So, we’re currently in week…I’ve lost count actually, of home schooling. The last couple of weeks have certainly been a learning curve for me. I learnt a lot about myself…such as, I am rubbish at cursive and I have less patience that I thought (some swear words may have been uttered under my breath). This time around is so much more challenging than Lockdown 1. Lockdown 1 J was in early years and everything was play based. We didn’t have to send work in, and had recommendations for fun activities, not set learning. This time J is in year one so that’s Key Stage 1 where we are. That means that we have a set timetable of learning using online videos and quizzes, as well as some online games. I thought that I would share some bits that have worked for us…grab a glass of whatever you drink and here we go.
- Get rid of expectations
You may have expectations of lovely controlled learning sessions, where your child sails through the work and everything is great. However the reality is that home schooling is hard. Those who truly homeschool – or home learning, such as the wonderful Sensational Learning with Penguin, will tell you that learning doesn’t have a schedule. It doesn’t always take place in front of a screen and it certainly isn’t a 9-3pm day. What we are doing is different. What we are doing is trying to recreate a school environment based on the learning given to us by the school, despite:
a) not being trained/qualified or even experienced in teaching (I’m actually trained in EYFS so anything above age 5 and I’m lost).
b) not having the resources a school may have.
c) not having the social groups (our children to rolemodel off of or listen to their ideas and springboard off it).
d) not having enough hours in day to do all the work – some of my friends have multiple children all expected online at different times, all needing 1:1 support, all needing about 10 snacks an hour in between sessions. Teachers teach one class at a time not multiple subjects to multiple children all in the same 5 minute window.
e) teachers are teachers – they don’t have to also cook for your child, clean the school or do the shopping.
So don’t expect your child to react how they would at school. There will be technical glitches, wee breaks every 20 seconds and meltdowns resembling the Kevin and Perry Tv series. That doesn’t mean you’re failing at home school, it’s just how the day can go.
2. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail
That being said, expectations and planning are very different. I may abandon expectations of nice orderly learning sessions, but I can still plan for them. I find that logging on the night before and reading through the work, having a quick flick through any videos (obviously not applicable for those doing online live sessions – but maybe you can ask the teacher for heads up?) and getting the resources all laid out helps. I already have an idea in my head of what could be challenging and can make sure I’m prepared for it with visuals, prompt cards or snacks (snacks solve most things in our household).
I also make sure other things in the house are planned for. I know what time we are going to be at the table working so I make sure my husband knows what’s happening and what I need him to do (usually keeping the toddler amused). It’s not that my husband is incapable of figuring this out on his own, it’s just he is usually at work so most day to day stuff is down to me. Now he’s on furlough we are partners in everything, meaning we work together to get through the day – this does involve me micro-managing. If it helps then make a list or calendar and put it on the fridge.
Things to think of:
- If you’re due any deliveries/click and collects.
- When does your child learn best? (unless live sessions – sorry).
- How long can they concentrate for? (I plan breaks into between each of the five subjects).
- Is the room too hot/cold, is the chair comfy and at good height for the laptop?
- How long is each session, do you have to do them in order or can you do the shorter ones at times you know your child has less attention/energy left?
- What is the set up like? Are they likely to get distracted?
3. Learn new skills
So, home schooling isn’t just kids apparently. I mean, maths for example is so different to how it was when i was young (many moons ago). The language used in English is so much more complex (magic e is replaced with ‘split diagraph’). I have had to download a cursive worksheet FOR ME! I’m not embarrassed that I had to google nouns and verbs (despite having a degree) because frankly it’s not language we use everyday. However, it is necessary to have a rough idea of what is being spoken about so I can support and answer questions (obviously you don’t have to be a master of everything – esp in the older years of school). I’ve googled stuff, downloaded worksheets, looked up things on Bitesize so I can explain it better. No, I don’t have all the time in the world…I’m not super mum. I just find it helps. J is 6 and autistic. Listening to someone on a screen monologing is not something he finds easy so I have found myself taking on more of a ‘teacher role’, and re-explaining things to him.
Another skill is all the online stuff. I’ve never used Google Classrooms in my life…I also used the google live feature for the first time today. I wonder if this could all go on my CV?
4. Sod it!
Some activities or some days are just ‘sod it‘ moments. If I can see J is getting worked up or if I feel my patience is coming to the end and I’m fantasising about bottles of wine drunk though a straw, then it’s time to stop. You might just need a half hour break or you might need to stop for the day. I know there’s a lot of pressure to complete all the home learning and be online for every session but end of the day we are doing out best. Last week we ended up doing a couple of activities on Sunday rather than on the day. The work was still done and sent off, and J’s school were happy with it. The best thing to do if ‘sod it’ moments are being more frequent is to speak to the school (by email is probably best as schools are stretched to the max). If they are aware of the difficulties then they can support you.
I have also had ‘sod it’ moments and ended up changing the activity but keeping the learning objective. J is hypermobile so he can’t hold a pen for too long, and one of his autistic traits is the inability to deal with mistakes – he wants to get 10/10 and if he only get 9/10 then it’s meltdown time. If I know that he’s going to struggle with the way a lesson is structured then I either change it or repeat it later but in a different way to give him chance to proof to himself that everything is ok. One of the activities was to practise writing some tricky and common exception words. However, after lots of writing activities I knew that we needed to ditch the pencil. So instead I set it up so we used our fingers to write. This meant less pressure on his hands and fingers so less sensory overload later in the day. I know we needed to write a sentence using the word but instead I got J to TELL me the sentence and I wrote all except the key word. I left this blank so J could use scrabble tiles to spell the world. The objective was spelling, and that was achieved without a pencil (I took photos as evidence).
I read a helpful home school post by Steph at Stephs Two Girls (which also includes one of my previous posts in it) which had a really good point – BE A PARENT FIRST.
I have two children. My youngest is a toddler and at that stage where he is a danger to himself. On my husbands day for a lie in (don’t worry I get them too) I will stick F in his highchair with toys and (waits for the emails declaring me an unfit parent, haha) either TV on or Cbeebies on the tablet. That way I can have F nearby where I can still talk to him, interact with him and KEEP HIM SAFE (priority over everything…hence the use of the screen to keep him sat in one place) but I can also still sit next to J and guide him through his work. As we do our home school at the kitchen table I also have times where I’ll shut the kitchen door and just let F roam the kitchen. The cupboards end up emptied onto the floor but I really don’t care. There’s more to life than a tidy house.
There’s a lot of pressure online to fill all the hours with Pinterest worthy activities for all your children. But children, especially toddlers are very good at finding amusement in the most basic of things. Even just giving your toddler a collection of different size and styles of spoons can amuse for ages (and it offers them chance to experience texture and materials). If your child is a bit older then maybe some colouring or magic painting, tray of playdough at the table with you and the older children will mean that your child is amused but also someone safe so you can keep eye on them.
I’m afraid if you have multiple children of home school age then I’m not really experienced in that area. However, I have seen a variety of methods:
- Set up a snack station with prepacked, preopened, prepeeled food and drinks. That way if you are finishing off with one and the other child has a ‘break’ then they can just grab something themselves.
- Use what you have…most online learning can be done on my devices ranging from the laptop to the xbox. So if two or more children have online lessons at the same time then you can set up in various areas.
- Similar to be ‘be prepared’ section – if possible find out who is doing what and when, the day before. That way if one child can do the work offline then print it out and have that set up whilst the other child/ren use the devices for online study. Speak to the teachers if there are timetable clashes as maybe the learning can be done via a prerecorded youtube video instead and work sent in to prove the learning intention was achieved.
- Get help – utilise zoom or Whatsapp video. Can another member of the family or a friend ‘teach’ one child, whilst you are with the other? If you and a friend have children in the same class, could you help each other by one of you using zoom or whatsapp or whatever video calling to do a ‘joint lesson’.
- Use visuals…if you are helping your child during a live session and you are being interrupted by another child then use a visual system. Maybe a ‘do not disturb’ sign, notepad and pen to write messages, encourage whatsapp/text message communication during the live. Have a symbol or code for an emergency as it’s important that your child knows they CAN interrupt if really needed.
- Headphones…get headphones. That way children can watch their videos, listen to their lives (And those not doing a session can watch their programmes or games) without interrupting or distracting each other.
It’s important that we remember this is an emergency situation. As I said at the beginning, this is not regular home schooling same as it’s not regular schooling. That means we have to find a ‘medium’ that will work for us and our children. If you can’t do it that day, don’t. Just keep in contact with your school so they are aware of what’s going on at home. Be kind to yourself and don’t forget to look after yourself too. If that means a glass of wine at the end of the day then do it. If that means locking yourself in the bathroom having a fake poo just for some peace then do it. If that means hogging the tv to watch what YOU want then do it. I also find that having a good b*tch with my friends at the end of the day is therapeutic (or read fellow bloggers who make you laugh, one I read recently was this ‘tips for reluctant homeschoolers’ a catfish post by ‘Whinge Whinge Wine’ post which made me smirk).
This wont last forever.
If you have any suggestions or comments PLEASE do leave them below and I’d love to know and it will be helpful for others to see…also come find me on social media (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook) if you’d rather comment there or just want to be nosey at what I’m doing. Sharing is always appreciated esecially if you know someone who could do with reading this.