HOUSTON – Like it or not, many parents are preparing to do school from home. You might be feeling overwhelmed, but KPRC 2 is here to help.
There are a few “must-have” technology items you can start looking for now. A Houston family shared advice on how to prepare for virtual learning.
Help from a pro homeschool mom
It’s the start of another average school day for the Portilla family in Richmond. The children — 11-year-old Emma, 8-year-old Elly, and 14-year-old Sammy — have been homeschooled by their mother Andrea Portilla their entire lives.
For Portilla, helping her children learn at home is nothing new. Over the last 10 years, she’s learned every trick in the book to help parents who are suddenly being tasked with having to help their children learn virtually at home.
Set a virtual learning schedule
The key to success, Portilla said, is to have rules and set a schedule to keep children on track. In the Portilla house, school starts at 9 a.m. sharp.
“My third-grader goes from 9 a.m. until noon, my sixth-grader goes from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. and my high schooler works more independently and works anywhere from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.,” she said.
What tech items do I need for virtual learning?
The next big thing is having the right tools. A computer for the child to use to participate in virtual learning is an essential item, according to Portilla and other experts.
“We have two Dell computers and one Microsoft Surface, and we spent about $800 for each of those,” she said.
Portilla said it’s vital that every child has their own computer to work on their lessons.
Here’s a list of essential items you’ll need:
- Basic laptop computer for each child. Price range: $375 to $700
- Over-the-ear headphones. Price range: $25 to $50
- A laser printer. Price range: $70 to $100
- High-speed internet package, 1000 mega bites or fiber. Price range: $60 to $100 a month.
- Whiteboard with erasable markers. Not a “high tech item” but very useful for organizing assignments.
Of all of the tech tools your children need, Portilla said some of the most important ones are simple and cheaper, like headphones, for example.
“Headphones are important because you want to be able to sit at a desk and if your kid is here and your other kid is here, they can do their work and they can be at arms reach but also do their work and not disturb you or other students in the room,” she explained.
The powerful WiFi signal is also key.
“So you don’t have those hiccups and so you can make sure your kids are not dropping signals every few minutes,” she said. “There’s nothing more frustrating than that.”
For many families, this is a new way for kids to learn virtually in the age of COVID-19. It’s something we will all be learning together.
Portilla is an author too. If you need more advice on virtual learning, she just put together an e-book called “10 Steps to a Simple & Grace Filled Homeschool Year Guide & Workbook.”
You can find the book and more information here.
Finding the best deals on tech items
Consumer reporter Amy Davis is looking for the best deals on some of the items Andrea recommended. You can see her story here.