If you’re one of the tens of millions of parents who are now essentially homeschooling your children, we have some tips to help you keep your kids engaged and everyone sane.
School work can be challenging for families, even at the best of times; now, with schools closed and carers trying to juggle their own responsibilities with overseeing home education, it is completely understandable if the situation is causing some tension.
BE KIND TO YOURSELF
It may sound self-evident but the first thing to remember is to give yourself a break. These are unprecedented times for everyone and being hard on yourself as you try to adjust to the circumstances while trying to keep everyone’s best interests at heart is not going to do anyone any favours in the long run. As they say on flights (remember those?): put your own life jacket on before helping others.
The other point worth bearing in mind is that all young people are currently in the same boat, so you don’t need to fear the ones in your care falling behind. More critically, life as young people know it has been turned upside down, their routines displaced, their friends at a distance and their activities cancelled. Adding the pressure of academic achievement at a vulnerable and unsettling time is unlikely to be in their best interests.
SET UP A DESIGNATED SPACE AND TIME FOR LEARNING
That said, there are ways to encourage at-home learning fruitfully and supportively – and it is important to ensure that routine, so far as possible, is being adhered to. Consistency has a calming effect when other aspects of life are topsyturvy, so setting and sticking to a schedule will provide reassurance. While it may fall to you to ensure that this happens, rest assured that you don’t need to take the whole burden of home schooling upon yourself. Teachers are utilising distance learning facilities to implement lesson plans, and there are a wealth of online resources at your disposal, too.
CREATE A SENSE OF LEARNING TOGETHER
One of the trickiest things for carers trying to support home learning is not having a knowledge of or proficiency in Millions of families around the world are isolating together or social distancing. WHO recommends spending quality time together and keeping things positive. A daily schedule and exercise can help alleviate stress and lower everyone’s stress levels and help dispense some of that pent-up energy. the subject in the first place. Where this is the case, it may be a good idea to watch an online tutorial together, to create a sense of learning together and to give the child in your care the opportunity to discuss aspects of the lesson in a way that will help them achieve clarity. On the other hand, if you do have knowledge of a subject, you could offer to be more involved; be aware, however, that offers of ‘help’ may be rejected and, if this is the case, don’t push the issue, but simply provide reassurance that the offer stands if they change their mind.
The way you approach home learning will, of course, differ according to the age of the child or children in your care: younger children will need more interaction and support, while older children need to develop discipline and, to that end, will need to be left to complete and submit work on their own. Even so, there are some activities that children of all ages – even if they are reluctant at first – may enjoy with the involvement of an adult: being read to, for instance, if they are resistant about reading.
TAKE TIME OUT FOR PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
Building in time for physical activity – beyond what a school timetable schedules for PE – will be vital at this time. Why? Because, from the point of view of a young person, it is not just the PE lesson that’s been removed, where burning off energy is concerned. There’s the last-minute dash for the bus. The rough housing with friends. The welcome release of break time, lunch time and the end of the school day; all of the times of day when young limbs stretch and move, and young voices are raised. Allow for plenty of time outside; if you don’t have an outside space then factor in sessions in the park, observing the rules around distancing and touching (including equipment, such as climbing frames). It may also be useful to think about ways that screen time – so often a source of conflict – may be harnessed for good during this period. Imagine children in a classroom setting: are they working independently or chatting and comparing notes with classmates? The latter is more likely, so aim to replicate that environment by allowing the child or children in your care to connect with their peers.
This does not apply only to lesson time. Allowing children more time than usual on FaceTime and other apps that facilitate connection may be beneficial to alleviating their sense of isolation and, in many cases, inspire them to keep on top of what needs to be done. It’s amazing how much more weight “I’ve already done my history homework,” has than “Do your history homework!!”
KEEP IT POSITIVE
Although none of us can offer any definite timescale or reassurances regarding how long this state of affairs may last, it is not helpful to shield those in our care from the news – provided that news is coming from reputable sources. Clear discussion about current issues is one of the best ways to reduce anxiety; not allowing children to see the news at all will likely mean that they gain ‘knowledge,’ instead, from friends and social media. Avoid panic-inducers and keep information and discussion as level-headed as possible.
Finally, teachers are under enormous pressure even in the most benign circumstances, meaning that they may sometimes overlook achievements or fail to give credit. As ill-equipped as you, as a carer, might feel right now to offer academic support, you are perfectly placed to offer moral support. Praise for everything that the child in your care is managing right now will stay in their minds and hearts long after the square of the hypotenuse has vanished.
Australian-born Sarah Rodrigues studied Law and Classical Civilization before turning to journalism, writing extensively on health, self care and wellbeing for a number of publications. She lives in London with her family and loves travelling and languages.