Executive Functioning and Remote Learning | Nurturing Wisdom Tutoring
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July 28, 2020
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October 21, 2020

Executive Functioning and Remote Learning

executive functioning remote learning

Now that we’re well into this school year unlike any other, we’re getting a feel for the obstacles students are running into with remote learning. What’s coming up again and again is how much more work school is for students doing either 100% remote learning or a hybrid model. They’re managing different daily schedules, multiple online platforms and tools, various teacher processes, and unfamiliar social interactions. Notice that list doesn’t mention the actual content-learning aspect of school! Understanding how executive functioning and remote learning interact will help your child work more efficiently.


This extra effort and feeling of detachment are stressful for all students, even those who typically float through school just fine. One of our aims with tutoring is to help kids run as much on autopilot as possible so that they can devote time and energy to actual learning and connecting. Automating is most easily done with executive functioning skills – the very same skills needed for the management of remote learning.

We’ll walk you through some problems and solutions for organization, time management, and self-advocacy. We encourage you to talk with your child about how all of this looks in their own school experience, and then find a place to start. Often, simply acknowledging that school is challenging and finding one way to make it easier gives a child the momentum to keep going!

Organized Workspace

Some students have a permanent workspace, like a desk in their room, while others set up in a spot that does double duty, like the kitchen table. Either way, our workspace mantra is “a place for everything and everything in its place!”

Your child can start getting organized by making a list of items they’ll need every day, and a list of those they will need less often. Then they can find separate homes for those supplies so that they’re simple to store and grab. The goal is for your child not to be distracted in the middle of class by a hunt for their calculator!

Don’t forget their digital workspace. They should be able to effortlessly access their school’s online platforms as well as any digital materials. The organization system on their computer can resemble a traditional physical one: a clearly labeled folder for each class, and each document accurately titled. Make sure they understand how to turn in digital assignments, too – this has been a surprisingly confusing task for many students!

Beyond the physical and digital parts of the space, think about good habits that will make them functional. For example, your child should spend a few minutes cleaning up and organizing at the end of each day so that everything is ready to go the next morning. Having a device-charging routine will also prevent a lot of headaches! Visual aids and checklists will help your child take care of these tasks independently. 

Time Management

Time feels very different at home versus at school, and it’s so much easier to mismanage it. Let’s look at a few ways this comes up.

Remote learning makes it way too comfortable to roll out of bed and into virtual class. Rather than starting the school day at the exact time of the first session, we recommend sitting down at the workspace ten minutes before that. This gives time to set up and check email for any last-minute link changes and other class updates. A non-rushed, non-flustered brain is ready to learn! 

We know that students insist they’ll remember their homework assignments and test dates, and sometimes they do. But using a planner is much more reliable, and it will also give shape to the week. One common example: A class meets three days a week but homework is due every day. The planner will keep your child on track, and even help them break up long-term assignments into smaller chunks with mini-deadlines. 

Brain breaks are a vital part of a child’s academic schedule. According to research, breaks result in increased attention, less stress, greater productivity, and improved brain function. Students may not realize how much the structure of in-person school enables these breaks. At home, they’re not walking to class or chatting with friends at lunch. And how often is that five-minute break at home turning into a 3-hour video game playing marathon? A handwritten daily schedule that includes defined breaks (some involving movement) will make virtual school more manageable and enjoyable. 

Self Advocacy

Self-advocating can feel uncomfortable for kids in the most ideal learning environment. Interrupting a Zoom session to ask the teacher to repeat the directions? Way awkward. So they’ll need some support figuring out how to ask for help. 

Has their teacher mentioned office hours? Does your child have a study hall? Does the online class platform have a “raise hand” or chat feature? Talk with your child about how to utilize these opportunities to connect. Better yet, encourage them to write an email to their teacher requesting a time to meet so that they can make a plan together!

Sometimes it’s hard for parents to remember who the “self” in self-advocacy refers to. Yep, it’s quicker/more effective/less painful for you just to check in with the teacher, rewrite the paragraph, or keep track of due dates. But in the long run, scaffolding only as much as is necessary will benefit your child to a much greater degree. Learning from mistakes is powerful, as is being accountable to oneself. 

Tune into your child’s learning style. What does it look like when they’re struggling with something that’s within reach? Give them some time to get there! On the flip side, what does it look like when they are truly lost and need a hand connecting the dots? Offer guidance, but don’t do it all for them.

Finally, cut yourself and your child some slack. Life is hard right now for a whole lot of reasons. There’s nothing wrong with choosing one area to improve, and to do it with baby steps. That’s our approach with tutoring because we find it leads to confidence and independence! 

If your child could use some extra support, give us a call!