Before we can sit down with our children to learn, we need to help to prepare them for learning.
Take your time to get into the new routine
We are in an unusual and quite stressful situation. You may be juggling working from home and being a full time parent, and top of it all you are supporting your child’s education. It is bound to be overwhelming, so don’t worry, you are not alone.
Your children may be missing their friends and usual routine. It can take time to adjust.
It is an anxious time for all the family, and for your children’s teachers too. We are all finding our way. So take your time to get into the new routine. Start small and build up.
Prepare an area to learn in
Set aside a clear area to work. This should be free of clutter and distractions to set the tone for learning. You may not have a study or dedicated desk, but clearing the dining room table or counter can work just as well.
Have all learning materials to hand
Before your children start working, make sure they have everything they need. Encourage them to read through the instructions and list what they need – pens, pencils, scissors, ruler, calculator, text books etc. Keep all the learning materials in one place, maybe find a box or clear a cupboard to help keep everything organised.
Establish a routine where children put everything away after they have finished, to help keep healthy boundaries between work, play and normal home life.
Log in each day to your school’s portal
Your child’s school will be sending emails and notifications via your usual communication app, and uploading work to your designated learning portal, whether this is via Google Classroom, Compass or another way. Ensure you have the logins you require and email addresses or communication methods set up if you need to contact your child’s school or teachers.
Each morning your child should log into their account to find the instructions and learning tasks for the day. Check the schedule set by the school if there is one.
Your child’s teacher may have uploaded quizzes, videos, articles to read and learning tasks to complete. There may be also online lessons scheduled with your child’s teacher using Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype or another platform.
Keep in touch with your child’s school
There will be a support system set up where you can contact your child’s teacher if you have questions or need assistance. Make sure you know what this is and how to contact them.
And remember this is all new to your child’s teacher too. They are trained to teach in the classroom, not online, so understand if they are stretched or running behind. It is also a stressful time for them. They may also have their own families to manage while supporting their students.
Work with what you have
Don’t worry if you don’t have separate access to a computer, or a computer for each child. Speak to your child’s school. They may have alternatives for people who don’t have access to a computer or the internet, such as packs or printouts available for you if you require it.
Work out a rota, or you could use phones or other devices to log in to their learning portals. You may need to download an app to do this.
Work on paper or in an exercise book. Keep all of the papers together in a folder or box.
There are plenty of websites with free educational printouts if you have a printer. Print some things out and do them off line.
Make a schedule
Involve your children in making a schedule that suits everyone. These means that everyone feels in control of the situation and has choices.
When you make the schedule take account of your work hours, your children’s learning needs, the school’s recommendations and class times, any plans your children may have for catching up with their friends, and build in time to take breaks and exercise.
Be aware of your preferred times for working and your children’s best times for learning. They may like to get it out of the way early, or may work better later in the morning after they have had time to play. You may wish to keep to the children’s usual school hours. Work out a schedule that works for you.
You may need to be a little flexible, and this may evolve over time. Make sure you build in padding for times when things may not go to plan.
Bring learning to them
Don’t worry if your child doesn’t have a long attention span, this is an environment that they don’t normally associate with learning. Bring learning to them and meet them where they are at, incorporating learning into everyday things.
Cook or bake together. This is a great learning opportunity, reinforcing maths, literacy and science knowledge. If you make something from another country, you can bring humanities into the learning. You could turn it into a little research project.
Involve them in doing chores. This is a good time to learn new life skills and independence, plus it makes the work more fun, even if it takes a little longer than usual!
For younger children you can use their toys to help them learn. Ask them to match their toys by colour or other feature. Show them how to sort or put things in sequence, like books or toys in order of size.
Draw pictures or write stories. Draw some pictures in a comic strip, cut them and ask your child to put them in order. Research your family history. Build on their current interests, if they have an interest in ponies or dinosaurs, use it!
For older children and teens you could show them how to put together a basic budget or a resume. These are great life skills they will be needing in a few years time.
Remember self care
Self care is so important for all the family.
Get out in the fresh air, either in the back garden or go for a walk (while remembering the Government’s social distancing recommendations. It’s best to avoid parks with playgrounds).
Make time to read a book, paint, do craft or a hobby or listen to music, and encourage your children to do the same. this is good for mental health and self-expression.
Keep in touch with family and friends. You can video chat to family members by Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. My own children are talking to their friends on Discord.
Keep your mental health in check
It is a difficult time for all the family. Children are unable to learn while they are anxious, and they may pick up on your own anxiety or stress. Manage your own mental health with self care, take lots of breaks and pick your battles.
Connection with them is very important during this time, to help them feel safe and secure.
If you are juggling work and supporting your child’s home learning, do what works for you. Don’t feel guilty about giving them a bit more screen time or leaving them to play if they are happy. Make time to check in. They may ask for more help during this time. This is natural.
And try not to get overwhelmed by the work that is sent home. You will eventually find a rhythm. Ask for help if you need it.
For the Victorian Government’s recommendations and information for parents who are supporting their children’s learning from home, go to our listing here.
Other states may have their own information for parents, check your state’s Department of Education websites for details.