Advice and Wellbeing. How to cope with homeschooling
For some of us, even being stuck in the service from hell probably seems preferable to having to cope with homeschooling a gaggle of unruly children - at least some of the time. But remember that with all schools across the UK having been closed, this has become a very strange time for our children, as well as for us. All of a sudden, they are at home when they would usually be at school, they are not seeing their friends, and their parents are also at home. The presence of our children at home can bring a number of challenges, and we suggest the following to help make this time easier:
- Make a Timetable. Your children have a timetable at school and it can help them to keep one while they are at home. This gives structure to their day as well as yours. Include your children in this process, allow them to choose – where possible – what time they would like to do certain activities. Be sure to also schedule in breaks, some fun time and time with the other people at home – even if 15 minutes. Include some exercise, your children’s activity levels may decline during this period so it is important to fit this in. Try some jump rope or dancing.
- Let Them Explore. We are not all teachers and although the school may provide some work for the children to do at home, it may not always be enough to fill the day. Use this as an opportunity for children to learn about things they would like to. There are many things are children are interested in that they do not always get to cover in school or do not cover for a long time. This can also extend to the way they like to learn. Some children will benefit from songs, some from tasks, others from books, and some from videos.
- Quality Time. Our children are as anxious as we are right now, although they may not be expressing it. Be sure to dedicate some time to them during their ‘school’ day. It may be uncomfortable for them to have you there but not having constant open access to you. When you would usually be going to grab a coffee, or having a chat with a colleague, spend it with your children. Ask them how their day is going, do they have any questions, make time for a little game. 20 minutes of good connected time together can go a long way in these difficult times.
- Search online. We are fortunate that there are so many resources we are able to make use of during this time. Many apps are both education and fun for children. There are workout videos on YouTube for children that can take place of a PE lesson. There are countless books that can help your children through their home-learning. There is a large catalogue of websites with educational material for children.
- This is an Opportunity. Despite the struggles, make an effort to see this an opportunity to spend more time together. Simply being in close proximity is a bonding opportunity for both of you. Do that thing together that you always want to but did not have time to. Make lunch together. Let your child show you their schoolwork, tell them about your work. Take a walk together. Take advantage of the extra time together where possible.
- Connect Them. School is the biggest contributor to our children’s social life and all of a sudden, that is taken from them. Try to stay in touch with their friends during this time. Can they write them a letter? Let them send an email to their parent. They can Skype or Zoom their friends during lunch – this interaction in the middle of the day would help replicate a normal lunchtime. Speak with a group of parents and arrange a group Skype or Zoom session – they could each practise something they are learning, have show and tell or just have a chat.
Pre-School Children at Home.
We may also have pre-school children at home. This could be due to their daycare or babysitter not operating, or due to a change in your financial circumstances. With many parents working from home, we may decide to keep our toddlers at home. Keeping toddlers entertained, occupied and ensuring they are still learning is no small feat, the following tips can make this a little easier:
- Books and Songs. Make the most of the books you have, reading is a great way for toddlers to learn and interact with you. You can also incorporate nursery rhymes and song learning into this exercise.
- Work Together. If you have two parents, another caregiver/guardian, or older children at home, ask if they can help with looking after the toddler(s) in the house. Take it in turns as to who will occupy the children and put it in a diary. This allows you time to schedule in any meetings you may have or calls you need to make, as well as allowing you to take some ‘me time’.
- TV and Tablets. Although it is best to limit the time our children spend watching TV and playing on computers, tablets or phones, these can be extremely useful in keeping our children occupied and can be educational. Choose a show or app that you feel is both entertaining for your children but is also interactive. The NHS recommend no more than half an hour for children under 2 and no more than an hour for those between 3-5 years old.
- Speak With Your Employer. If you are working from home with a toddler, be open with your employer and let them know that due to the current circumstances, you have your toddler with you at home. This will allow them to be more understanding of your situation and will help with things such as team meetings, working times and so forth. Discuss any difficulties you fear facing during this time with your colleagues and come to solutions or compromises together.
- Use Household Items. Children love to play with water, use the bath, sink or just a bowl with some water and let them use cups, bottles, straws, sponges and spoons or other household items to play with the water. Make acoustic toys such as putting pasta and rice in a bottle to create a shaker. Set up a pretend kitchen area and let them play at cooking, they can use pots and pans, rice, pasta, lentils and dried beans to serve as their ‘ingredients’. Make sock puppets and give your toddlers a show. Play does not have to be difficult or expensive; just a little imagination goes a long way!
Teenagers at Home
- There Will Be More Screen Time. For most teenagers, their social life is everything. Nowadays, much of their interaction is through their mobile phones, tablets or video game consoles. While we may usually be frustrated by the amount of time they spend on these devices, during a time like this, those social outlets are a lifeline for our children. Encourage them to FaceTime their friends, let them spend time on their Instagram or Snapchatting their friends, try to tolerate them hollering down a headset whilst playing video games with friends online.
- Retain Their Independence. Many teenagers may have just been getting their first taste of independence and have now had that taken from them. A sense of independence can come in many shapes and forms – although we are restricted for the time being. Their own private space, being in charge of their (and maybe the rest of the family’s) meals, making grocery runs and encouraging them to go outside to exercise can all help keep a sense of independence for teenagers during this time.
- Discuss the Pandemic. Our teenagers are able to understand what is going on in the world right now in relation to COVID-19. Given their high usage of social media, they are very exposed to both the positive and negative responses and news. It is important you show your teenagers that you respect their intelligence and talk openly with them about the pandemic. Listen to any anxieties they may have and help them to work through these. Help them find reputable sources for news on the virus to prevent any unnecessary anxiety.
- Be Open About Feelings. Adolescence is a difficult time for many in terms of emotions and feelings at the best of times; never mind when there is a pandemic surrounding them. Be sure to have one-on-one time where you teenagers can let you know how they are feeling, create a safe space for them to express any fears or anxieties they may be experiencing. It is important that our children – teenagers and otherwise – know that it is very normal to feel uneasy during this pandemic and that they are able to talk about these feelings.
- Inform Your Boss. As with our younger children, it is important that your employer and colleagues that our teenagers at home as well. Although we can communicate and reason more with our older children, they can also cause disruptions. It is important your employer knows you have teenagers at home as well.
BBC Bitesize: https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize
Michigan University on Keeping Children Happy at Home: https://healthblog.uofmhealth.org/childrens-health/stuck-athome-6-ways-to-keep-your-kids-healthy-and-happy
Unicef on Teenage Mental Health during COVID-19: https://www.unicef.org/coronavirus/how-teenagers-canprotect-their-mental-health-during-coronavirus-covid-19
Radio Times on Children’s Entertainment: https://www.radiotimes.com/news/tv/2020-03-26/kidsentertainment-tv/