Some countries and parents have been thrust into a home-schooling situation that allowed for very little planning and forethought in the lead-up. Alas, we are in the middle of it now and many parents may be questioning where to start, what to do and how best to manage their child whilst educating them. Here are five strategies that might be of use to parents over the coming weeks:
Combat uncertainty with structure
In times of anxiety, people seek to control. Adults and children are no different in this regard. A simple way to combat any anxiety that you may see in your child over the coming weeks is to structure the day and explain it to them every morning so they know what to expect. Let the children have some input into the structure of the day to increase compliance. This will help keep your children remain on task and avoid questions about when they will get to do x or play y as it can be pre-scheduled into their day and explained to them so they know it is coming. This could be done verbally over breakfast or you could make a little chart if you had access to a printer, paper or colours.
App recommendation for this here.
Choice will be your friend
Giving the children some ownership over the activities they engage with will increase the likelihood of a positive experience. Imposition leads to opposition. The trick is to give them a range of choices that you’re happy with and let them pick whichever ones they like so they feel in control. With clever choices, they are still being guided into the desired activities of your choice, however.
Choice can be provided through the timing or sequence of activities or what the activity actually is. This is an amazing chance for your child to get high-personalised learning tailored completely to their interests so depending on the time you can put in and the resources you have, your child could benefit from intensively getting to explore areas of interest to them.
Language will be important
The language parents use to engage their children in an activity will be important. Being a teacher can be like being a salesperson and in this uncomfortable time, I would suggest avoiding using educational language like “work” or “English” or “maths”. Home is a place for children to relax and imposing this school-based language can encourage resistance or disengagement because of its use outside of the school context.
I would suggest parents just sell the activity. There is no need to mention the learning or objective of it. There are lots of education in everyday home activities that the children will love to get involved in and getting them to work with you will develop their skills without any need for school talk.
Asking them to help you bake some bread is full of learning between reading and following a recipe, the new language used, measuring the ingredients, ensuring the time and temperature is correct without ever having to tell them its educational.
The same can be said for home improvement indoors, gardening outdoors, watching educational documentaries, putting on fashion shows with adult clothes, painting and drawing, writing up shopping lists, learning new songs, playing board games, following youtube workouts, practising an instrument, exploring some secluded parts of nature in big parks, field or up in the mountains or making something from a cardboard box and some imagination. There is a myriad of simple but creative ideas.
Day-to-day life is so rushed that we often find it is quicker to complete tasks for children than to allow them the extra time to figure it out for themselves. Now is the time to slow down day-to-day life and foster independence that will stand to them when life inevitably resumes at its hectic pace. This could be as simple as teaching them to make their own breakfast, tie their shoelaces and dress themselves if they are young or cook a meal, do their own washing, use the iron or other key life skills if they are older. This is a unique time and providing this kind of learning could stand them in good stead in the long run.
Finally: Screen Time
I would be the first one to say that I don’t love children spending an abundance of time on screens. But firstly, this is the world we live in and technology is irreversibly going that way and secondly, the world and their mother will be spending additional time on their TVs, tablets, phones and games consoles. I would encourage parents to accept this and harness it where possible. Additional screen time could be a useful reward for helping out or engaging in an activity or it also could be used as a calming measure. These are stressful times and having something enjoyable and immersive can help maintain a sense of calm in your child depending on their personality. You know your child best but I would encourage you to not fight the reality that additional screen time is inevitable with added time at home.
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