Currently, schools around the country are indefinitely closed to in-person classes due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, this has not halted education. Schools are utilizing a variety of means including online learning to make sure students can still study at home. Unless you were already being homeschooled or attending high school online, this is probably a big change for you. Most students are not used to completing their entire course load at home. You might be worried about how you can maintain your schoolwork momentum and stay on top of your studies. After all, you don’t want to lose your progress just because you’re away from campus.
Fortunately, studying from home is not as complicated as it might seem. Don’t be intimidated; thousands of people complete entire college degrees online every day. Millions of people, right now, are learning to do their full-time jobs remotely from home offices. You can avoid falling behind and avoid burnout if you just keep a few things in mind.
Practice Good Study Habits
Schoolwork momentum at home is built on good study habits. Chief among these are organization and time management. It’s important to know where your tools and resources are and to have a clean, designated place of study. This allows you to sit down and focus on the task at hand. Having to search for your journal or clean your cluttered space every time you sit down creates barriers to learning and discourages good study. If you have to put in extra effort to study, over time you are less and less likely to do it.
Time management is equally important. Your classes in school are scheduled in periods for a very good reason. If you studied one subject for an entire day, you’d burn out in no time. Studying from home, you need to make sure you’re managing your time in a similar, structured way. Try this: at the end of each week, make a schedule for the next week. Plot out what you will study each day, and how long you will do it. Then, use your schedule and a timer to execute this plan. When the timer is up, reset and move on to the next subject. After you’ve done all you have planned for the day, close your books and don’t look at them again until the next day.
This approach is similar to the Pomodoro Technique, a method of study that embodies the phrase, “Work smarter, not harder.” Don’t wear yourself out. Set up your space, set up your schedule, do it as written, and don’t go overboard.
To learn more about good study habits, visit our post.
Get Your Priorities Straight
When everything feels unfamiliar, it’s easy to lose focus. Take some time to sit down and sort out your priorities. In your studies, what is most pressing? What needs the most practice or improvement? What do you really enjoy, and what are you good at? Take the current situation as an opportunity; you’re in charge of your schedule, so build it around your priorities. When you establish your priorities, you’re more likely to feel that your study time is productive, which keeps homework motivation high.
Use a Schedule, but be Flexible
It’s very important to have a schedule. Fortunately, nothing says that your home schedule has to be like your “normal” school schedule. In educational journals and academia there are plenty of arguments about whether or not schools start too early. High school students tend to agree with this (as they fall asleep in third period).
So, if the school schedule doesn’t work for you, why keep it? You’re at home, and you control your schedule, so tailor it to your needs. Don’t work well at 8:00 A.M.? Then don’t work at 8:00 A.M. Wake up, go for a run, get your brain working, and start your studies at 10:00 A.M. instead. Use this situation to your advantage.
The same principle applies to the order of your schedule. If you tend to be fuzzy in the morning and clear in the afternoon, schedule your more difficult subjects for afternoon study. Do what works for you.
However, remember that this isn’t a vacation or a snow day. Don’t use this as an excuse to stay up all night and sleep all day. You need to get enough rest, and you need to keep studying.
Embrace Special Interests
In addition to being flexible with your schedule, why not be flexible with your content? The average curriculum is limited by the teacher’s agenda. This is necessary, but also doesn’t leave much room for exploration beyond what is planned.
Since you’re in control of your schedule, however, you get to decide how deep you go. You need to complete what your teachers assign, but why stop there? Use this as an opportunity to embrace special interests. If you really love a subject, build out your syllabus to explore it. There are plenty of useful resources available through the web, use them to dig into what you really want to study. Doing this keeps learning exciting, and extra study never hurt anybody. Use your special interests as homework incentive. You’re always going to be more interested in learning and studying when you’re focused on something you love.
Seriously: take breaks. Whether studying from home or remotely working, it’s easy to get tunnel vision. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you need to study every minute of your remote school day. Think about a normal school day. Are you studying the entire time? No, you walk the halls, your chat with friends, you have snacks. The day is broken into sections.
Take a walk or play with a pet or do yoga. Let your studies soak in and settle in your brain. Schedule your breaks, and time them to make sure you’re giving yourself full breaks and not cutting them short. Taking breaks goes a long way toward preventing burnout and maintaining schoolwork momentum.
Practice Social Distancing at Home
Social distancing is an effective step we can all take toward limiting the spread of COVID-19. It’s important to practice it in public, but also at home. Students and parents aren’t together during a typical school day. Students go to school and see their friends, classmates, and teachers during the day, and their parents typically at the end of the day.
With so many people staying in their homes now, it’s easy for our spaces to feel crowded. This can lead to tension, stress, and infighting, which in turn negatively affect other aspects of our lives. Students and parents should make sure to give each other enough space throughout the day. Just because you’re at home together does not mean you need to be around each other all day. Establish healthy boundaries, both for personal time and for your studies. A big part of maintaining schoolwork momentum comes down to balance. Keep your school life and your home life separate.
Stay Connected with your Classmates Virtually
Social distancing does not mean social isolation. Make sure you’re taking time to connect with your friends and classmates. Of course, you should make sure to do this virtually. Going to people’s houses and throwing parties is not an option right now. Schedule virtual study sessions with tools like Zoom and Google Hangouts. Host virtual dance parties and brunches. Synchronize movie screenings and play online games. There are lots of options; you don’t need to feel alone just because you’re staying home.
Visit our post on staying connected virtually for more suggestions.
Keeping your Schoolwork Momentum
Studying from home takes discipline, which is usually a good thing. However, don’t be too hard on yourself. Overwork leads to burnout, and burnout leads to regression. We learn best when we pair study with rest. Follow the advice above, and do what you need, but don’t overdo it and you’ll be fine.
If you feel like you need learning support or supplemental education, check out our post on the subject.