StudentMar 25, 2020University News
By: Catherine Johnson ’20, student correspondent

How to Learn at Home

University students who were former homeschoolers offer tips for remote learning.
University students who were former homeschoolers offer tips for learning at home.
University students who were former homeschoolers offer tips for learning at home.

Before I started college I was homeschooled. While my younger sister Bodo chose to attend high school, I stayed home throughout, loving the independence and freedom (and quiet) of learning from home.

Now it’s my final semester at The University of Scranton, my sister’s second, and I will be learning the way I started, back at home with my family. While I wouldn't say that anyone in my family is happy about the situation, we do seem to be more prepared for this period than a lot of our friends.

Having made the switch from homeschooling to classroom learning, we know how jarring the change can be. Study skills and routines that you have perfected and personalized over the last 12-16 years of “regular school” might fall apart over the next few weeks. Technological aspects aside, home or e-learning might require a complete reworking of organization, routine, time management and discipline. We aren’t saying “homeschooling” is better or worse, easier or harder - we’re just saying it’s different; very, very different.

In the spirit of braving this weird time together, Bodo and I thought we’d compile a list of tips about how to approach e-learning so that we all come out of this semester with GPAs and sanity intact.

1)         Get Dressed

While admittedly we did spend more time in our pajamas than most kids, we highly recommend getting dressed in the morning.

            You’re probably thinking, “I don’t always get dressed in the morning for class; I wear sweats to school and I’m fine.”

While that might have been fine two weeks ago, you still had to go to class. Just leaving your dorm, stepping outside into the breeze, finding your uncomfortable seat, complaining to your neighbors tells your brain, “the day has started, it’s time to focus.” Those factors are gone, now. Getting up out of bed, putting on jeans, brushing your hair, or doing your makeup can go a long way. The physical activity and sensations of getting dressed will help make up for other lost stimuli, reminding you to start working. It also prevents you from falling asleep again and missing that zoom seminar.

2)         Write out a Daily Schedule

Probably our most important piece of advice is something neither of us have kept up with in college. Whether you need one in school before or not, use a planner. Write things down. Without external reminders from lectures, comments in class, friends stressing over assignments, study groups etc., assignments and due dates will start to slip your mind. You need one place where you can keep track of what you need to accomplish and when. We used a very simple three-step system in middle and high school.

  • Write out a plan for the week that includes when things are due.
  • Write out a plan for the day that maps out when you will be working on tasks.
  • Check tasks off. This will help you keep track of where you stand in relation to your work but most importantly make you feel like you have accomplished something.

3)         Work in the Morning

I hate waking up and Bodo is in her prime hours between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., but we agree on the following: get up at a reasonable time and get stuff done in the morning. If you too are a night owl, this might seem counterintuitive to you, but trust us. If you put off working in the morning, you will continue to put off working throughout the day. Get it over with as early as possible.

As a compromise Bodo tends to do her immediate assigned work early in the day, take a long break in the afternoon, and then study or work ahead at night. Obviously everyone has different methods but don’t take “homeschooling” to mean you should sleep until noon just because you can. Did we do that sometimes? Of course. Should we have? Nope.

4)         Make a Rewards System

Losing scheduled class times, meals with friends, varied study spaces, “student gatherings,” sports and clubs can make remote learning overwhelming and stressful at the same time as completely mind-numbing and monotonous. Trust us; we’ve been here. It can be rough, so be kind to yourself. Give yourself breaks, watch an episode of Netflix, eat an entire box of chocolate, go for a run, whatever you need to do. Just make sure these rewards are part of your daily plan, not just spontaneous ways to procrastinate.

What both of us have found helpful in the past is to incorporate these with school work. That online quiz equals ten minutes on Instagram. One draft of a paper equals a walk around the block. If played right these rewards can act as both a distractor and a motivator. 

5)         Move

We’ve all done it: 10 hour Netflix/gaming/reading binges. Sitting still for a whole weekend, getting up only to use the bathroom or make popcorn. These days or weekends can be relaxing but they are not conducive to good work and productivity. Don’t treat remote learning like a binge weekend. You have to move.

It might not seem like it but moving from one classroom to the next, from your dorm room to DeNaples or to the library to print makes a huge difference. You need to get your blood moving, to change your scenery. Study for biology in your backyard. Write your philosophy essays at the dining room table. Walk around the block with your dog or sister after an hour of studying for an economics exam. Do not sit on your bed for 19 hours a day. It will make sleeping difficult and focusing impossible.

6)         Plan Meals

Don’t forget to eat. It’s weirdly easy to forget to eat if you aren’t moving around, and aren’t confined to a schedule. One minute it’s, “I’ll make lunch after this page;” next minute it’s 8 p.m. and you don’t know why your head hurts. When you’re planning your day out, decide ahead of time when you are going to stop for lunch. This can turn lunch into part of your reward system, motivating you to get along with something. It will also prevent you from using snack time as a procrastination tool.

7)         Get a Browser Nanny

It’s embarrassing how much time in high school I spent on YouTube and Netflix. You might think you do now, but you haven’t studied along, at home day after day after day yet. When all you have is your laptop, the temptation to open a new tab on your browser and waste time is staggering. Thankfully there are helpful free tools that you can download that will limit your access to certain websites on your browser. “StayFocused” on the Google Chrome Webstore is a good option.

8)         Sleep

Finally, it is still important to stick to a sleep schedule. Foregoing actual sleep and relying on one-hour naps between tasks is a horrible idea. Adjust your schedule how you see fit. It‘s likely going to be different than it was during the first part of the semester that’s fine. Sleep till 10 if your 9 a.m. isn’t meeting on zoom, but make a somewhat consistent sleep schedule and make sure you sleep for more than 30-minute spurts.

And that’s it. We hope our childhood experience will help you get through this part of the semester. You got this.

Additional tips can be found on the University’s Student Life Student Activities webpage.

Catherine Johnson ’20, Scranton, is an English and philosophy double major and member of the Special Jesuit Liberal Arts Honors Program at The University of Scranton.
Catherine Johnson ’20, Scranton, is an English and philosophy double major and member of the Special Jesuit Liberal Arts Honors Program at The University of Scranton.
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