Like everyone else I now have the Boy Wonder at home doing remote learning. The news of this was met with a mixture of relief, in the face of spiralling covid cases and the mutant strain, and anxiety at the thought of home schooling again. I found the summer term of teaching at home very stressful and it caused a lot of tension between me and my son. As my step dad is a retired teacher I already had an awareness of what they put into their work, but I now have a whole new level of appreciation for the patience they have! I am sure many of you, like myself, are trying to find ways to juggle the home working again along with the home schooling that doesn’t lead to extra stress and tears. Having trawled the internet for ideas, here is my toolkit for surviving home schooling.
Having a specific space, however small, like the kitchen table, gives a regularity and continuity to your child even if it has to be cleared away at the end of the day. They then know that when they sit down in that space they are expected to work. Somewhere quiet may be an impossible thing for larger family, so maybe a place with the least distractions is a more reasonable expectation. A makeshift set-up in a bedroom could prove more productive than the family kitchen with all its comings and goings. A desk would be ideal, but I have seen many creative arrangements even using ironing boards that could suffice if necessary!
No matter the workspace, a good supportive seat is highly recommended. Choose one that is comfy and gives good back support if you can. At the very least get a cushion to put on whatever chair you have to use. If kids are not comfy they are more likely to fidget and get distracted, let alone how damaging it can be to their posture.
If there are quite a few of you at home attending web meetings and doing home schooling at the same time headphones may become a necessity for your child (and maybe you too?) to block out external noise and either concentrate on their lesson or be able to hear their teacher on a video call. They are also great for later on when they they want to watch TV as you can plug them in and have some blissful peace and quiet yourself.
Having a set structure to the day can really help kids feel more secure, especially at this scary time. Kids thrive on routine and it also helps you to work out your day too. It may be that the school dictates this or you can be more flexible and set your own timetable that works for you and your family. Structure in “brain” breaks and down time after the school work as a reward or maybe get your child involved in setting it so they feel they some control over their day even in a tiny way. Be realistic though as doing the same amount of work they would do in school is maybe not practical and enforcing a full timetable may not be great for theirs of your mental health right now. Children are amazingly resilient and will catch up on work later on.
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Doing school work at home is not easy for kids (or parents!) as they are out of their normal learning routines and environments, so do make sure to praise and reward them for their work. Kids love praise especially from their parents and they love stickers too, so it’s a great combination. I found that using a sticker chart with my son during the summer lockdown with a big reward on getting a certain amount of stickers really helped him to focus on the work. He wanted the big reward, so he knew he had to knuckle down…bribery goes a long way!
Make sure they have all they need to hand such as pens, pencils, sharpeners, rubbers and paper etc. If they are working on laptops they may not need such things but they will definitely find an excuse to get up and down from the table if they don’t everything in front of them that they need. A special pencil case or a new set of pens may also be a good enticement to encourage them to do their work. I remember being keen to do my homework the best I could with a shiny new set of pens to use.
As art and other creative subjects have nearly disappeared from the curriculum, why not take this opportunity to let your child explore their creative side while they can. They may discover hidden talents or a love for drawing that the school normally does not have the time to nurture. It could be something as simple as your granny passing on some of their knitting skills (remotely of course) or just letting them get messy with paint or clay. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for kids to be able to do this before they have to get back on the treadmill of formal education. Check out my suggestions for art materials for kids here.
As the evidence of forest schools go to show children can learn so much from being outdoors. As well as the obvious benefits of fresh air and the liberation of being outside the house at this time of enforced stay at home orders, being out in nature teaches kids to appreciate the environment. Learning about trees, bird and plants could inspire them to become scientists or naturalists when they grow up. Or maybe just a good splash in some puddles will do the whole family some good!
Remember the metaphorical apple for the teacher! They are being asked to do so much at this difficult time so please remember to support them and show your appreciation from time to time. We all need to support to keep going right now more than ever.
And finally, cut yourself some slack and don’t expect to much at this stressful time. We can’t all turn into amazing teachers as well as juggle our own jobs and all the other million and one things parents do. So be kind to yourself, don’t worry if they haven’t got all their home schooling tasks done that day, there is always tomorrow. Have a glass of gin (or whatever your tipple of choice is) and give yourself a pat on the back for getting through the day.
I hope these ideas help you and your family, and I will try to take my own advice too!
Top tips for homeschooling your children, from the experts | The Argus
Home-schooling: How to help your child’s online learning – BBC News
Homeschooling Tips For Families | Wolsey Hall Oxford
BBC Radio 4 – Woman’s Hour – Five tips for home schooling
6 Genuinely Useful Remote Learning Tips For Parents | Fatherly
Work as a team with teachers from Remote Learning Tips for Parents from Teachers (theactivetimes.com)
Virtual Learning Advice: 8 Tips for Parents to Help Kids Improve Remote Learning (goodhousekeeping.com)