By Lucy Vallance
School is out – at least until March 8th…
Which means that, once again, Mums and Dads across the country are expected to serve as both parent and teacher for a minimum of another five and a half long weeks. For many, these dual roles have to be juggled with the demands of a full time job, all from the kitchen table. Are you concerned that all this interruption means your child is falling behind? How can you provide the best support for your kids without it destroying your own schedule?
Panic not. Here are 5 simple tips to help you homeschool like a hero and crucially, to preserve your own sanity in the process…
- Don’t expect to manage full school hours. Rest assured that one-on-one work is much more intensive and effective than being in a class of 30. Plus it means you can play to your child’s individual interests: measuring ingredients for cakes is excellent for maths, sketching a tree in the garden or your local park is a better art lesson than being in a classroom, and keeping a diary can vastly aid creative writing skills. Introduce routine wherever possible, insist everyone is out of their pyjamas for the start of the day and make sure books and pencil cases are cleared away when they finish. This is vital to create some demarcation between ‘school’ and ‘home’ life and avoid everything blurring together. Adding treats into this timetable will aid motivation. Wednesday night could be Movie Night, Friday night, Pizza Night and everyone deserves a lie in on Saturday mornings. Fit in daily exercise too and you’ll spot a noticeable improvement in everyone’s mood, concentration and motivation levels.
- Resist the impulse to compare and despair. Yes, from a certain ‘supermum’’ instagram account it may look like she has managed 7 daily hours of perfectly planned lessons, broken up with teaching her four, impeccably mannered children how to cook a vegan Shepherd’s Pie from scratch… but what reaches Instagram’s beautifully filtered squares is not reality. It is (literally) a glossed-up snapshot posted on a platform dedicated to our own vanity, self-promotion and need for validation. So pay little attention to what others claim to be up to. Do what works for you and your family. There is no one right way through this.
- Set expectations and create structure for the sake of your own work. Schedule yourself times of the day when you are not to be disturbed. Prepare in advance by setting your children up with all they need: laptop, charger, snacks, books, stationery. This will reduce their need to interrupt you unless absolutely necessary. Establish one way for them to let you know if they really need you; maybe they can slip a note under your door or perhaps they can book a 10min window in each hour for guidance. It is very difficult to resist offering your child immediate help but some boundaries will help them become independent learners and allow you some vital time to crack on yourself.
- Ask for help if you need it. This is especially important if you are also working or looking after other relatives. We all know someone bored out of their brains on furlough… Could they help conduct a Zoom quiz on World War 2? Could Granny and Grandpa ‘babysit’ by having a story read to them? Sitting them in front of the TV might even be conducive to learning as the BBC are broadcasting a wealth of GCSE programming at the moment. We all feel determined to show how well we can cope in times of strife but there is absolutely no shame in asking for help. Most teachers will be responding to emails so – if your child is struggling with a specific topic – drop them a line, it is their job too!
- Take the pressure off. Try to remember that all parents across the country are in the same boat with similar anxieties about their children’s progress and welfare. If everyone’s having a bad day, Harry Potter with French subtitles on will suffice nicely. Do all you can realistically manage alongside your other responsibilities, take each day at a time and don’t strive for perfection. Lost progress can soon be recouped once school resumes. It is more important that you and your family emerge from this awful time with health and happiness intact, rather than a perfect score in a maths test.