The Covid-19 pandemic has forced parents to make enormous changes to their own and their children’s daily routines. Coaching leaders recently has highlighted to me many of the challenges.
These are tough times for both parents and children, with many parents making the shift to remote working, and now having to juggle home schooling with Zoom meetings and other aspects of their work. It feels and is even harder this time around!
To help try and ease some of the pressure, for what we all hope will not be for much longer, here are some tips to support you and your children manage the home schooling, alongside work even more successfully.
Trust your instincts and remember the following:
- You are able to support your child with their learning, do what is possible, for you and them.
- You know and understand much more about learning than you think, don’t think ‘teacher’ think ‘how may I support learning today?’
- You will make a huge difference by doing what you can. Reframe and perhaps look at it as ‘school at home, in the best way you can’ rather than ‘home schooling’ as suggested by the government.
- Give yourself permission to do it your way, recognise you cannot do it all, know that every little counts.
- Look after you – even if it’s an alien concept to put yourself first, try and find something to replenish and re-energise yourself in some way each day, so you are in the best place to support them.
Take every opportunity
To use every resource you can think of, making use of the work that’s been set by the school to the incidentals of the day. Counting up and downstairs, weighing out the dog food, pairing shoes, colour coordinating clothes, a new daily word for each letter of the alphabet, reading and sharing books, magazines, reading street signs, notices, looking out for logos, on walks, writing a postcard to grandparents, planting seeds, be as inventive and adventurous as you can. Remember to plan any resources they might need in advance together and check how they will go about doing these things, avoid telling them, instead to ask them to explain. This way you will soon see if your expectations match.
Use the everyday conversation as the catalyst for your children’s learning. Use questions to engage them with you, start your questions with ‘what’, ‘who’, ‘tell me more’, ‘where’, ‘which’, ‘how many’, ‘how much’, e.g ‘what shall we plan for today?’, ‘When shall we take our breaks’ how much time shall we give ourselves? how shall we divide it up? when shall we go for our walk? how many dogs/cats/birds/ ducks do you think we might spot today? Let’s try and spot something we haven’t seen before, add it to your scrapbook.
Reinforce their learning by listening and enquiring
Set time aside to give your children your full attention. Start with some 5– 10 minutes slots, try and plan them in throughout the day. Boundary them clearly by helping them to set tasks to complete, making it clear that you are working too, and need to be free of unplanned interruptions. Talk about what they can do if they get stuck and you can’t help at that point. Use the regular agreed slots to give them your full attention and to help them if they got stuck. Affirm their learning and achievements and help them think through how they are going to use their next slot of time.
Use encouragement and praise
Look for the positives however small and highlight them. E.g, ‘I can see you’ve thought carefully about that’, ‘you have done a good job there, tell me how you did that?’. Praise effort over output. Make sure it’s genuine and you really mean it. If they have struggled ask them how you might help them? Make sure there are pre-decided (with you) options if they finish early.
Share new ideas and set new challenges, negotiate a different time frame.
‘That’s looking good, have you thought about…’ ‘What do you think?’ ‘what if?’ ‘I think you have worked really hard on this, perhaps as a reward for this great work you could finish early today’
Take note – capture their (and your) achievements – pictorially, graffiti, bullet points etc
Start each new day remembering what you both learnt previously. Talk about how that might help with what is on the plan for today. When considering the tasks, help your child chunk them and choose a range of sitting, doing, inside and outdoors things through the day. Include reading /looking at books in at least two slots and help them make a special corner to relax in and do this. Puncture the times with snacks, breaks, walks, other outdoor time. etc.
You may never have this time again to observe and involve your child as they learn. Use this precious time to take short breaks yourself. See the slots with your child as a treat and a chance for you to step back and take a brain break from the intensity and complexity of your own work. If you have older or younger children adapt and redesign to suit them and you. Do what you can and celebrate it, whatever that turns out to be it will be good enough for these unprecedented circumstances.
Adapted from “High-Quality Interactions’ in the Education Endowment Foundations (EEF) guidance report ‘Preparing for Literacy’. And the ‘Talk for Trust’ document.