As an ex-teacher, I can say from experience that teaching is incredibly hard work. It is easily one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever done. It’s safe to say that the role of parent also comes with its challenges. Well imagine finding yourself in a position where you have to do both jobs, full time, every day, while being locked inside with the children you have to both teach and parent. You’re also unsure exactly how long this will go on for and under no circumstances can you escape your home to visit your friends for a bit of light relief. Is it any wonder that some of us are feeling the pressure?
Everyone is affected by the Coronavirus pandemic in some way. It’s a difficult time, but we’re all in this together. It’s important we try to remain positive and get through each day best we can. And remember there is help and advice out there to support us all through these times.
I thought I’d share some home schooling tips. I hope they help you and your children get the most out of learning together at home. But remember, there is only so much you can do. Being parent and teacher is a big ask, so do what you can, but be realistic and be kind to yourself.
Create a learning space
It’s important that children have space to work. Whether it’s at the kitchen table, or a desk in their room, ensure they have an inspiring, comfortable and accessible area that contains everything they need.
Stick to a clear routine
The school day has a clear routine and timetable. Most children respond well to structure, as they know what’s happening and when. Routine helps to minimise the chaos and as a result will reduce stress and anxiety. Why not create a timetable together? This would be a fun and productive task, while providing an opportunity for your child to be involved in planning their learning time. It’s also a great maths activity, as you would cover time and days of the week. For younger children, you may wish to consider a visual timetable.
Include practical activities
Children learn by doing. In fact we all do. Of course children need to read and write, but this doesn’t mean they should sit at a table with their head in a book the whole time. Practical tasks support their understanding, they motivate and engage children and consolidate learning. How will they understand measures if they don’t actually measure things? You will also find that practical tasks can create a range of writing opportunities. Baking a cake is a great example. You’ve got maths covered through measuring ingredients and you can write a recipe together. Fun, practical tasks may also provide a bit of gentle persuasion for the less eager writers.
Give their work purpose
You’ve decided to teach your child how to write a letter. “Why do I need to do that?” they might ask. “Because you have to learn how to write a letter,” or “because your teacher has asked us to,” may not inspire huge levels of motivation. If you provide a clear purpose for the task they need to do, it will make them more inclined to want to do the work. Perhaps now is a great time to write a letter to a relative you’re currently unable to see? Straight away this gives their work purpose, they are writing it for a clear reason. Purpose also helps with idea generation and gives them plenty to write about. If you’re learning about writing instructions, why not write instructions on how to make a sandwich and then make the sandwich together? If you’re learning how to write a list, write the shopping list together (be sure to remember loo roll).
We may be limited with this one at the moment! But if you’re lucky enough to have a garden, then do make the most of learning outside together. Following on from the above point, perhaps you could write some instructions for how to plant a seed and then plant seeds together in the garden. I’d also highly recommend researching forest school activities, for a range of engaging outdoor activities your children will love. Building a bug hotel was always a favourite among my students and you could do this in your own garden. Going outdoors is also incredibly important for our mental health. Stay safe, but get some fresh air when you can.
Consider their interests
This is perhaps the most important of all. Children are incredibly keen to take part in activities that are based around their interests or things they really enjoy. I think this particularly helps to encourage children to write. If they like football, write about football. If they like dinosaurs, write an information text about dinosaurs. If they enjoy arts and crafts, ensure they have plenty of opportunities to get creative.
Encourage your children to work together
If you have more than one child, consider ways they can learn together. It’ll be too much for you to plan different activities every day for each child in your household. Think of an activity and then consider how you can differentiate it to make it accessible and appropriate for each child. For example, if you set up a shop to practise counting and calculating, younger children can use buttons in place of money, older children can learn about decimals by calculating pounds and pence.
Praise your children’s efforts
Stay positive and reward your children’s hard work and effort. Rewards charts and treats may be effective. But be sure to shower them with verbal praise. A compliment goes a long way and positive feedback keeps us motivated. So keep telling them how well they are doing.
And by the way, you’re doing a pretty fine job too.