The shutdown of schools because of the coronavirus emergency leaves us all in uncharted waters. This includes parents who are now dealing with the challenge of how best to help children who are at home. The first point to emphasise is that parents are not being asked to home-school children. Teachers will continue to provide learning programmes remotely. If you are unsure about any of the schemes of work provided, my advice is to check the school’s website in the first instance for updates. Parents can instead focus on supporting learning during this period. With this in mind, here are some tips:
- Notice board: if you can, set up a notice board, or a Wow! board, to pin up a timetable and celebrate achievement. This visual aid will also support a sense of routine and structure.
- Rewards: Make certificates of achievement. If you can, give stickers or create a sticker chart to motivate learning.
- Reading: If reading is a challenge, establish a routine where your child reads to you daily, even if just a page. Alternatively, ask questions about what your child has read to you, for example, 'What might happen next?' or ‘Draw me a picture of what has happened”. Divide a sheet of paper into six or eight sections and ask your child to draw a storyboard of events from their book.
- Chunk the work: Instead of watching over your child to keep them on task, begin each day with a conversation about the work to be completed and together agree regular slots for them to show you what has been achieved. In the conversation you can discuss any learning barriers and help remove them.
- Reading: Secondary students might have extensive reading material. Those who are not engaged or who require additional support may find listening to audio books helpful. A timetable or routine may help, ensuring a small section is read daily.
- Social media: It can provide a way of connecting learning between friends via a learning ‘group’ to discuss answers, or to share related resources. Be alert to the dangers but do note the positive impact of working together virtually.
Both Primary and Secondary:
- Breakfast/active start: It is a good idea – after breakfast – to start the day with a light exercise session, for example, some stretches or yoga.
- Workspace and organisation: If possible, create a dedicated workspace. This helps distinguish between the space for learning and the areas for relaxation.
- If it’s not working, change it!: If your child is struggling with a task and you don’t know how to help them, then don’t be afraid to move them on. The task can be revisited later if needed. Consider any wider support you could offer – can you assist with their learning from what you find together in the garden, or from online documentaries? The BBC Bitesize website is a good resource, and free!
- Have a timetable: Adding structure and routine may help you to work from home if you can timetable around your own commitments. Could the school tasks provided to your child fit into an approximate allocation of time, as suggested in this example?
- Take regular breaks: Stop frequently and stay hydrated – keep a water bottle filled up. If weather permits, get fresh air in the garden – you can come back to work later.
Don’t underestimate the importance of the role you are playing. See this as an opportunity to spend time together. Be flexible; stop when you need to and adjust accordingly. You know your child better than anyone else, so do not feel like you are failing if you grant extended screen time, late bedtimes and lie-ins. Do factor in that primary school children can be less independent than secondary pupils and may require more time. Parents of secondary children may feel overwhelmed with the amount of subject specialist content involved and not know where to seek guidance. BBC Bitesize is a good place to start.
Parent community social media groups can be useful, but do not worry too much. We are all working together in challenging circumstances to maintain a new normality and structure for the children in our care.
Tiffnie Harris is ASCL Primary Specialist
Our blog is a place for a range of opinions and debate on parents and their role in their schools and their children’s education. Whilst we think this debate is really important, we don’t always agree with the views being expressed.
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