“That awkward moment when your child looks to you for wisdom and you’re just like - mate, I don’t even know what day it is!” I burst into a fit of laughter when I read this phrase on @mamadisrupt instagram today because it just felt ohh so relatable ha!
Well who would have thought?! Schooling from home…. Yikes! Yep, here we are over here gearing up to head in to term 2 with school going online for at least the first half next term… Eeeeek! (We had a pupil free day today… phew!) Hope I do ok being Mum, teacher, employee, etc etc!
Now I know there are many amazing mums already doing the home schooling thing… I mean I have some friends who are just born to do it!! They are seriously gifted to teach! But little ‘ol me?! Well to be honest I keep swinging between being quietly freaked out and ‘She’ll be right mate!”
In our home, we are currently navigating a triple season of learning at home with our 3 kids (who are a little spaced out in age): a highschooler, primary schooler and a pre-schooler! (Somebody send over some more chocolate cake ha!)
So naturally, when I got chatting to our next guest, I couldn’t help but pick her brain as to How am I going to make this work?!
I’d love to take this opportunity to introduce you to the incredible Jen! She is a very talented high school teacher + Deputy Principal and if you’re (like me), struggling to get your head around school at home, you are going to value the wisdom she brings!
Over to you Jen!
My name is Jen and I have been a High School teacher of Drama and Dance for the past 12 years. I can imagine right now you have some anxiety about how all these changes are going to play out over the next five weeks? Don’t worry, we really are all in this together and we are all experiencing that same mix of emotions. As a full time educator and mum, you are not alone. We are all going to be finding a new ‘normal’ and trying to get the balance right. I personally find it really helpful to take a moment, step back, and be grateful for things I do have in my life and focus on things I can control.
My main message I would love to get out to all of you is to be kind to yourselves. You are being asked to supervise, not teach. If something happens and your child is not understanding a task or able to complete the work, contact the teacher or reach out to your own network of parents. You are not required to be their tutor and solve all of their problems and you are not in this alone. We teachers understand and we too are learning along the way. In the time that your teacher is responding to you, move on to something else, have some fun or take some time out from the task at hand.
When all that is said and done, let me provide my own personal thoughts on how to approach this learning from home stuff (please note, these are my own opinions and do not necessarily directly reflect that of my employer).
1. Create some form of routine
By no means would I be suggesting you have your children sit at a desk from 8:30am to 3:00pm on a daily basis, but I would recommend you create a routine that works for you and your household. The State Government has released some guidelines as to what the recommended learning times should be per age group and these reflect a couple of hours at most for the oldest age group. Work out what works for your household and make it a flexible routine. Ensure to build in some outdoor time and some time for creative play and remember you don’t need to schedule every minute of their day. If I have learned one thing from our surprise isolation interruption to 2020, it is that you cannot let perfection and perfect planning ruin your day (or year). Rather than a detailed routine, focus on bedtime/wake up times, blocks of time for family time, meals and study. Simple structure is key.
There is research that shows changing clothes can trick our minds into forming boundaries between work and play. I would encourage your children (and yourself) to hop up each morning, have breakfast and get changed for the day ahead. I even had students last term asking if they could still wear their uniform at home and these were teenagers! Whilst I am not saying you should have them sitting in their uniforms, it may be helpful for their mindset to get changed into new clothes for their learning part of the day and if you feel up for it, get changed back into your around the house clothes when they are done.
With routine, comes food! Kids eat a lot. I only have a two year old but he could eat me out of house and home if I allowed him to. Kids like routine and it would help your own daily routine if you continue to have some prepared snacks for the learning portion of the day ready to go. Not only does this make it easier for the kids to focus on the task at hand and have breaks when required, but it avoids the interruption if you are working from home with the dreaded “there’s nothing to eat” echo.
2. Set up a learning space
Most schools are sending out weekly overviews for parents or guides on how to supervise the learning of each child. I would recommend, if you have a printer, print out the overviews and pin them somewhere clear for both you and your children. These can act as a checklist as the week goes on. Have the kids highlight the tasks they have completed as the week passes by. Keep in mind, a lot of online platforms allow students to progress at their own pace, and your child may complete their week’s work earlier than expected. This is okay! If you are concerned, let your school know that you wish to have some extension tasks. Alternatively, get your children to research a topic they are studying in more depth. Look up science experiments on YouTube or watch some educational videos on Khan Academy.
With your learning space, it is important to have the area be somewhere quiet but also be a space where you as parents can see them regularly to check in. Study space should, as much as possible, be a space for study and should not be a space associated with relaxing eg. The lounge or their bed. Do not stress too much if you do not have a desk, the family dining table can act as a desk in the interim. The main thing to manage is that the space chosen has good access to natural light, a comfortable chair that allows for good posture and access to the devices being used and minimal distractions from other devices such as the television.
3. Get back to basics and get creative
So much learning can happen in the house away from devices. Take this time to reconnect as a family and spend some time doing the basics like chores, cooking and having a laugh! There is so much learning that can take place in your home. The “school day” can look very different in every household and can happen in a variety of ways.
In the kitchen – measurement of ingredients, chemical reactions (ANZAC biscuits are coming up too), cooking times and heats, amending recipe weights by halving or doubling batches, changing products from solid to liquid and back again. The list goes on. Get the kids in the kitchen, make a mess and enjoy the learning along the way.
Outside – What is the drying time of clothes if you hang them up at different times of the day? Is there an optimal time or location? How high can you make a rocket soft drink bottle go using bicarb soda and vinegar? Does it work better with cola and mentos? How does the sun impact our shadows? Get the kids to trace shadows of objects at different times of the day and turn into art works.
As this is a historical time, a suggestion I would recommend is getting your kids journaling. It can take on any form they like, but it is a wonderful way to keep track of what you did during your time in isolation. Perhaps you want to write about your day or the current events of interest, perhaps you want to log a photo a day, or write a poem. Either way, it is a great keep sake to look back upon when all this is over. Journaling is a great way to decrease anxiety and increase productivity.
4. Expect the unexpected
As a teacher, I have felt both prepared and very unprepared for this moment. In the classroom we are always thinking on our feet and adjusting lessons as the time ticks on. We respond to what the students are doing and adapt. So we have done what we do best. We have prepared lessons and resources and online classrooms and we have no idea how this will work out!
When it all goes pear shaped (notice I say when and not if) take a step back and breathe. Remember the mantra, you are not their teacher, you are doing your best.
We are expecting the first few days to be a steep learning curve for all students and things will go wrong. Logins will be forgotten, programs will need tweaking and some internet connections will fail. We understand and are here to work through it with you. Let your teachers know if you have any issues and they will work through it with you.
Well that’s all from me. Remember, be kind to yourselves and support each other. It is going to be an interesting few weeks but we have wonderful networks of professionals and family and friends to support us through it all.
OK! Amazing advice!! Thank you thank you thank you Jen! Now I feel like I might just get through the first day haha! I’ve managed to set up the learning space + type out a routine (Go Me!).
I absolutely love that last part about ‘Expect the Unexpected’. It’s so so true isn’t it, that we can begin to feel defeated, sometimes before we’ve even started because we are hit with the unexpected! That is definitely a good heads up for me!!
Well I know that some of our southern states in Australia have already been at this home schooling gig for over a week now, so definitely shout out your tips Mamas!! To those who have started, and to everyone starting this week… We’ve Got This!