By Linda Stade
Remember the good old days, back in 2019? You enjoyed the Easter holidays with your family then sent the young ones back to school for Term 2. You breathed a sigh of contentment that they were happily learning at school while you were free to get on with your own challenges and triumphs.
Ahhhhhh…. The memories.
And then came Easter 2020. Your family is probably feeling a bit ‘covid’. You know, swinging from frustration to joy, anger to appreciation, boredom to mild hysteria. That’s normal. But now we’re adding the next challenge… schooling at home. Quite possibly, while you’re working from home.
Yes, there is the potential for this to all get a bit Hunger Games, but don’t despair. You’re not alone and you are not going to be left to your own devices. Here are five things your child’s school wants you to remember about schooling at home:
1. Teachers are still teaching
Nobody is expecting you to completely take over your child’s education. Teachers have invested a great deal of time and effort into creating programs and learning experiences. They have taken into consideration the opportunities and difficulties of not being in a classroom.
You don’t need to access your own resources or create your own lessons unless you want to. Teachers will be in contact with your child regularly and you can contact teachers during school hours if you have concerns or queries.
That said, yes…you will have those moments when you need to guide the learning or explain concepts that are a bit tricky. Remember, you have been your child’s most important teacher since forever. Think about all the amazing things you’ve taught them to date. Siblings can be great teachers too. Between you, your family, and the school, we’ve got this!
2. Schooling at home doesn’t have to look like school
Families are all different, so make schooling at home suit your family. It is not necessary to follow a traditional school timetable; you can be flexible. It may suit your family’s needs for your kids to do their schoolwork in the afternoons or evenings. That’s fine.
It is also not necessary for a child to sit down to schoolwork for the six hours a day that would usually be involved at school. The time involved will be determined by your child’s learning and emotional needs. They may grasp some concepts very quickly but struggle with others. They will have good days and bad days, so will you! If your child is consistently struggling, speak to teachers about how their program might be modified.
Traditionally, we have seen routine as very important and it is true that most children do benefit from routine, but don’t be a slave to it. Covid days can be difficult emotionally. If being flexible will help you or your child avoid having a meltdown, then be flexible. Go easy on yourself and your child, stressed brains don’t learn or reason effectively.
3. Create a learning environment
Structured thought calls for a structured learning environment. Your child needs a quiet place where they can be seated comfortably and spread out all their learning resources. Older students need several chunks of time of about 45 minutes without distraction.
The ideal learning environment is clearly not the couch with Netflix on, regardless of how often they tell you millennials are great at multitasking. We know they aren’t. Let’s help them with that attention span!
There should be a balance between online and offline work. When your child is not working online, have them turn off their devices and put them away. During online work, you can teach them to use apps that block access to sites like Instagram or YouTube for however long they choose. Try Cold Turkey or Self Control, they lock you out even if you restart your device or delete the app.
4. Kids need realistic reinforcement
Positive reinforcement is the most powerful tool a teacher has in their toolbox. It motivates, it helps create a love of learning and it builds self-esteem. That said, we don’t just throw it around willy-nilly. It has to be directed, specific and appropriate, otherwise, it means nothing and can undermine the learning.
Your children need you to dive into their learning with them so you can see what they are achieving, help them set realistic goals and then celebrate with them when they achieve those goals. Teachers will be doing this too, but they are more removed than usual. We need to work together on this aspect of learning. Now and always, school and home are more powerful in partnership.
5. Connection to school is vital
The saddest part of schools having to go online is the loss of connection. Young people miss their friends and they miss their teachers. Teachers miss them too. That connection and community that schools offer builds resilience and positive mental health. It must be maintained as fully as possible.
At Lourdes Hill College in Brisbane, this fact has been well recognised. They have divided their daily offerings into LHC@Home in the morning for their academic programs and Connect@LHC in the afternoon for their wellbeing needs.
Assemblies, House activities, leadership programs and cocurricular programs are all run online. Staff have been incredibly innovative and reinvented this aspect of the College so that the whole community feels connected, heard and seen. Schools all over the world are trying their very best to be connected to their students.
Students and teachers will get back to school soon enough and we will appreciate it so much more. In the meantime, I’m not going to pretend this new system is perfect, but it does offer us the opportunity to teach our young people to be more independent learners and to demonstrate some resilience. As we say in schools, ‘This is a growth opportunity’ and ‘We can do hard things’.
Inspiring Girls is a product of Lourdes Hill College, Brisbane.