How to ‘homeschool’ your kids during isolation

Child sitting on sofa with remote control

If someone had told me a few weeks ago I’d be in isolation at home, unable to leave the building, with my three children and Mr S.H.I.T (who keeps standing right in front of the fridge every time I need to get in there) for weeks and weeks on end, I’d have undoubtedly fled the country.

Fleeing is obviously not an option in these unprecedented times and so we all find ourselves in this extreme position – one which we could never have imagined happening to any of us, never mind the whole world.

Throw into the mix that the children are still expected to attend school, albeit remotely, and we’re suddenly feeling the ginormous pressure to homeschool our kids. Something that the majority of us would never ever have considered.

I have to say all three schools which my children attend have been wonderful at offering us reassurance and providing information on how this can work. But there has inevitably been a tsunami of information sent through on what we should be doing: e-mails, ParentMails, links to lesson plans, timetables, PE lessons, and that’s not including the well-meaning ideas regularly sent in from the zillion WhatsApp groups most of us have found ourselves in.

Every time my phone pings with yet another ‘suggestion,’ I find myself stressing that we must be doing the 30 day Lego challenge, watching Geographic YouTube videos, setting up indoor obstacle courses and filling gratitude jars.

Before I knew it, the S.H.I.T head was spinning out of control and I didn’t know where to start.

And then, as if the magical ‘give mothers a f-ing break’ fairy was looking out for me, the below message from a brilliant school principal landed in my inbox and I realised it’s all going to be ok.

At the end of the day, all that matters is that they’re ok. And that you’re ok too. xx

**Usual disclaimer: I’m a school principal but I speak only for myself. Others may have different ideas**

I’m seeing a lot of threads online with the same general theme, so I wanted to just given a school’s perspective on it all and answer some FAQs. Also happy to answer any questions people have that I can answer.

There are lots of people feeling stressed, overwhelmed and under pressure by the work being sent home for kids. I hope this can help with that somewhat.

A few points to note first :

1) This is not homeschooling. This is an unprecedented emergency situation impacting the whole world. Let’s keep perspective. Homeschooling is a choice, which you consider, you plan for it and you are your child’s school teacher in whatever form you choose . This is at best, distance learning. In reality, it’s everyone trying to separate their bums from their elbows because none of us know what we’re doing and what’s right and wrong here.

2) You are, and always have been, your child’s primary educator. If you decide that your child isn’t going to engage with anything sent home and is going to spend the entire period playing in the dirt, or baking, or watching TV, that is your choice. That is your right. It is clear in the constitution. There is nothing to stress or feel guilty about.

3) Schools don’t know what they’re doing either. They got no notice, no prep time and we’re told ‘continue to plan lessons as normal and just send them home’ as if that is in any way possible. If it were, we’d all be out of a job very quickly. I won’t rant about my thoughts on the Dept on this, but suffice to say your school is winging it.

4) It is absolutely not possible to facilitate distance learning with a primary aged child and work from home at the same time. The very idea is nonsense. If you’re trying to do that, stop now. You can certainly have activities where your child learns, but your focus is your job, and survival. Again, unprecedented. Stop trying to be superheroes.

Mother and boy doing a PE lesson while in isolation
During our ‘PE’ lesson
So, a few FAQs:

My school has sent home lots of physical work. Pages and pages, hours and hours. How am I supposed to get through it all?!

You’re not, don’t try. Your child’s teacher spent a couple of hours in utter panic gathering things to send home so they could say they did their best and there weren’t a lot of complaints that enough didn’t go home. It’s not a competition, or a race, it’s unlikely the teacher will even manage to look at it all.

My school keeps sending home links and emails with more work. How do I make it stop? Ahhhhhh!

See above. These are suggestions and ideas because the school is worried it’ll be said they’re not offering enough. Use them if they suit you, don’t if they don’t. If you’re getting stressed, stop opening the emails. No one will know!

X in my child’s class has everything done and we’ve barely started. Will they fall behind?

Even if everything were equal in terms of support and time and number of kids etc. (which it’s not) kids learn at different rates. In the class there’s a wide range of levels in all subjects, there’s different paces and there are many kids working on a differentiated level of work. It’s almost impossible for teachers to differentiate at the moment, so you have to do it. By expectation and by time.

Your child will not fall behind. This is all revision and reminder work. If kids could learn new concepts without specific teaching we wouldn’t need teachers. They will cover all of this again, multiple times.

I’m not doing any work with my kids. All they’re doing is Lego, cooking and playing outside.

All of this is learning. Very valuable learning. Give yourself and them a break.

How can I get three different lots of work done with 3 different kids of different ages?

You can’t, stop trying. If they’re old enough, try to get them to do little bits independently. Otherwise try to do something they can all engage with, reading a story together, some free writing, baking etc.

So what’s the bare minimum you’d expect?

For me, survival mode. I won’t pretend that may be true of all teachers, but you know what, if they can’t have perspective in a time like this then I wouldn’t overly worry about their opinion anyway.

My ideal for my kids in our school?

– A bit of reading every day (independent or to them or via audiobook etc.)

– some free writing now and then. If they’ll keep a diary or something, great. If not, would they draw a comic?

– Practical hands on maths. Be that via cooking, cleaning, outside or some maths games physical or digital.

– Some fine motor work. Lego, cutting, playdough, tidying up small toys.

– Physical exercise everyday

– Some art/music where possible through the week. Doesn’t need to be guided.

– Stretch goal, if old enough getting them to independently work on a project is great for keeping brains ticking over. Get them researching in a book or online and putting together something to present to you or family.

– If younger, lots of imaginative free play, the more independent the better.

You are doing enough. You are loving your kids and supporting them through a difficult time. Look after yourself. Minimising stress is absolutely vital in a time like this for mental health. Don’t let this be something that stresses you. Only you can control that by accepting it is in your circle of control, you are the primary educator and this is all your call.

 

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9 Comments

  1. March 27, 2020 / 6:08 am

    Fabulous Susie! So good to hear inspiring posts like this keep going you lovely girl! X

    • Susie | So Happy In Town
      Author
      March 28, 2020 / 2:21 pm

      Thanks for reading Liz – hope you guys are ok over there and enjoying lots of downtime together. xx

  2. March 27, 2020 / 5:59 pm

    This is brilliant Susie, we must drop the guilt and simply do our best. Today was a complete day off, hanging out, enjoying the sun for our 1 x exercise session outdoors, cooking together and doing some yoga. Thanks for this my darling, lots of love x

    • Susie | So Happy In Town
      Author
      March 28, 2020 / 2:20 pm

      I’m so glad that you and the boys had a relaxing fun day in the sun. I realised that I was feeling really stessed about what I ‘should’ be doing and as soon as I took the pressure off, we’ve all been much happier. Lots of love ot you all darling. xxxx

  3. March 28, 2020 / 9:05 am

    Love this outlook on home schooling! My youngest had only just started last september so she is loving the fact she hasn’t got to go anymore and my other daughter is only year 1 so I am trying not to put pressure on the home schooling and do more fun stuff that equally they can learn from! Hope you’re doing well, from a fellow mama Sam x

    • Susie | So Happy In Town
      Author
      March 28, 2020 / 2:19 pm

      Hi Sam, my little boy is the same – he is absolutely loving not being in school and being allowed to learn in different ways. I realised as soon as I took the pressure of myself, we were all much happier. Thanks for reading and hope you’re all doing ok. x

      • March 29, 2020 / 9:56 am

        Thanks susie we are all well thank you! I hope they don’t miss out too much but we got to keep safe. Sending love xx

  4. March 28, 2020 / 12:04 pm

    Some wonderful, sage advice lovely. My husband being a teacher agrees wholeheartedly – we’re all just trying our best and our best is good enough – let the kids run and play in the garden. What an amazing opportunity to just ‘be a child’ and enjoy nature, just being and using their imagination. Well done Susie x

    • Susie | So Happy In Town
      Author
      March 28, 2020 / 2:18 pm

      I was getting in a real stress about it all, and then read this head teacher’s sensible advice and realised that as you so rightly say, what a wonderful opportunity for our kids to just be kids, and everything they do will be learning in some way. Thanks for reading lovely. Hope you guys are all ok. xx

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