Two months in, who else has this distance-learning thing nailed? You must be a pro now, right? If your experience has been anything like mine, you have probably had your fair share of bad days, broken up by some slightly less bad days and you’ve thought to yourself why on earth would anyone want to be a teacher or who are these crazy people who opt to home educate their own children? Which prompted me to find myself down a google search rabbit hole starting with ‘how do
crazy people homeschool their children?’ followed by ‘Are my children broken?’
My main take-away from this was that what we are being asked to do, as parents, is quite different to what those who currently home educate actually do. We are affectively being asked to keep school going, whereas homeschooling parents follow their own path and it is very much child-led.
With this in mind, here are my 3 tips to getting through this strange time with yours and your childrens’ mental & physical health still intact:
- Stick to a routine, not a schedule.
Week 1 of distance learning, my wife and I had a minute-by-minute plan of how things were going to go – a schedule. I do not think I need to elaborate on how naïve that idea was. A schedule is rigid and can cause more stress when you are not able to adhere to it, whereas a routine allows for variety and flexibility. You will need to be flexible to deal with things like tech issues, slow data speeds or a child who is simply not interested in learning today (most days!) and variety helps to keep everyone interested and engaged.
Sleep, meal & play times have always been our daily non-negotiables. They are the same time every day, so the children know what to expect. It is amazing to see after a few days of consistency with the routine how the kids just fall into a flow and they even remind me that its time to wake up. I wish they were as good with reminding me about bedtime.
Now that we are home educating we incorporate the play part into distance learning too. It’s actually given me the opportunity to invent what I as a parent would want for my children from a school. Which is obviously PE, alllll day errrday! Which brings me to my next point -
- Let the children take the lead
Every child is different; they all have their own learning style. I would not suggest relying on the computer for everything, instead include lots of play; role play, physical exercises, arts and crafts, music as part of the learning day to help stimulate your childrens’ minds and keep them interested.
Just because children are in the lead, doesn’t mean adults are absent from the equation, unfortunately haha. In reality, I would argue the opposite is true, as parents need to work to provide the right kind of support, including resources, encouragement and the structure children need to make progress and achieve their goals. Goals at this stage are trying not to eat all the snacks the day we buy them and progress being getting to day 3 before needing to make another trip to the shops for essential items. Maybe I should add “ALWAYS HAVE SNACKS and MORE SNACKS” as a bullet point on its own.
- Do not compare yourself to others
What works for me, may not work for you. If you took the strengths of others, and compared them to your weaknesses, how do you think you’d size up? And do you think this would make you feel good? This is such a key element in taking care of your mental health. At the start of lockdown, I immediately looked outward to what everyone else was doing, instead of focusing on what I could be doing. My strength is being able to get my children to engage through physical activities, swimming, scootering, working out and it’s been so amazing to watch them progress in that way over this lockdown. If I started comparing myself to others, who may have built an extension to their home out of kibson boxes as a makeshift playroom or the parents who’s 3 year old now speaks 3 languages I would be pretty down. Use your strengths and focus on them for now, and like I mentioned, let the children take the lead with activities too. My 8 year old is fantastic at building the craziest things out of a cardboard box, my daughter just wants to be outside in the grass, counting leaves on flowers or climbing the monkey bars, and my 1 year old has watched so much Dora he now counts to 10 in Spanish!
To conclude, do what works best for you! This is a great time for our children to use their own initiative and imagination to bust the boredom. Schoolwork is not the only source of education and grades are not the only way of validating our intelligence or skill set.
By: Minhal Bhojani, Performance Coach