Staying happy and healthy through the home learning experience
1 Apr 2020
Tobias Bown, Assistant Head (Academic) at The Perse Prep, provides plenty of useful advice for parents and carers of primary school aged children in his blog on home learning.
When social media is awash with helpful advice, exasperated comments and humorous jokes about home learning, it can be difficult to know where to begin with teaching your children during this period of school closure, especially if you wouldn’t consider yourself an expert educator.
Please don’t let this become a barrier, though. The experience at home, in so many ways unprecedented for the majority of parents, can be a really positive one with the right mindset, whether in building relationships, sharing some skills, knowledge or understanding about the world, or encouraging children to foster a greater sense of independence and perseverance.
Many parents across the nation report that they are concerned their children’s education will suffer and it’s easy to worry that you are not doing enough or that another family is better at it than you are. Whilst nobody would have created this situation by choice, parents and teachers alike should take a moment to congratulate themselves on the great accomplishments that have already been notched up in the short period of time since school closures were announced.
Home learning environments have been created, lessons have been taught and children have begun an experience that will help them develop as lifelong learners. All children across the country are in the same position and no parent should admonish themselves for not doing a good enough job. This is an unsettling and complex time. Life goes on for parents often juggling their own work, family health, finances and worries about the situation we find ourselves in. We all must simply do what we can and each family will be influenced by their unique situation and educational philosophy which means there is no such thing as a ‘perfect plan’ for home learning.
At a time like this, safety and happiness are as crucial as learning and it is important to be realistic about what can be achieved in a day. Everyone works at their own pace and managing multiple children when sharing different devices to follow the day’s instructions can be a challenge. Some children thrive when sitting in their ‘office’, tuned in to their work on a computer and sending important emails. Others find this a less natural existence and benefit from more support.
Whilst it is a good idea to establish some form of routine that works for your child, this will not be the same in any two houses and home learning should fit in around the other valuable aspects of family life, such as shared meal times and plenty of conversation when possible. Having a calm space to work in away from clutter and distractions is useful and some children even choose to continue wearing their uniform when in ‘school mode’, but this is certainly not to be expected (learning in pyjamas can be just as effective as learning in a tie). Plan in breaks (ideally with some fresh air which has untold benefits for good mental health) and some appealing snacks with plenty of water to stay energised and hydrated.
If you feel your child cannot complete all of the work that has been set on the day, focus on the fundamentals or try to cover some parts of a range of other subjects across the week for variety. Reading is one of the most effective tools at a child’s disposal. It helps develop imagination, literary understanding, appreciation of the world and an opportunity for indulgent escapism. Alongside this, especially in the younger years, it’s useful to keep some mathematical basics, such as times tables or number bonds, ticking over. There are plenty of great free online songs, games and other resources for this, which are well worth exploring.
If you are worried about too much screen time, try to turn it into a positive. Watch a bit of David Attenborough and then head into the garden to create your own nature documentary, complete with soft toys and whispered tones. Have a go at filming your child summarising a book for a review or interviewing a sibling about a topic they’ve just researched. A wealth of other ideas can be found with a quick search (one particularly fruitful source is a Facebook group called Family Lockdown Tips and Ideas) and there are an increasing number of well-known faces offering free content (Joe Wicks with PE, Carol Vorderman for maths and David Walliams for English amongst others).
It’s fine to find this hard. It’s fine to produce a colour-coded timetable and post it on Facebook, but it’s also fine to just try your best with home learning to make the most of these strange times and look after each other.
You can listen to Tobias talking about this subject on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire via the audio link below.