Along with the rest of the world, many families on island are now faced with the prospect of possible school closures in the face of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) world wide pandemic.
Now if you do find yourself stuck at home with your kids during this time, firstly do not panic, all will be well, you will survive and may even find that your child’s learning will thrive during this time, even if you do get a little cabin fever along the way.
Now remember that during this time at home your child’s education will still be the responsibility of their school and if living in Guernsey, the Education Department and I’m sure they will be providing you with ideas and resources that can support your child’s learning from home.
Also remember that your kids are home for a good 6 weeks during the school summer holidays every year, often enjoying lots of free play and unstructured time and their education does not suffer because of it.
However, as a home educator I appreciate that you may be feeling daunted at the prospect of suddenly having your kids at home with you all day and somewhat overwhelmed by the thought of having to guide their learning during this time.
I therefore thought I would share a blog post or two over the coming weeks with a few ideas and resources you can draw on to help support your child’s learning at home should you find yourself in that position.
*Please note that my posts here will focus on learning with primary school aged children as that is the experience I have as a home educator.
So lets jump in and lets keep it simple.
10 simple things you can do to learn at home as a family:
I start here on purpose. Chances are if your family is now home for most of the day then you’re going to have a lot more mess and clearing up to do. To preserve your sanity and to help make time and space for enjoying this home learning experience then everyone needs to muck in to help keep this new learning environment at it’s best. Chores are an important part of family life as it is, enabling children to serve others and feel like contributing, needed members of the family. Plus life skills are just so important, I mean, who wants an 18 year old that can do long division and algebra but can’t even do a load of laundry!? Not me! So get them making their beds, emptying the dishwasher, folding laundry, sweeping the porch, setting the dinner table and contributing to family life.
I know, I know, you know this one! Of course reading! Whether it be read alouds as a family, older kids reading to the younger kids or your new readers doing individual reading practice with you, do it all! I’m sure your child’s school will provide you with reading lists to use at home, but if you find yourself with extra time on your hands then this is a great opportunity to get out those books you’ve meaning to read to your kids for some time. Perhaps there is a series you could work your way through, the Chronicles of Narnia, The Famous Five, Harry Potter, there are so many to choose from. Don’t have the books at home and can’t get to the library? No problem! Then just get an audio book subscription like Audible and listen along.
Writing does not have to be boring form filling, spelling tests and comprehension worksheets. I’m sure during isolation your kids will be missing school friends and family members so help them to stay connected whilst working on their writing at the same time by sending letters and postcards to friends. A simple postcard a day really will suffice. Gather them up at the end of the week and pop out for a quick stroll to the nearest postbox (if you’re not in official quarantine) and grab some much needed fresh air too. Perhaps stock up on postage stamps ahead of time.
Missing all those sweet treats and coffee dates that made up part of your week? Well baking is a great way to eat cake whilst incorporating math skills in a hands on way. Stock up on ingredients now before school closures or quarantine hits and then once a week get your kids weighing ingredients, doubling recipes, halving the batter and setting the timer. Make a real party of it too, something to look forward to at the end of the school week or perhaps something to fill in the space where the kids are missing out on attending a group. Maths at it’s sweetest! (Pun intended)
Most board games include some sort of math skills, whether it be basic counting, sequencing or even geometry. Great for turn taking, patience building and family bonding too. There are also card games and parlour games, whatever takes your fancy. Perhaps pick a game a day or even schedule a (screen free) games afternoon once a week.
If you’re anything like us then you’ll still have boxes of unopened craft kits ready and waiting following Christmas. Whether it be candle making, soap making, sewing kits or simply painting and play dough, now is the time to do them all. Pull out the paints, open up the boxes and let them get messy and creative and enjoy the sensory experience. You could even start a hand made project ready for Father’s Day or even Christmas depending on how time consuming and technical it is.
Gardening is such a great way to teach a variety of subjects. Maths is involved as you count out seedlings, writing as you label pots, natural history as you identify flowers and nature sciences as you discuss the benefits of composting and mulching. If you find yourself stuck at home and getting cabin fever then get out in the garden as much as possible if you have one. Weed, plant, identify birds, make a bug hotel and get your hands dirty all in a good way.
8. Music Practice
If your child is already learning a musical instrument then they now have plenty of time and no excuse not to be practicing it, possibly even twice a day! By the time they go back to music lessons and school orchestras they’ll be able to impress their teachers with their self directed progress.
9. Screen Time
There are math apps and language learning apps, yoga videos, nature documentaries, as well as the usual computer games and TV shows that kids just love. Identify the apps that will aid your learning and then slot them into your daily and weekly rhythm in a way that is predictable and clear, making screens work for you and not against you. Perhaps you’ll allocate 15 minutes for a math app every day after lunch, a yoga video twice a week and a movie on the weekend. Whatever works for your sanity and your kids learning.
And remember screen time has it’s place in learning, but don’t allow it to be a crutch. I say this from experience when I advise that you use it wisely and sparingly and set the boundaries of it’s use from the get go. Poor behaviour, lack of attention and sensory meltdowns tend to come part and parcel with too much screen time and not enough time outdoors.
10. Free Play
Last but by no means least don’t underestimate the importance of free play. More and more schools are adding free play time into their schedules and rightly so, it’s a great opportunity for children to express themselves, practice new skills and process what they’ve been learning in the classroom, not to mention de-stress. The chances are if you’re feeling worried by the current health pandemic then your kids are too, however much you’ve tried to protect them from the constant news updates and daily conversations that are hard to avoid. At times like this up the free play accordingly, they’re gonna need it.
So yes, I know, simple things that deep down you already knew, but as Julie Bogart says in her excellent book The Brave Learner, “everything can be taught through anything” and sometimes we just need reminding of that.
And remember, just because your child is home from school doesn’t mean you need to recreate school at home. Free yourself from that notion right now and embrace the freedom and creativity that comes with learning from home.
In my next post I will share with your some of the free online resources I use on a regular basis to aid my daughters’ education at home. I’m sure you’ll find them useful too, but in the meantime you may find it helpful to read about our homeschool rhythm and see what a day in the life looks like for us.