms. These are certainly challenging times but there is some guidance from stories such as Newton’s. Coupled with the abundance of online tools at our disposal, our child’s time at home can remain fruitful and fulfilling.

Here are a number of ways to help students feel more motivated and enthusiastic about studying and working online.

Create a community – Zoom and other video conferencing tools are commonly used for classroom or instructional sessions. But consider their use as study periods or class discussion periods as well. Scheduling a time with your student’s peers and allowing them to group chat and work together will help them feel like they are still in a classroom. That can go a long way in helping them stay engaged and feel like an active part of their class community.

Utilize Online Resources – There are countless study apps and tools online to help students stay working hard throughout the day. From Khan Academy to John Green’s Crash Course series on YouTube, and from Quizlet to Kahoot, there are a myriad of great resources to supplement any academic topic.

Environment & Routine – To make the best of your student’s digital sessions, consider establishing a study environment. Even a small, yet dedicated space, can significantly improve feeling prepared and staying focused. Additionally, routines are paramount during challenging times. Help your child identify good habits and stick to a reasonable routine. Furthermore, breaks are essential to battling computer fatigue. Remind your child to keep good posture in front of the screen and encourage the habituation of breaks. A quick stretch, jumping jacks, or even a trip to the kitchen for water can help keep fatigue at bay. Encourage them to go outside and get fresh air – schedule outdoor recess and PE into your routine.

Study Methods – A great way to make learning new material more manageable is to utilize techniques like Focus & Diffuse. Dr. Barbara Oakley, an engineering professor and creator of the most popular course on Coursera entitled, Learning How to Learn, stresses the importance of modulating between a period of deep focus for about 25 minutes and a diffuse period (defined as a period of doing something unrelated to the topic at hand) for about 5 minutes. No matter what type of learner your child may be, this method helps with making complex ideas more manageable.

Stay Fueled/Stay Hydrated/Stay Rested – Hunger, dehydration, and being tired are major distractions. Keep students focused by encouraging them to eat, drink, and sleep well!

Learning at home requires practice of self-motivation and self-discipline, but as the old saying goes, structure is freedom. So encourage your child to make manageable strides towards a practical home-study structure. And although we may not all be as groundbreaking as Isaac Newton, we can certainly lay the ground work for success through good habits and simple routines.

Nathalie Kunin is the founder of Team Tutors. For more information you can visit