How families can adapt to home learning
by Ben on March 25
With the school closures now in full effect, schools up and down the country (and around the world) have been preparing resources for remote learning to help families support their children while they remain at home.
If your social media feed is the same as mine, it will be filled with parents sharing photos of their children working hard, with tidy tables and lots of smiles. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that this perfect scene is happening in every home, which leaves you wondering why your child won’t just sit down and do their schoolwork. Of course, the reality is that most families will be struggling at the moment to adjust to big changes in routine and the home learning they never expected they would be doing.
Home is where most children are used to coming back to – a place to unwind, watch TV, play a game on a screen, and maybe doing the occasional bit of homework (if you’re lucky!). But this has changed. Home is now the place children are in all the time. Instead of being something that is done at the end of each day, ‘homework’ (depending on the school) has become something that needs to be done during the day, sometimes for large chunks of time. At school, children have resources to help them, and teachers and support staff around to answer questions. At home, they have a parent or carer who may well be trying to work from home, look after other siblings, and manage their own feelings in this extraordinary situation. Sitting with your child for a whole ‘maths lesson’ and trying to help them when they claim they have never done this before is going to be stressful for everyone.
Take the pressure off yourself. You don’t have to be your child’s teacher. You don’t have to set up a school at home. What you are doing is home learning. You are there to guide your child as best you can, learn together (your Maths may improve radically!), be supportive. Hopefully, the staff at your child’s school will be pitching suggested work at appropriate levels or giving your child choices of challenge within an activity. This could be the ideal moment to encourage problem solving and having a go. If they find something hard, the school may have information about emailing teachers for support. If you are unable to help your child in the moment, guide them onto another activity and come back to the tricky one together when you can spend time on it with them.
Time expectations are also key to a successful day of home learning. Remember, at school your Reception aged child wouldn’t be sitting at a table to learn from 9am until 3pm with just a few short breaks. Most adults would find that a challenge! Short bursts of learning followed by play and exploring (related to the things they have just been learning if possible but not necessarily) is what you’re aiming for at this stage. For instance, if you’ve just been doing some shared work on counting, and your child is now free-playing, you could set your child a challenge to count the dinosaurs or see how many cars they can line up on the window sill.
For older children, you may find that they are being set work related to a topic, or to complete a method in maths which you may not be familiar with. Ask your child to become the teacher at this point. If they can teach it to you, then they really understand it. If they get muddled, hopefully you can work out where they’re coming from and guide them. If you’re both as lost as each other – ask the teacher! Teachers are still working hard, and they will most likely be able to answer your questions via the channels put in place by the school.
Try to build in a learning routine into your day, if you think this will suit your child. It doesn’t have to be too rigid, but something predictable means they will know what to expect and they will feel safer and more relaxed. This will help them to be ready to learn. You could start each day with 10 mins of something physical to wake everyone up – dancing is always good fun. Then do maths in the morning, followed by some topic-based work, writing after lunch and quiet reading time to finish the home-learning day.
Remember, every child is different, and you know your child best. Try not to judge yourself against what friends or those on Instagram appear to be doing. Work out what works for you and your child and the family as a whole. Share useful ideas with friends but be mindful that their family dynamics won’t be the same.
Stay at home, stay safe and take care.