I am very pleased to welcome Rebecca Clarke and her post about tips for lockdown learning at home:
Supervising home learning during a pandemic is a tough job. You and your kids might be struggling with a lack of space, a lack of focus, a lack of motivation… or all three!
Let today be the day you have a mental reset. Look ahead rather than behind and introduce fresh habits and techniques to improve the experience for all of you. We’ve collected 8 indispensable tips to help you do so
Be flexible with space
A huge challenge of having the family both home-schooling and homeworking is finding somewhere to put everyone. Instead of insisting everyone sits around the dining table since it most closely resembles a school environment, your children might work better somewhere else in your house or flat, particularly if it’s quieter.
Think about how you can create more options for them, for instance, by buying a beanbag for reading on, a padded mat so they can work off a low table, or a laptop stand so they can work sitting on their bed. Some children’s beds now even come with cupboards, bookshelves and pull-out desks, which are a great space-saving tool. Little Lucy Willow talks about the importance of space in children’s rooms, especially when trying to minimise stress; “Our little one’s bedroom is their personal sanctuary and should feel as serene as possible. Clutter can lead to stress for many reasons and it shapes the way we feel about our homes and even ourselves.”
Create a timetable
Timetables are an excellent way to set out what you want to get through in a day or week. They work even better if you create them with your child, so they know what to expect. As well as their scheduled lessons, account for when you might be able to spare more time to help them, and when their most focused hours tend to be.
Of course, it also helps to make changes to your timetable if you feel some things are working better than others. As Very Well Family says, “After the first week, take a look at what is working and how the schedule needs changing. Make changes in the schedule and write it on a new poster. Continue to follow your daily family schedule until it is second nature. In a few weeks, you’ll marvel at how this simple tool has changed your family life for the better.”
Schedule a morning check-in
It’s hard to feel like the day has properly started when you aren’t leaving the house. Take a ten to fifteen-minute walk to start the day, if possible, and then hold a morning ‘registration’ where you go over the day’s timetable, discuss what needs to get done and what they will need to do it. Take a look at what they will need for tomorrow as well, so that you have a chance to prepare. And check in with how they are feeling about their routine.
The success of this may depend on the age and personality of your children, but introducing a reward system like a sticker chart on the wall can be hugely motivating (some adults have even been using them through lockdowns to make sure they’re keeping up healthy habits!). Target the specific things you know your children struggle with, and set concrete rewards, no matter how small.
Try to avoid arguments
Clearly this is easier said than done, but you should try as hard as possible to avoid letting learning sessions turn into a shouting match, as this will dent productivity for everyone in the house. Pick your battles and recognise what stems from you all struggling. Giving each other some space for an afternoon might be better in the long run than insisting something gets done.
Use productivity tools and methods
Many of the productivity tools adults use to focus and get work done may work for your kids too. Try the famous Pomodoro technique, which involves intense work sessions followed by a short break (this is usually 25 minutes and 5 minutes, but you could change this), or apps like Forest, where you can grow a ‘tree’ on your phone for the duration of a work session.
Understand their curriculum
Don’t panic, this doesn’t mean that you need to study what your kids are studying; in fact, it’s the opposite. You need to be aware that the content and teaching style of many subjects will have changed a lot since you were at school. Don’t worry or feel bad if you don’t know anything about a topic, and don’t try to twist the lesson into something you vaguely remember. Be honest when you aren’t sure about something (which is a healthy habit to normalise) and help your kids find resources that can help them more effectively.
As one teacher recently said in an interview with The Guardian, “It is not helping anyone if the lockdown learning is wonderful, but the child cannot reproduce that in school. We are not judging you, or your child.” So, don’t be ashamed to admit you don’t know something, and reach out to your children’s’ teachers if you need to.
Broaden their horizons
While the above advice applies to set lesson times, the home learning era can also be a chance for children to follow their interests and for you to guide them in exploring subjects beyond the curriculum. Why not give them a lesson in something you’re passionate about, whether that’s battleships, art history or David Bowie? Just don’t expect them to take a sudden burning interest in it!
No matter how it goes, just remember that you’re doing your best amid exceptional and difficult times. So be kind to yourself and take things one day at a time.
Rebecca Clarke is a UK-based freelance writer, coffee connoisseur and proud crazy cat lady. She covers topics such as mental health, familial relationships and home life. When she is not writing, she can usually be found binge watching true crime documentaries with her cat, Oliver.