Thrown in the Home Ed Deep End
My heart goes out to all parents who have been thrown into temporary Home Education. For many of you it comes along with anxiety. Anxiety about loved ones, money, work, indeed the state of the world. Please don’t add your children’s learning to your list of things to worry about.
This is not Home Ed.
Can I start by saying that what you’ve been forced into isn’t real home education. Real home education involves much more time outdoors, at group meet-ups, with friends, visiting interesting places. Significantly, it involves childcare for when parents need to work. So give yourself a break. Remember you’re a super hero for even attempting this.
If you’re trying to balance working from home and providing “school” to your kids, that’s two full-time jobs. Throw in feeding, cleaning, laundry and general care of your household and you’ve got three full-time jobs. That’s not possible and will be incredibly stressful and unproductive.
The most important thing you can do right now is to be kind to yourself and your family. To start this journey, aim to enjoy your time together. Enjoy books, movies, isolated walks or silly-dancing together. Your children will learn the importance of self-care and family support in times of stress.
Once you’ve got your head around this strange, unprecedented situation we have all found ourselves in, begin to work out a routine that might work for your family. Include older children in this planning stage. Ask them what they would like to do and how they can help you to achieve the work you need to do. Keep bedtime at a decent time. You’ll need the space more than ever!
Involve children in the running of the household; cooking, cleaning, meal planning, gardening, budgeting even. Your children will learn invaluable skills as well as the importance of cooperation and helping out. If that’s all the “schooling” you can manage around your other responsibilities, then give yourself a pat on the back and rest assured your children have learned skills they will use for the rest of their lives.
Ask your children what they would like to create, what skills they’d like to develop and what they would like to learn. Get baking, cooking, creating art, creating films, creating music. Watch documentaries, the news, classic films, or video tutorials. Learn a few phrases of a new language or a new skill. Empty the recycling bin onto the floor and let them loose with the selotape. Go on virtual tours of museums or interesting sites. Write a letter, an email, a poem or a story for a loved one you can’t see just now. Stick artwork in your windows to brighten up your street and entertain the neighbours. Sing songs, learn songs to sing over video calls with your friends, write songs. Read books. As your children ask questions, research different things and stay with them for as long as your children are interested. Even if that’s just 5 minutes. They won’t realise that they’re learning. They won’t realise what they’re learning. But they will return to school with new skills, confidence, knowledge and understanding that will enrich the classroom and support their learning.
Just let them play.
Children learn best through play. For younger children especially, just let them play, all day long. All children need play. It’s their human right. Imagine if your children grew up remembering those few months where they played all day long, only stopping to eat or help out? Wouldn’t that be a memory worth cultivating? Read them a story at bedtime and they’ll learn all they need to know at their young age. They’ll learn cooperation, design, problem solving, drama, the list is endless.
This is my mantra at any time but even more so just now. At the moment we’re still allowed to go outside unrestricted. Make the most of this while we can, without putting anyone at risk. Don’t allow children to play with others outside but do get them outside as often as you can. The outdoors is children’s natural environment. If you have a garden, encourage them out there as often as you can. Plant flowers and vegetables or search for minibeasts. If you don’t have a garden, go for family walks every day. Get to the nearest nature space and enjoy it, keeping a safe distance from others. Avoid play parks as the chance of contact with others and infection might be significantly higher.
Allow screens for when you need space or quiet and it’s what will work best. Don’t feel guilty about it, these are unusual times. It’s better to have them watching TV than fighting over fractions with you. They’re not going to remember those hours spent watching tv, but they might remember the fractious arguments trying to “learn” with a stressed-out parent.
Build on your child’s strengths. Don’t force them to ‘learn’ what you feel they should and don’t waste time continuing if it’s a battle. Stop, regroup and change task or tack. Ask what they’re interested in, give them the tools, time and space to develop that interest or skill. If they’re interested, they’ll be keen and they’ll feel ownership and experience success. Give older children real autonomy over their learning, ask them how they would like you to support them, encourage them to develop their research skills so that any topic becomes open to them independently. Through video calls they can share ideas and projects with their friends. They can share stories or songs they’ve written, share ideas they have for homework school has given them, share ideas for activities, share their art creations.
Remember it’s not real home ed
Home education evolves over years and is different for every family. But key to success is having time to discover what works for your child. Some families do this from birth and it’s an organic, evolving process. Some families start after a period of school and need months, sometimes years to settle into a routine and “de-school.” You aren’t in either of those situations so don’t let this turn you against home education or don’t let it make you feel unsuccessful.
But Remember it’s also not school
Please don’t attempt to replicate school at home. School is designed for a ratio of 1:33. You don’t need to spend hours at the kitchen table with worksheets. I would argue you don’t need any time doing that but you decide what makes your family happiest. I know from experience how stressful and unproductive it can be to try to replicate school at home. But I also know from experience how wonderful it can be to support our children and young people to develop skills, interests and confidence.
You can do this!
Teaching large groups of children takes a professional. Teaching one, two, three or four just takes an interested, caring individual. You don’t need a degree, you don’t even need to have finished school yourself to support your children to play, create and explore. There is no one who knows a child better than their parents. You got this!
If your family are experiencing hunger, significant difficulty or grief just now please follow this link for information on support groups.