Schooling From Home – In the Short Term – content provided by South West Home Education Association
Right now, it’s anybody’s guess as to when things will return to normal. So let’s go with best case scenario where children can return to school sometime during Term 2. This means you will be schooling them from home for between 4 and 16 weeks.
We suggest taking some time to enjoy the very unique opportunity that has been presented to your family. Whilst the adults still have many hats to wear and many balls to juggle, the children are in a state of freedom unlike ever before!
When homeschooling families first start learning at home, they often enter a period of “deschooling” which allows them to press the reset button as a family and get back in touch with the core values and relationships of their unique family. Deschooling looks like: little to no “sit down” school work, lots of free time to do the things we love, working out how to share our homes with each other 24/7, deciding how to distribute housekeeping work equitably, lots of sleep-ins and pyjama days, lots of time spent in nature. At some point everyone starts to get crabby with doing nothing organised, so this is the sign that we are ready to choose our homeschooling path and take the first steps to establishing our homeschooling routine.
If this is a short term experience for your family and you plan on sending your kids back to school as soon as you are able to, then this opportunity is even more precious. Really take the time to get to know one another again. Board games, family cooking, read-alouds, wii-playoffs, gardening, all provide a chance to reconnect with your children, and get to know them on a very personal level again, whilst enjoying an activity that encourages shared laughs, shared stories, and personal contributions.
If school still hasn’t returned by the time you need some structure to your days, then you can take a look at implementing some kind of academic program for your children. It’s important to realise that every family and every home will be unique in this regard. There is only one “rule of thumb” – If it’s working for you then it’s a legitimate choice. You only need to change what you are doing if it makes your family unhappy on a family level, or an individual level. Homeschooling works for homeschoolers because we find a way to balance out the needs of the children, the needs of the parents, and the demands of the curriculum with the demands of daily life. Homeschooling is not sustainable and rarely continues when there is a lot of conflict or when the load falls onto one person alone. In the same vein, schooling from home should also reflect shared responsibility for education, and household routines that minimise conflict.
Easier said than done, I hear you say! Well here are some top tips from our homeschooling community:
Ensure that everyone pulls their weight around the house – this should not be negotiable. Even a toddler can be asked to help with chores if you think of something age appropriate.
Routines are helpful – try to stick to them as much as possible, even if it’s just one consistent thing (perhaps waking up at the same time every day, or making sure the first school job is done by 10am)
Younger children need more support – be prepared to allocate some time just for them. Time when you are focussed on helping just them, and not attending to any of the other things on your plate right now. If all you can give is ten minutes, then know that ten minutes of your undivided attention might be the factor that gets that job finished. If you can give more, then give it. This sort of help requires that you sit with your child – don’t try to help from the kitchen while you are prepping dinner.
Older children have a more developed ability to sustain their own attention on a task, but they still need support. Older teens need help with time management over the course of a week (or if your teen is struggling then help them to manage their time over the course of a day)
Focus on essential learning first. Literacy and Numeracy are the first skills to backslide over long breaks. If you are concerned about sustaining your child’s academic progress to this point, then you need to prioritise learning like
Reading every day (audio books count)
Writing for a purpose (letters, lists, song lyrics, recipes)
Some kind of maths every day (maths card games, maths board games, times table races, treasure hunts where you have to answer an equation correctly before you get your next clue, or even just an online maths game like Prodigy which is free to play always)
Do other academic work once these essential learning tasks have been covered. There may or may not be time to cover everything that your school has assigned (some schools have assigned a lot and other have assigned nothing, it varies wildly). Do realise that in the big scheme of things you will not be penalised for helping your children to make it through this very challenging time, even if you didn’t get that obscure HASS assignment finished – sorry to all the HASS teachers out there!
Spend some time doing something creative every day. This looks different for everyone, but it bears the same fruit for all of us – when we have spent time being creative we are relaxed, happy, hopeful, kind, and connected.
So, a few weeks ago your life looked totally different. You went to work, your kids went to school, after school hours were a smorgasbord of extra curricular entertainment and everybody had fun together on weekends! Fast forward to today and you are probably wondering how to balance it all – financial stress, health anxiety, social isolation, and now you have to add educating your children to that list.
Just to set your mind at ease – homeschoolers are not feeling at all smug about the recent turn of events. Home educating families use our social, outdoor, Aussie way of life to complement their homeschooling curriculums all the time. So we are suffering too! But hopefully our collective years of experience can help to support you through this challenging time…and go some way towards allaying your fears for the continuity of your child’s education.
Let’s start with the physical environment your children will be learning in at home. Homeschooling families all do it differently so here are some ideas for setting up a home learning environment:
Do you use your dining table for family meals? If not, then this may be a good spot to set up everyone’s shared work resources.
If you have a home office could this be shared with your children?
Your children may prefer to work in their own bedrooms – particularly if this is a current routine for school homework.
Do you have a spare bedroom or formal lounge room that never gets used? Perhaps this area can be converted into a learning space so that the kids have somewhere to go to do their daily work.
Perhaps you don’t need to set up anything formal but are happy to just find a spot that works for the job they are doing at the time.
Some supplies you might like to have at hand:
Paper for drawing, doodling, writing, jotting, etc. Try to have a few different sizes and types of paper
Perhaps a binder or a magazine holder to keep everyone’s work neat
A computer or tablet that stays in a permanent set-up
A comfy chair
An indoor plant or two
Helping your child to adjust a life at home:
Bear in mind that everything has suddenly changed for your child as well. The loss of their school environment will be disorienting and they will likely need compassion and patience – which may be in short supply. Homeschooling families all move through a period of adjustment at the start of their homeschooling journeys (and after significant life events). We recognise that we need to connect as a family, get to know one another intimately after some separation, and get used to spending a lot of time in each other’s company. So know that when it feels like you can’t take one more minute of whining or fighting without losing it, you are actually at the pivotal moment of finding out what really works (and doesn’t work) for your family. Trust us, we all made it out the other side of that moment.
The real 3 R’s:
Whilst everyone thinks that Reading, (W)Riting, and (A)Rithmetic are the three R’s, we know that the original R’s are actually Rhythm, Routine and Ritual. We orient ourselves in our world through these things. Thinking about what these will look like at home is helpful. Rhythm – what is your basic day going to look like – the big picture flow of things. Routine – humans thrive on order and predictability, especially children – try to find ways to build routines into your day so that your children know what to expect and can become independent in living those routines. Ritual – these are the repetitive things we do every day without even thinking about them – they provide the comfort of familiar sameness in a world where the rules are constantly changing. Try to prioritise these things over the academic work that is knocking at the door – if you put this stuff first, then it makes the other things fall into place.
Thank you SWHEA for your tried and tested home schooling suggestions.