Homeschooling*. It’s likely not something you have ever considered. Nor is it something you really want to do with your entire day, every day. Until the weekend. Well, at least the weekend guilt of “we should do something educational” is now well and truly quashed. For two days: Do. Not. Ask. Me. A. Single. Question. In fact, you will find the answer to what you want in one of these:
- “Look in the back of the fridge”
- “After you clean your room”
- “In the washing”
- “Have fruit”
- “When you clean your room!”
- “Write it on my shopping list”
- “Just share it”
- “Read it again”
- “We’ll see”
- “Your room?!”
But yet here you are, back to Monday morning, scratching your head, trying not to lose your marbles and doing your best at the homeschooling thing.
Forget toilet paper shortages. The real struggle of lockdown is PDF downloads and Zoom details. Even as some schools prepare to reopen, parents are being warned that any increase in infection rates and it’s back to home-schooling*.
Home-schooling has been around for ages. In ancient times, societies in which education was valued, for example in ancient Greece, most education was done through tutoring and other very focused avenues. In the 1700s through the 1880s, schools were often established by and for local communities. The amount of time children spent in school was fairly limited in both the number of days they attended and the hours of instruction per day that they received. That is why in the times when children weren’t attending school, parents often taught them at home or they learned independently.
Not all of us dread the patience-testing task of teaching our children from home. Even before bushfires and a global pandemic forced many of us out of the classroom, homeschooling was on the rise Down Under. In fact, around 20,000 students were registered for home-schooling in Australia in 2019.
And now more than ever before, parents are bravely managing their children’s virtual and home-based education. But despite the many benefits of homeschooling, at-home learning can be challenging for both parents and students. How much more respect do we have for our teachers now?!
It is indeed difficult to create order and structure in a homeschooling environment. This can lead to frustration and even cause students to fall behind on assignments or learning objectives. Additionally, your child’s curriculum has so many moving parts. And if you have more than one child, that complexity only increases. As does the stress levels. And the mess. And the noise.
6 Tips for HomeSchooling in Lockdown
So how can parents successfully navigate the ins and outs of virtual and home-based learning without losing what remains of their once full-capacity marbles?
Here are 6 Tips for HomeSchooling in Lockdown to keep us all on track and semi-sane (fully sane is overrated) through the homeschooling pandemic period, and perhaps beyond.
1. Set Up and Stick to a Learning Place
Create an area in the house for your child to be able to focus on learning. There are no clear guidelines on what a learning area should look like. This is because every child has individual ways of learning, so what works for one may not work for another when homeschooling, even in the same family. Each homeschooling experience is different. And teachers know this. So much so, the level of home-schooling support offered by schools these days is so high, it is a virtual classroom at home. Since the days of the pandemic, so many teachers have stepped up their methods of delivery and have gone from PowerPoint presentations to some seriously impressive online teaching videos. All with the intention of motivating and engaging little brains.
But homeschooling does have its advantages, by catering to the individual child. As long as the student can focus and be safe, there are no limits to where the learning can take place. Feel free to allow children different places to learn, whether lying on the ground or sitting at, or under, or on top of a table. Whatever works best for them and you.
- Make sure it is a comfortable and posture supportive set up
- Limit distractions
- Turn the TV off
- Switch off all app notifications
- Ensure circulation of fresh air
2. Stick to a Daily Structure
Make sure your children do not just see this as an extended holiday but as normal school, from home. It’s important to create a structure. One that is safe and comfortable for children as well as parents.
As many of us are working from home, you may set up that structure around your daily workload and tasks. Remember, you need to maintain your sanity to be able to be there for them. As one wise Principal once said, “You know on the airplane when they are giving the emergency instructions before take-off, we are told to put our masks on first, then when we have secured our own safety, put the mask on our child. That message is the same in life, parents need to reasonably look after their well-being first, in order to be present for their children.” Thanks Mr Drennan!
Of course some parents have found peace and benefits from following their child’s school routine at home. This also can be beneficial for children that can get anxious about change or worried about what happens next. Do what it takes to make the learning experience work for you. Stick to a structure that fits your child and you. Do not forget you.
Whatever structure best works for you and your little person, make sure you stick to it. Children, no matter what they say or show you, yearn for routine and structure.
There is no specific time students should spend studying, given different students of different ages will complete tasks and grasp concepts at different rates. The advice is to aim for the time frames provided by the schools, and then be flexible depending on how your child is progressing.
If you know you have a regular work meeting you have to dial into, you can schedule that time as free play and let your children know that they have to work hard until that time. Then they can choose how to spend the next hour. They now have structure and independence. A happy combination for little minds.
- Make their own beds in the morning, have breakfast and mentally prepare for a working day (adults + children)
- Get out of pyjamas! (again, it is about the mindset of both parent and child)
- If your school uses music at the start of the day instead of a bell, download that and play it before commencing learning
- Use encouraging, fill-your-heart-with-joy music between breaks (try What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong for an injection of memory-forming instant positivity)
- Stop for recess and lunch and go outside (young and old)
- Put everything away, pack up the learning space and switch off at the end of the school day (at least academically if you can)
3. Effective Communication is Core
With your child(ren) and their teacher(s)!
There are no hard and fast rules as to how long your child studies for, or where. But one thing that is certain, Communication is key. Keep checking in with your children as to how they are progressing, and when you are able, offer help as they feel they need it (yep, waaay easier said than done). This is how teachers work continually throughout the day with the 20 to 30 children in their classroom.
We all need to process new learning so allow children time to relax between learning periods. Use these times to do an emotional check-in. Ask them what they are feeling, or if your feelings are a certain colour right now, what would it be?
Equally as important as checking in with your child, is communicating with their teacher. Now teachers do not want 20-odd parents messaging every day, every hour. But a simple, “yep my child Oatbran is here today” message on the chosen-school app goes a long way to keep teachers in the loop of your child’s learning. Also consider occasionally posting through on the school-app, tasks your child has completed if not mandatory for marking.
And of course, keep those lines of communication open to get help when stuck. Teachers are created out of a truck load of patience, a bucket of grace, and a wealth of wit. They want to see you and your child thrive. Their reward is your family’s holistic growth and wellbeing. They will help you through this, and surprisingly, they may know your child’s learning habits a tiny bit better than you. Trust them.
- Set aside time for talking and listening to each other
- Be open to discussing all kinds of feelings
- Listen to your child (very different to simply hearing them!)
- Encourage honesty
- Remember the value of repetition
- It’s okay to say “I’d know, but I’ll find out”
- A strong person is the one that asks for help, contact teachers when needed
4. Take Subjects Outdoors
This is another tip that you have to make work for you – it might not be something you can stick to because of your own work commitments. However, think about taking some subjects out on the lawn, in the garden, or even the front step.
We all know how great it feels to let off steam outdoors. As parents, it’s sometimes even better knowing our children are burning some excess energy too. When it comes to running your own homeschooling lessons, let the great outdoors take some of the creative work off your hands by providing inspiration for all subjects.
- Maths: Count the types of trees/plants you see and work out percentages and fractions
- English: Write poems and stories inspired by what you see or hear (or what you don’t perhaps!). Find a piece of famous literature and tie it in with nature. May Gibbs and her Gumnut Babies perhaps. Or Tolkien’s Ents (talking trees).
- Music: See what songs your children know about the things you see outside. Have them make one up. Or listen to the sounds you hear and see how you can recreate them at home.
- Drama: Challenge your children to improvise on a topic of your choice, with props like sticks, leaves, or umbrellas. Siblings can do role play games. Or your child could write a small monologue. You could hold a theatre night on Friday night, so they can perform what they have practiced in “Drama Class” that week.
- Science: Get a tub of water (remember water safety with younger siblings) and play Sink or Float with what you find outdoors.
- PE: Jump, Run, Stretch! Pick any activity and try and get a PB by each week’s end!
- Art: Take crayons and get your children drawing the scenery, or that thing where you colour over different textures (leaves, gravel, sand) and see what it looks like
5. FRIDAY FLY DAY
In the week’s grocery shop, buy your little people a healthy microwave meal of their choice, also pick up some different school snacks just for Friday Fly Day. Get them in “Art” the day before, to make some tickets up for both flights and places of interest.
Then, come Friday Fly Day – get busy travelling and learning! Tour international art galleries, museums, and zoos, all online. Hop onto the plane at lunch time for your airplane meal and head to your next country.
Why not take your children to:
- Melbourne Zoos, Sydney’s Taronga Zoo or Zoos South Australia
- The Louvre, Paris
- Sistine Chapel, Italy
- The British Museum, London
- The Guggenheim Museum, Amsterdam
- The Great Wall of China (with The China Guide)
- Yosemite National Park and Yellowstone National Park
Who knows what interests you might spark!
This is about mixing up the way we learn. Instead of memorising spellings all day, make the end of the week about active learning. Be it outdoors or out-of-the-square education. Use this different method of knowledge absorption as a time for your children to learn about life skills! From cooking, shoe polishing, counting coins, to how to sew a button, mend a broken toy or build a box.
6. Remember: You’re Not a teacher!
No matter what activities you choose for home-schooling your children during the pandemic, the most important thing to remember is that you’re not a teacher and no one expects you to be. You can’t replicate the lessons your children get in school. And while we all have our gifts and unique talents, by now you may have realised, it takes a certain type of warrior to be a good teacher. So, give yourself a break and stop trying to be one, and instead do the best you can and just admire the much valued profession.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
What you can do, though, is keep your children safe, and keep their curiosity and creativity alive with new and different activities. It doesn’t matter if they don’t do the school lessons every time. Now’s the time to teach them about all sorts of new things. Like the world outside, healthy baking recipes or maybe even a new language! There are plenty of online resources to help you. No matter what you decide to bring into the home classroom during a pandemic, it will all be absorbed by keen little minds. And who knows, we too may learn a thing or too along the way, after all, you only stop learning when you stop breathing. The pandemic may have kept us physically locked down but mentally, the world’s your oyster, and that too of the little minds we love so dearly (especially when they’re sleeping).
*Grammarists: Home schooling is on its way to becoming a compound, but it is still only rarely spelled as a single, unhyphenated word. Give it a few more decades. For now, when home school functions as a noun, it is still two words, without a hyphen. When it functions as a verb, it usually takes a hyphen, e.g., I am home-schooling my children. Of course, words that are compound can’t become so without trailblazers. Additionally – there is almost no doubt that the combined version of homeschooling will someday also gain broader acceptance, so use it if you don’t mind confronting your readers with the new form. You’ll be doing a favour for future English speakers. (source: grammarist.com/spelling/home-school-homeschool/)