These are difficult times. One of the greatest challenges that parents with school age children are facing at the moment is how to balance work and life with homeschooling their children. It’s really not easy and potentially a huge source of conflict at an already incredibly stressful time.
As a qualified teacher with 12 years experience I have taught English and Humanities to GCSE level and I specialise in SEND teaching. I have also mentored trainee and newly qualified teachers.
Currently I teach in a Pupil Referral Unit, teaching students who have been permanently excluded from mainstream schools or who are at risk of permanent exclusion.
So I figured I was well placed to share my 5 strategies for effective Homeschooling during ‘Lockdown’.
1. Good Relationships
Effective teaching only happens when there are good relationships between teachers and students and when children feel safe and secure. So as your child’s parent you’re already miles ahead than their teachers.
Do things together that help to strengthen that positive relationship and take time to discuss your child’s fears and anxieties about the current situation. This will help make homeschooling easier for you all as a family.
2. Build Routines
Have a clear routine. Children need certainty. It helps them feel safe because they know what’s happening and what’s coming next. It’s even more important in the current situation.
Homeschooling should be flexible so that you can adapt to the needs of your children. So, you don’t need to timetable lessons all day, but a rough structure will help. It will also help to make the distinction between school time and home time. (You don’t need to keep to traditional school times, although you will find this useful in making the transition back to school easier)
I would suggest building your timetable using the following as a rough plan:
Try to keep academic work to the morning and break it up into 45 minute chunks. Aim for three sessions a day. (Any more than this and it’s hard to keep them engaged.)
Add some creative/practical/physical activity sessions. Aim for one – two 45 minute sessions a day (These can be put together if it works for you.) Think art, craft, cooking, games, exercise, documentaries, making films… (Tik Tok counts!!)
Include a 15-20 minute daily literacy session: Reading, newspapers, wordsearches, crosswords, quizzes.
Finally Include rewards and downtime into your daily routine. If you start with breakfast at 8.30, I would aim to finish by 2.30 Mon-Thurs and finish at lunchtime on Friday so that the afternoon can be reward time for a good week.
3. Plan your days
Make a quick 5 minute plan of what you’re going to do the next day and have a read through of the academic work that your children will be working on so that you have a rough idea and can look up anything you’re not sure of so that you are one step ahead!! This will make it a bit less stressful.
Whilst having a plan helps, don’t feel like you have to stick to the plan rigidly. Think of it as flexible guidelines. The English workbook frustrating your child? Watch a book based film and discuss it. What are the themes? Can they think of 10 adjectives to describe the main character? It all counts as English and is less stressful.
4. Clear Expectations and Boundaries
No one wants to be fighting with their children over school work, this is even more imprtant when you are homeschooling. But, you do need to have clear expectations and boundaries, with clear consequences and stick to them rigidly. Having clear expectations and boundaries will help you avoid the chaos. It was the only way I could cope with 4 boys without losing my mind!!
If you say it, you have to stick to it. So be really careful of the things you might say out of sheer frustration! We’ve all done it… That’s it! Now you’re not having, doing……
Having a timetable and rough plan helps with this. Make sure you have clear in your mind the minimum you expect. Where is your line in the sand?
5. Pick your fights
I work with teenagers. I have four adult sons. Picking your fights is really important. Does it really matter? Is it worth the row?
I am naturally really argumentative. So this has taken a lot of practice!! I avoid conflict at all costs. I will only really dig my heels in if something is dangerous, really harmful or it crosses my ‘line in the sand’ (which I’m reasonably flexible about.)
Then I always give a choice, a get out clause, so they don’t lose face. Recognise when they might be upset, angry, frustrated and give them time out to calm down. They can’t hear you when they feel like that.
Remember that your children are under pressure and stress at the moment too. This may well affect their behaviour in ways that you don’t expect. We are all in survival mode, fight or flight at the moment it’s hard.
Don’t worry about progress or learning. That’s not your job. This current situation and the need for homeschooling is temporary.
Just time at home with you will have massive benefits for your child no matter their age. Solid attachments, good relationships and support in difficult times all minimise the trauma that this current crisis might cause. Traumatised children and young people don’t learn well. Keeping them safe and happy so a routine as close to normal is the most important thing.
Remember that you it’s important to take care of yourself so you can take care of your little (or not so little!) people and manage the challenges of homeschooling. (It’s tough!!) Stapo’s Thrifty Life Hacks has got some great ideas for self care based on different personalities. You can have a read here.
I’ve had a fairly dramatic life and share my thoughts on how to handle life’s dramas here. Let’s be honest a pandemic is pretty dramatic!!
Keep safe and well.