One of the most commonly used phrases at the moment is ‘we are experiencing unprecedented times’ and this is true! Many early years / school bubbles have popped (some several times) and parents dread the phone call or text that usually reads, ‘…your child is now legally required to stay at home and self isolate…’.
Typically schools and some nurseries will administer home learning (home schooling); sometimes this is through Zoom or the setting’s communication app such as Seesaw. The child is usually given some activities to complete each day and the expectation is that the parent will send videos / photos of the completed work.
Sounds straight forward doesn’t it … but the reality can be very different! It’s not just straight forward to get your 3, 4 or 5 year old to sit and complete school work – their routine has been changed a great deal and they are at home schooling with you. So how can you get the best out of the child and help them to complete their work to a good standard?
Get into a routine
Children thrive on routine and their usual one has been disrupted so they need you to develop them a new one. Each day do the same thing – perhaps they have breakfast, get dressed and washed then start their activity. Remember that children are usually more focussed in the morning so this probably the best time of day to work.
Check the instructions / guidance from the teacher and be prepared – get everything you need set out ahead of beginning the activity; you might need specific resources. If children are given idle time waiting for an adult, this is when behaviour issues are likely to occur. Check and double check to ensure you yourself understands the activity – if not, reach out and ask the teacher.
Remember you’re their parent / carer not their teacher
This is a really difficult time for everyone – perhaps you’re home schooling your children on top of working from home / going out to work / caring for younger children. Don’t be too hard on yourself! Follow the guidance of the teacher and try your best to support your child – nobody can ask any more of you than that! You are their parent, likely not a qualified experienced teacher!
Ask for the teacher’s help if you need it!
Education changes on a regular basis as do the techniques used to teach the children, so don’t worry if you’re not sure how to pronounce the ‘ng’ sound or you have no idea what ‘special friends’ are in a word. Ask the teacher for some guidance on supporting your child if you need it – more likely than not they’ll be happy to help you with your home schooling – and over the moon that you are making such an effort!
Children are not expected to work solidly for hours on end at school – young children can’t focus for long so short snippets actually helps them to learn better and more effectively. Short sessions of 10-15 minutes at a time is sufficient – give them time to blow off steam and have a run around outside in the back garden if possible, then re-start their activity.
We all thrive on being praised, so ensure you praise your child’s efforts when working with them. It is vital for their development that you praise their effort, not the outcome – see our blog about growth and fixed mindsets. Saying “I’m so proud of how hard you tried” will develop them as a learner so much more than saying, “I’m so proud you got them all right.”
Keep it interactive and hands on
Don’t expect young children to just sit and listen for a long period of time – children are naturally inquisitive and hands on and they learn best by doing. This is summed up by the quote by Benjamin Franklin: “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” Use practical resources as much as you can; items around the house and garden are perfect for maths – straws, leaves, sticks, spoons. Think of simple, everyday resources – no money is needed!
There is no denying that home learning (home schooling) can be difficult for all involved, but if children are absent from school for a period of time it is important for their development that they do not fall behind educationally and so do need your help and support. Reach out for help from the school if and when it is required, keep positive and praise! There is nothing more amazing as a parent than seeing your child achieve new things before your eyes.