If you’re one of the many parents who never expected to be solely responsible for your child’s education, the whole ‘home schooling’ situation is likely to be causing a lot of stress - no matter how much you love your kids! Mama Brown & Co contributor and home educator Saskia Crawley gives us her tips on how to navigate these strange times with as little pressure as possible.
Be kind to yourself
If there’s one thing I want to be shouting from the rooftops right now, it’s please be kind to yourself! Home educating is an often challenging gig at the best of times - the wondering if you’re doing enough with your children, the exhaustion of being around them 24/7 - and that’s with the addition of clubs & meet-ups, days spent in the park and no limitations as to where and when you can go out and adventure away from home!
Please don’t feel you need to have this all sussed and to be providing some sort of harmonious educational set-up after just a few days/weeks of being thrown into the unknown. Ease up on yourself. Do what you can to stay calm, present and happy. This is what our kids need most of all - and even then, they’re resilient. Our children don’t need us to be perfect.
In fact, you’ll notice they thrive most when you are thriving. If you can put a focus on making your family home as relaxed a space as possible, you’ll notice just how much they thrive when you do start dipping into more structured learning opportunities.
Stress leads to more stress! So if you feel your blood pressure rising at sticking to the school’s work provisions or by trying to get your kids to keep up with the live stream schedules... breathe and write some things off until you’re all in a better place. And yes, it’s OK if this takes weeks. If you were an elective home educator, you’d be expected to take several months before you were in your home learning ‘rhythm’.
Don’t underestimate a good chat
One way you can easily add more educational opportunities to your day, talk with your kids. Sit around over breakfast and ask them what they’d like to do today, what would they like to learn? What questions do they have on their mind? Next time they show you one of their Lego creations, ask how they made it? What forces are at work in that construction? What techniques have they used in their drawing? How do they think their snack was made? Everything around us can be the basis for investigation and questioning - and a chat could open up all sorts of learning opportunities to follow-up together (thanks, Google).
Having more time to sit and chat with our children is a real gift. Those little minds may surprise you!
Bring learning to the simple things
If you’re struggling to keep to a structured ‘learning regime’, then try bringing learning to the simple things. Go on a walk where you discuss nature or look at different types of architecture. Look out for shapes in your surroundings and take photos. Have your kids help plan meals with you or teach them more about basic budgeting and how it works for your family. Read together and then ponder what would have happened if the story had ended differently.
Imagine together, sing together, dance together, be silly together.... Remember that it’s these simple things that are so important to be able to embrace in life! This situation is reminding us of that.
Make the most of technology
It feels like the internet is suddenly awash with learning opportunities - free classes, downloads, documentaries, live streams... which is amazing! BUT it’s fast becoming easy to be overwhelmed by the many choices and could leave you feeling like you don’t know where to start. Please remember that you don’t suddenly have to be making the most of all these resources at once - or even ever.
Have a think about what your children will really enjoy and what could be most fun to approach as a family, plus don’t underestimate the value in letting your children simply enjoy the tech they already love.
In these unprecedented times, there’s no harm in letting them watch hours of their favourite TV shows so you can work, or all get some headspace and simply rest amidst the stress. The mental and physical wellbeing of your whole family is what’s most important right now, so if you need time to watch films together in your pyjamas - do it. There will be plenty of time for your kids to catch up on learning, there will be plenty of time for your kids to explore outdoors.
When things do go back to ‘normal’, everyone is going to face a period of adjustment. Schools won’t be able to pick up where they left off, it will be a case of working it all out together - and nobody can possibly know what that will look like yet.
If there’s one thing our children are being gifted with in this strange time, it’s play time! Suddenly our children are faced with extra hours of unstructured time to fill and if there’s anyone who can find a way to fill them - kids will. Not all play needs to have an educational slant to be brilliant for child development and learning either. Free play, role play, creative play - they all help your child process new ways of thinking, boosting problem solving skills and communication skills which will strengthen them both academically and emotionally.
While you may feel pressured to keep your children engaged (because they ‘should be at school’), there’s a real beauty in letting your children process boredom and leaving them the space to come up with their own ideas too.
Many children expect parents to come up with solutions for their boredom... but if you’re feeling strong enough to withstand the moans, letting your child face boredom and have to discover their own means of entertaining themselves has long term benefits. Boredom offers a chance for kids to be curious, get creative and proactively come up to solutions to entertain themselves.
Next time your child tells you they’re bored, try telling them you’re excited to see what they’ll come up with to keep themselves entertained! If this becomes your new norm, you'll soon find your children are proactively going from one idea or game to the other until you’re ready to help with more structured activities.
Again, be kind to yourself. If your kids aren’t used to being bored and you don’t think you can stand the whining right now... Mama, reach for the remote. You’re living through a global pandemic after all.
Stay home, stay safe, stay loving. You’re all going to be ok.