Collectively we have 73 years of teaching experience behind this story today. Teachers from various age groups and genders, teachers who have taught in most school environments, and teachers who have come across most students in our world today. We’re all here giving some much needed advice as to how to tackle this anomaly of a situation – home schooling while the world stays at home.
Some of you might be lucky in that school is resuming soon, whereas some of you might still be in the thick of it. No matter the situation it’s always good to have some tips and tricks up your sleeve, so with that said let’s get straight to it and give you 15 of our ultimate tips to help you survive…
Step one is to create a visual timetable of all the activities you’ll be doing throughout the ‘school day’. Depending on the age of your kids you can choose how in depth and visual they are. Younger students require more pictures due to reading challenges, whereas older students can have just the word. Eg. Maths. Next to each activity try to have the time as well. For younger students have an analogue clock so that they can see when the time matches their clock at home. Older students can have digital.
Structure each day so that your kids are engaged in what they’re doing. Each morning change your visual timetable around so that they can see what’s coming up and when (this is great for you too so you know what’s happening!). That will hopefully stop lots of questions as well, which will probably include; when can I eat? when can we have a break?
Movement is key
The worst thing you can do is get kids to sit still for three hours! Get. Them. Moving. Do some English, then do a science experiment, then do some Maths. Teachers do this all the time in school because you can’t teach or learn anything without concentration. On average most students have an attention span of about 45 minutes. Keep this in mind and mix things up so that they’re not in one place for too long.
Put your ‘teacher’ hat on
It’s up to you to make sure that as much of the work outlined by their school is completed – and completed on time. When it’s school time make sure they know that you’re the teacher. Yes they might nag you, but don’t give in to letting them play or watch television because they don’t feel like it. Let them know it’s simple; you don’t do that at school, so you’re not going to do that now.
This is super simple – if they do an amazing job, REWARD THEM! It might be a sticker, some free time, the night off doing the dishes, you name it! In doing this it will really help them get things done, but also show them progression and moving forward in their days – despite being cooped up in the same environment.
Don’t stress out
The best teachers are those that can adapt to change, go with the flow, and don’t stress out. To survive this home schooling season please make sure you try not to freak out. As teachers there are days when some lessons absolutely tank. Where the kids have no idea what’s going on, and honestly neither do you! Haha! This is totally okay! We’re all human and as long as you’re trying your best then that’s great!! After all you might have other things to worry about at home than teaching, so just do what you can. Kids always pick up on how you’re feeling and draw on that so if you’re stressed then they’ll find it hard to cope as well.
They will learn
This is super important – your kids will learn! No matter what happens people always learn in life! If you’re struggling with home schooling bake something in the kitchen, go for a walk outside or do some gardening! All of these things have incidental learning within them. The best thing is to expose them to the world around them. Have conversations and include them in what you’re doing. They’ll learn so much and have amazing memories of doing it with you as well!
Don’t talk ‘at’ them
No one likes it when people talk at them for ages – and kids are no exception! Teachers have a very basic lesson plan that they adhere to; Give a simple introduction (1/4 of the time), have a learning activity for the bulk of the lesson (1/2 of the time), and recap with a brief conclusion (1/4 of the time). Use this to help you keep them moving and capture their attention. If you only have an hour, do a 15 min intro, then 30 min activity, and finish with a 15 min wrap up. Simple.
Communicate with their teacher
Keeping in contact with their teacher will let them know where you’re at. Don’t be embarrassed if you missed something or if you are totally stressed out. Let their teacher know so they can support you further and understand what’s happening. There is nothing worse than not hearing from a student or their family during online learning. As a teacher you have no idea what’s going on. And if you haven’t already realised, teachers are in this profession because they’re people that care for others and show grace and kindness as a habit. We thrive on just looking out for people, so if you’re struggling – that’s OKAY! We’re here not just for your kids but you too!
This might sound simple but you would be surprised at how many people miss this step. Just before going to bed the night before, have a quick look at what is coming up the next day. This way if you’re organised and something randomly pops up – which ALWAYS happens at school – then at least you’ll be on top of things for next time, or able to quickly switch to something else.
Use what you have
Enter Pinterest! Every teacher tries to use what they have available. For you at home this is no different! Use what you have around you to learn, which is where Pinterest comes in. There are thousands of ideas here for just about any subject you’ll come across, using household items. We highly recommend getting the app on your phone or checking out their website!
If you’re really finding things hard, or would like to mix things up a bit, why not combine some subject theory? Teachers are bound by the curriculum and time is very precious so we try to do this to cover a few things at once – for some year levels that’s how we survive! Haha! Here’s an example…
Your 6 year old’s topics for the day: learn their alphabet, develop fine motor skills, practise counting their numbers to 20, and something crafty.
The activity you could do is to make a calendar for home! Get them to help write the month it is (alphabet practise), write the numbers for each date (numbers to 20+), cut out different elements to decorate (scissor skills developing fine motor). They will have a wonderful final product that is crafty, which you could take a photo/video of and send to their teacher! Done!
These work wonders and are regularly used by teachers everywhere! In between lessons or if you think kids are getting restless, give them a 5-7 minute Brain Break! Make sure it’s nothing school related and something fun to enjoy. Using a timer on your phone is a great idea too so they can see when they need to begin winding down or packing up. Ideas include; chalk drawing, meditation, stretching, exercise, run around, bouncing on the trampoline, playing with Playdough.
Get them involved
Including students in decision making in the classroom or at school, helps them to have purpose. It stops the ‘I’m being talked at’ mentality and gets them involved, which they love! Ask them where they would like to work that day? Outside or inside? Ask them what they’d like to do first, when they’d like to eat, what they’d like to work towards once ‘school time’ is finished. It will make things a whole lot easier and they’ll think they’re in control.
It’s all about the curriculum
No matter where you live I can tell you that teachers are guided and bound by curriculum. What they’re outlining for your kids is taken from their planner, and translated into home activities. At the end of the day that’s what they have to guide their assessment. When it comes to reporting, students usually have to show a competency of 80% in order to receive the highest mark for a subject. Even though we are in ever-changing times, no teacher can legally – and it is a legal thing – give a student a mark that they can’t achieve. When you’re homeschooling, your child’s teacher will 100% be trying their best to get them to that 80%. You can do this too! Help them to understand and don’t feel pressured that they need 100% accuracy.
Don’t forget that no one knows your kids better than you do. You are the best person to help get them through this and hopefully some of the above tips and tricks help you succeed. Remember that you’re doing an amazing job in doing your best, that no one is perfect, and that we’re all in this together!