How to homeschool your children during lockdown 2.0

Are you trying to homeschool again during the new lockdown? One thing many people new to homeschooling worry about is how to get their children to do the homeschooling, especially when they have several children. Now it’s half-term, you might be able to take a few minutes to up your homeschooling game.

Part of the problem for why homeschooling is so chaotic right now is that teachers are used to only having one age group in their classroom, so even though they might be using different work for different groups, those groups are still learning the same topic. There will always be times when the whole class do things together, regardless of their abilities.

At home, unless you have twins or triplets, they are unlikely to be doing the same lesson, so you need to organise your home learning differently to how it’s done in the classroom.

The following is adapted from my new book Homeschooling 101: How to Homeschool in the UK available here on Amazon and free with Kindle Unlimited, which I co-wrote with the amazing Dr. Jason Szulc from Scientifica Now, who really knows his academic stuff!

First of all, don’t try to do everything all at once. Let’s say you have three children you want to work with. A teacher in a classroom can’t teach three lessons at the same time and neither can you. It’s not possible. So give two of the children a task that doesn’t require any direct teaching, such as colouring or a home exercise YouTube video, and get the third child on task.

My personal preference is to start explaining the work to the child who will need the least help, and move through your children to the one who will need the most help, so you can spend as much time as you need sitting with them and getting them on-task with their learning.

Another option is to get the middle children on-task first, then get the one who needs the least help to help you with the child who needs the most help getting started. This approach works when all your children are close in age and when the child needing the least help is older and more academically able than the others. It won’t work so well if the child who needs the least help is five and the one who needs the most help is twelve.

Sometimes the hardest part can be getting the children to sit down and listen to you. Patterns of behavior based on years and years of the way parents and children live together will make it hard to use the sort of behavior management that works in a teaching environment.

It makes sense that the parent-child relationship is very different from the teacher-child relationship. You are there when your child wakes up in the night with a nightmare. You’ve sat through fevers with them. Taken them to the doctors and held their hand.

Your bond with your child is completely different to the way your child relates to their teachers. And that’s how it should be. But it means that what works in a classroom won’t necessarily work at home to get the children to sit down and do their work. Especially given that home is where all their toys and games are. So cut yourself some slack, you’re asking things of your children that aren’t part of your usual parent-child relationship, and this can cause conflict or outright refusal.

Another issue with the current situation is that most teachers have never actually homeschooled their own children and don’t know how it is different. Naively, some teachers (and head teachers) seem to expect children to do exactly what they would do at school… but at home. This is unrealistic.

Homeschooling lessons should be shorter and more productive, because the children don’t have to wait for all the classroom crowd-control. Many homeschooling parents have said that their child gets through very little content at school compared to at home.

What some teachers don’t understand is that the children should be spending less time learning at home to achieve the same outcomes. Mass video calls with a whole class of children are very unproductive, yet this is what many have fallen back on. This is because they don’t know what else to do.

Many normally-homeschooling parents (parents whose children aren’t registered at a school) only do 2-3 hours of table learning (learning at a desk) a day! These are parents of children who go on to take exams and then get into university. The rest of the day is often learning things like cooking, gardening, going on bug hunts or drawing/painting.

Here are some tips to help you get your children into a learning head space:

  • Make space: Have a dedicated part of the house such as the dining room where you can do homeschooling. This helps your children know that when they are here, they do learning. This area ideally needs a table and chairs, which is why a dining area or dining room will work well.
  • Zero distractions: Eliminate as many distractions as possible. Turn off the TV. Switch off the Wi-Fi if you’re doing a learning task that doesn’t require it. Ask everyone to put their phones in the middle of the table or in another special place and only allow them at designated breaks (once everyone is in the habit of doing their schoolwork, you can allow them to use their phones to do research).
  • Make a plan: Studies have shown that children who have a clear idea of what to expect from the day are more productive. Think about it. If you know what someone wants you to do, it’s easier to organise yourself. Using a piece of paper or a planner pad, write down times for each task (don’t forget breaks) and leave this sheet where your child can see it. If they can’t tell the time yet, just write down the order of the day, e.g. “Maths, break, English, break, P.E., lunch…”
  • Take a break: Research shows children’s brains can pay attention to a task for about forty minutes before they lose focus. Plan ten- to fifteen-minute breaks for the children every forty minutes. During breaks, children should have the option of snacking/drinking as this helps concentration.
  • Make noises: Some children work best with music. Others work best in silence. If your children are struggling to focus, try either putting music on or turning it off. Typically, what works for one child won’t work for another. In that case, earphones are the way forward. You can even put white noise on YouTube and play that through earphones if it helps!
  • Experiment: If your children are struggling with this kind of setup, change it up! You are free to do anything with your homeschooling, so you could sit outside to work (in coats and hats in winter), or even completely change the type of learning you’re doing with your kids, there are ideas in my book for ways you can homeschool with an outdoor classroom environment.

Some children will thrive working in the same room as their brothers and sisters. Others will struggle. Some schools during the current lockdown are saying that children need to be working alone, but this is unrealistic (and not what happens at school). Other schools are saying children need to be wearing school uniform (what absolute nonsense). Schools have clearly gotten notions this time around.

If you are really stuck for things to do with your children, do check out my free printables which you can find on the resources page and my article on ideas for things your children can do with Lego.

Don’t be afraid to hire a tutor, either. The advantages of a tutor are that someone is with the child, checking they are working for set times in the day, as well as being there to answer questions. A tutor is an investment, so don’t go for the cheapest, go for one who has good reviews, their qualifications are verified, and most importantly, who works well with your child. If the first one you try isn’t the best fit, let them know ASAP (so they can update their schedule for their other clients), and get a different tutor!

It is far better to get through this new lockdown with your mental health and family relationships in tact than to do every single thing sent home from school. If you follow these tips, you will soon be homeschooling like a boss!

Homeschooling 101 is available on Amazon or get a free sample packed full of tips when you sign up to my newsletter (unsubscribe at any time). Do also check out my free resources.

If you have any questions let me know in the comments and I’ll try to answer them.

Waiting

I’m now signed up with two different ways of working in the health service and I still haven’t been deployed anywhere. Hurry up and wait seems to be turning the days into a miasma of ennui. Getting out of bed has reverted to being very difficult. It’s rare for me to manage it before 2pm and I don’t see that improving until I have a reason to get up. At 8 months old, Jellyfish is having a sleep regression. Every time he wakes up in the night for milk, he decides to spend an hour playing. Crawling. Making noises. My husband has just put him down for a nap and said it was like trying to tire out the Energizer Bunny. I’d  agree with that.

I planted some pea seeds. They have sprouted. They are in tiny pots.

I’m trying to put an application in for university, to retrain in a proper healthcare job. I want to be a dietitian, or a midwife. I’m going to talk more about that in an upcoming post because I want to get my head on properly before I apply.

Everyone is getting restless. It’s a brilliant sunny day today, and I can hear a cacophony of hedge cutters, lawn mowers and other such things. Staying indoors would be harder if we had anywhere to go.

Apparently, putting a couple of bits of gardening equipment outside the back door was a mistake. Like a dog marking his territory, the landlord and his adult son decided to use my back door (which is all glass) as target practice with a football. I know everyone is going stir crazy but it literally felt like the house was being invaded, like they were trying to say, “you can’t put things in the space around your house. That’s our house and we can do whatever we like with it. You have no garden. Not even that concrete outside your back door.” The ball kept hitting the gardening equipment and my back window as well.

Timmy, our last surviving rabbit, lives just inside the back door, where we have set up his hutch opposite the fridge and the tumble dryer. We leave the hutch door open nearly all the time, and just outside it, he has a little pet pillow and a pile of hay to snuggle in. I got quite hacked off about the fact the football was stressing out my beautiful orange rabbit, although I didn’t know how to go out and say anything without being confrontational so I just stayed indoors and seethed. I’m actually doing an anger management counselling course online at the moment so I’ll be able to help people through their anger soon. One big part of it is it’s okay to be angry sometimes.

So the house is basically an island surrounded by shark-infested water. We can’t go out, except to walk to the car and drive somewhere, which you’re not supposed to do right now.

The sun is an ongoing concern. I read in a reputable newspaper that a giant hole in the ozone layer opened up over winter, and apparently it circles over the northern hemisphere. It will be over us for the next month while it takes time to dissipate. On the map, Ireland looks so small compared to this circling threat of cancer and death.

I haven’t fully looked into the dangers of sun exposure without the ozone layer, but it worries me. There are three types of UV radiation that goes from the sun to Earth; UVA, UVB and UVC. The ozone layer usually protects us from the worst, which can cause skin cancer, blindness, sunburn and cataracts (although the cataracts presumably aren’t going to concern you if you’re already blind).

What I’m not sure on is how this will affect plants and animals. They’re outside all the time, and our ecosystem is already hanging in a delicate balance because of man-made problems like pollution and global warming. If species get irradiated and wiped out, the whole ecosystem could fall apart.

I’m worried. It would be easier not to worry if I had some work to do. I can’t write my books right now, because they just seem so frivolous and self-indulgent, like a complete waste of time, but I don’t have anything else to do because I’m waiting for the phone to ring to know which pharmacy needs my help. And then there’s the feeling, underneath it all, the one from the part of me that hates myself. No one needs you. You have nothing to contribute. Why did you even try and help? Like anyone would need you in a crisis. 

I’m glad I have my little jellyfish. Those sort of thoughts got really bad in the 6 months after his birth but generally, the fact he exists and is so dependent on me means the thoughts pass eventually. Someone needs me. Someone wants me around, even if he doesn’t show it. Someone is sad when I’m not near him.

The thoughts return after a while. They’re like waves. Sometimes the tide is high and I’m drowning, battered by wave after freezing wave of dark thoughts, clinging to a slippery rock, trying not to fall into the sea, wondering why I’m fighting it so hard. Other times, the tide goes out and there’s sunshine and a mile of golden sandy beach between me and the water. The less obvious danger then is when I forget how bad the sea becomes at high tide.

Is there such a thing as an Emotional Support Baby? [there would be a laughing emoji here if I knew how to get one on WordPress]

 

The UK is in lockdown and it’s all Britain’s fault

That title is probably confusing if you don’t live in Northern Ireland. Basically, “Britain” (or Great Britain) is England + Scotland + Wales. The United Kingdom’s full name is “The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”.

Here in Northern Ireland we have only had 77 coronavirus cases and 1 death. Britain, on the other hand… well people are sick in the thousands and deaths are in the hundreds. Mostly it’s England. So we were all told to be sensible and cautious, and idiots in Britain went to the beach over the weekend and climbed mountains and went to parks so now we’re all on lockdown. Hopefully, because we’re going to lockdown at such an early stage of the spread in Northern Ireland, the disease should have less impact here. But I can’t help being annoyed that people in England couldn’t just be sensible and stay away from each other instead of going on camping trips to Scotland and other utter stupidity.

Now the whole of society is split between people going “But my dog NEEDS five walks a day” and people wasting police time phoning them to report that their neighbours are outside putting their laundry out to dry.

In other news, my sister in law sent me a “happy mothers day” card. WTF? That’s weird right? My mother has only been dead for 5 years and I think it’s really inappropriate. Seriously, who does that?

Okay I’m going to stop being a grumpy old lady now.

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