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What is a parent’s role in remote learning?

Granville Academy in Oxford, North Carolina is well-positioned to adjust to the new reality of remote learning presented by COVID-19.

The K-12 school, part of Granville County Public Schools, uses blended learning. In lower grades, students spend three days a week learning online and two days actually attending school in person. Of course, now that schools across North Carolina are shut down for instruction, those students have moved exclusively online. But that isn’t as challenging for Granville Academy as it is for the myriad schools around the state experimenting with distance learning for the first time.

But a powerful lesson that other schools can draw from Granville Academy is that when it comes to remote learning, particularly in elementary school, it isn’t all about the teachers and the students. Parents play an essential role, too.

“In the lower grades, the students need that learning coach to give them that instruction,” said William Graham, principal of the school.

That learning coach is usually a parent, though Graham did say that some parents at the school hire a professional coach, or the duty might fall to another family member.

Mary Warehime, dean of instruction at Granville Academy, likens the strategy in elementary school to a triangle. There are three essential sides: teachers, parents, and students.

“If we’re missing one, we’re going to fall apart,” she said.

To engage in discussion regarding Granville Academy’s approach to working with families, EdNC readers are invited to join a zoom meeting held by The Innovation Project (TIP) on Tuesday, April 7 from 1:30-2:30 p.m.  Dr. Alisa McLean, superintendent of Granville County Schools, is a part of this collaborative of forward-thinking superintendents who work together on transforming public education. She and others will share additional resources and insights from their model.  To join the zoom meeting click on or dial in at  +1 253 215 8782, Meeting ID: 107 353 436.


So why is a learning coach so important?

Graham said they are there to help students navigate learning in an online world. For instance, does the student have a specific place to work? How does the student manage their time?

“Those basics of online learning that for little kids is a stretch,” said Graham.

Courtesy of Granville Academy

And, parents are there to ask questions that perhaps their students aren’t equipped to ask. Graham points out that online learning in K-5 is a much more difficult challenge than it is in higher grades. In grades 6-8 and particularly in high school, remote learning is much more driven by the students. They are more independent and don’t need an instructional coach the way elementary students do, Graham said.

Communication between parents and teachers is key. Warehime said if a lesson isn’t clear, or the student isn’t sure what they should be working on, the teachers have an open line of communication so that learning coaches can get clarity on what’s needed.

“What I’ve observed is that with really good teachers and with communication, it does work,” Graham said.

Warehime added that though learning coaches aren’t professional educators, the beauty of Granville Academy is that they have access to one.

“Even though they’re not a certified teacher, they have a certified teacher right there to help them across the finish line,” she said.

The teachers at Granville Academy provide students and parents not only with curriculum, but also with detailed instructions about what the students’ days should look like when they aren’t in school. There are weekly lesson plans and step-by-step instructions that lay out what a student should be doing on Monday, Tuesday, and so on.

Granville Academy is in its second year and serves about 170 students. Graham admits that his teachers are in a unique position for remote learning because they aren’t having to contend with the large numbers of students that some schools are right now. But there are still lessons learned at Granville Academy that can apply to other schools in our current crisis.

“Take it slow. It’s very easy to be overwhelmed,” Graham said. “I know teachers are overwhelmed. So I know parents have to be overwhelmed … just try to help your child get the most that they can when you’re trying to fill in the gaps.”

“It’s going to be messy, but it’s going to be OK,” Warehime added.

Graham said that especially right now, there is a lot of insecurity and anxiety around remote learning. He said what’s most important is that parents feel supported and not all alone in this.

“Being that support. Helping them to cope with this,” he said. “Instead of just turning on the spigot and say, here’s all this.”

Courtesy of Granville Academy

Many parents are dealing with all sorts of things right now. Having a full instructional day for their child every day might not be feasible. Maybe they only have a few hours a day they can help their child. Maybe they only have one. Warehime said teachers can help parents with that.

“Ask your teacher, what do you feel is the most bang for your buck?” she said, adding later: “What needs to be covered so they’re ready for the next grade?” 

Graham said his wife is an eighth grade teacher in a traditional school. He’s seen how much COVID-19 and the move to online learning has “turned her world upside down,” so he understands what other teachers are going through.

“Everybody is getting used to this,” he said. “Traditional teachers are having to wrap their heads around this. And it’s very difficult.”

He also recognizes that his school is a school of choice. The students and families doing online learning there wanted to. But regardless of choice, right now, online learning is the reality for all North Carolina public schools, at least for the time being.

“Our folks signed up for this. And these other people did not,” Graham said. “They may be working two jobs, and the only person at home is a grandma taking care of the kids.”

A remote learning kindergarten plan for the week

Granville Academy provided with a variety of examples of how they help parents prepare to help their kids learn during the week.

Warehime showed us a kindergarten plan from Granville Academy’s K-1 teacher for this week. It began with this email:

Hello Granville Academy Kindergarten Families!  I hope you and your family were able to get outside this weekend to enjoy our beautiful weather.  I took several pictures of some beautiful plants I saw and I will share them on my Instagram page since the First Grade students are currently learning about plants.  I would encourage Kindergarten students to observe various types of plants when they are outside as well.

I have attached the weekly plan for this week.  In Literacy, students will be working on letter “Vv”.  I have included sentences for students to read each day this week since I do not have decodable books to share.  Students should recognize and/or be able to sound out most of the words in the sentences.  They can use context clues to help with any unknown words.  Please let me know how your student does with reading the sentences.

In Math, students will learn about Subtraction.  Subtraction is a hard concept for most Kindergarten students.  For this week, please just focus on taking away items.  Do not focus on writing subtraction number sentences.  Using candy, cookies, and toys as manipulatives (counters) will help students understand subtraction.  Try to keep it fun.

In Science, students will continue to learn about night & day, the sun, and weather concepts.  Keeping a weather chart and/or weather journal during the month of April would be a great idea.  Students usually like to track the weather.  The Social Studies modules focus on various jobs and the tools workers use at their jobs.

There are a lot of worksheets this week and I apologize for that.  Young students need to cut, glue, and write to build knowledge and increase their learning retention.  If you need me to print out the worksheets for you, please let me know.

If students have finished their Edmentum assessments, they have individualized learning paths to work on in Math and ELA.  These are learning activities students can work on independently each day.  These provide quality review and learning activities.

I am not officially assigning writing assignments right now due to the current learning situation.  I would encourage you to have your student write (or draw) in their notebook on a daily basis or a few times per week.  Students can write (or draw) about the daily weather, their daily activities, their thoughts about not coming to school, their favorite TV show, and more.  It is important to keep them writing (or drawing) and to make these activities fun.

I think about your students many, many times throughout the day.  I miss them and wonder how they are handling this situation.  I am sure they are confused, just like many of us as adults.

I am offering to Facetime with students for a few minutes this week if you would like me to check in with them.  This is totally optional.  If you would like to participate in this, please email me and I will share my phone number.  

Take care, have a great week, and stay healthy!

And here are links to the assignments:

Correction: This article originally misattributed the origin of the kindergarten plan for the week.

Alex Granados

Alex Granados was the senior reporter for EducationNC from December 2014-March 2023.