Virtual School: Thriving During (not Surviving) Distance Learning


It is not easy for anyone. Teachers, parents, and children are all in the same boat learning and doing their best to quickly adapt to a new reality none of us can change: for now, our children will have to attend school virtually.

This means an incredible amount of screen time for them and a significant time commitment for parents to get involved and oversee our little students to make sure they are following their class and actually learning.

Last Monday was my son’s first day of kindergarten. My husband and I work full-time from home (thankfully) and baby sister was supposed to be attending on-campus preschool, but she was home for the week (long story).

We were told in the meet and greet session that schedules were going to maintain the same traditional hours (8:30 am-3:00 pm) with three breaks: two for snacks and one for lunch. I felt overwhelmed and worried. However, with all the challenges I thought I had, we had a great first week of school!

Here are the things I learned to thrive during virtual school, instead of just surviving it:

My attitude made a difference

The thought of virtual school made me nervous. At some point I felt very anxious, so I turned to God for comfort and he reminded me of this word in Phillippians 4:6-7:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I decided we were going to thrive, not survive

This Bible verse spoke to my heart and my perspective changed. I felt peace and started to get excited about being able to “coach” my kindergartener. This a special season that is actually a blessing. How wonderful it is that we get to have our children by our side and get to know them in school mode! We can see their teachers in action, meet their classmates, and get involved in a way traditional school doesn’t allow. I refused to survive and decided to thrive.

Virtual School: Thriving During (not Surviving) Distance Learning Valerie Barbosa Contributor Miami Mom Collective

Dad and I became our son’s biggest cheerleaders

Dani wanted to give up several times. However, as I told him: “we can do all this through Christ who gives us strength”. Dad and I became his biggest cheerleaders and these are the affirmation phrases that worked for us (you can even sing them and do a little dance to make you child laugh!):

  • I know it’s hard, but you can do this!
  • I’m tired too, let’s do this together!
  • Jesus is giving you superpowers and the strength you need!
  • You got this, you are smart, you are a superstar!
  • I’m here with you and for you!
  • I’m by your side if you need me
  • If I see you in your class, I feel happy and I can stay in mine (work)
  • This class is fun!
  • If you finish [insert task] we’ll [add any reward you can offer!] when you are done. In our case, we offered to bake back-to-school muffins (thank you for the idea, Becky!).
Virtual School: Thriving During (not Surviving) Distance Learning Valerie Barbosa Contributor Miami Mom Collective
Rewards work really well! I promised my son we would bake back-to-school muffins if he stayed in class and finished writing his sentences. Baby sister chimed in and the muffins turned out delicious.

I know this will continue to happen, but I also know that encouraging my child made a wonderful difference. He finished everything that he started, stayed through the end of class each day, and felt accomplished. We celebrated him on every single little and big win.

Teachers are doing their best

As the days went by, Dani’s teachers did an incredible job engaging the children with a combination of different learning activities. Teaching young children using a virtual platform is not easy, but I was impressed with their creativity and capacity to adapt and adjust to the children’s interests and needs.

When they notice the group is tired, they extend the breaks or add more fun games and fewer sitting-down activities. This is something that being at home, by Dani’s side while working, allows me to experience. And I feel relieved.

Flexibility and patience

As an Enneagram 1 being flexible and patient is not in my nature. With God’s help, I have exercised these important attributes and learned to give myself the grace to be able to give it to my loved ones.

So instead of getting frustrated when Dani stops paying attention to class, I encourage him in love and, when necessary, make small adjustments to his routine such as additional quick little breaks to stretch, go to the bathroom, drink water or play with the dog, keep a toy in his sight (so he knows he will play with it right after class) or helping him with whatever he needs to do. Holding his hand has a powerful effect!

Valerie Barbosa Contributor Miami Mom Collective
A quick break to play with Pelé, our new puppy

Test and learn

We didn’t know where to set up Dani’s school area at home. We tried a couple of spots and only on day 3 when we set up his space in my home office did we find out it worked. I was comfortable and productive while keeping an eye (and an ear) on him. He felt special being at Mommy’s “work” and he liked being by my side.

The only thing we need to test until we find a good solution is the eating schedule. Lunch for Dani is at 11 am (too early!) and that’s a big change for us. If you have any tips for me, please leave them in the comments.

Valerie Barbosa Contributor Miami Mom Collective

This too shall pass

This pandemic will be over. Schools will reopen. This is temporary. So instead of worrying about the bigger picture, take it one day or one hour at a time.

My husband and I cross-reference work schedules every night and plan one day at a time to ensure we deliver at work and that we are there for our son.

Virtual school moms, our children need us. This is a special, temporary season. I’m not saying it’s easy, but we can make it better with God’s help and decide to thrive instead of just surviving. If I can do this, you can do it too! We got this, mamis!

And don’t forget to check out Miami Mom Collective’s Back to School Guide with valuable educational resources for virtual school, homeschool, and much more.

Virtual School: Thriving During (not Surviving) Distance Learning Valerie Barbosa Contributor Miami Mom Collective
This is a bonus picture from the time the pandemic started when we had no idea the world had actually completely changed. My daughter did PK2 virtual school for a couple of months.


  1. Love this, Val! They definitely feed off our energy. It’s so important to set the mood for them. And P.S. They’re so cute! Hope they both have a great school year!

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