“I’ve been brought to tears.”
A phrase I have heard all too often during the COVID-19 pandemic when it comes to home-schooling. It was thrown upon us when the country went into lockdown on March 23, 2020.
It became an extremely challenging environment; do we try and keep to strict school timetable?; do we let children enjoy the time at home with limited school work?; how do we combine the two? These are just some of the questions parents have asked themselves. This was also very dependent on the age of the child in question.
From personal experience, I have a three-year-old. He had just started pre-school the September before lockdown. He had learned so much and was doing really well. Then, COVID-19 made its appearance. Our whole routine was thrown into chaos. My three-year-old didn't understand why he suddenly couldn't go to pre-school anymore. I panicked at first. How did I continue to teach him what his pre-school were teaching him? How did I try and keep to a normal routine when we couldn’t leave the house?
But we just decided to go with it. We played games but made them a little more educational. We did lots of arts and crafts. We enjoyed the sunshine in our garden where my son learned to ride a bike. We made cakes. We practiced spelling. We also had times where our iPad was our best friend. It’s all about balance. Don’t be too hard on yourself, or the children. Making time for fun as well as a little education. A really important thing for us was to keep spirits up, whatever the situation.
I have found a few tips for home-schooling during the pandemic, taken from the Queen's University Belfast professor Tony Gallagher, and have listed them below:
- A really important thing is to keep spirits up and to deal with the challenge of boredom, especially for small children who can get quite irritated in situations like this.
- Let teachers guide you − teachers can be particularly helpful when it comes to navigating the avalanche of educational resources available to parents from external sources. If you want to look for materials online, make sure it’s coming from a trusted source, like the BBC.
- Set realistic targets − while it’s a good idea to keep your children engaged in some sort of school-based activity, manage your expectations about what you can deliver: don’t think that you can replicate what the school can provide.
- Give children emotional space − with the whole family stuck at home, there are bound to be tensions, but making sure everyone has their own emotional space is essential for domestic harmony. The key thing is about being patient. If people need a bit of space to themselves, then give them that bit of space. Everyone is under unusual pressures in the current circumstances and inevitably people are going to feel stressed.
- Keeping kids connected − with the world embracing online communication in the form of Teams, Skype, Zoom and Facetime, children, as digital natives, are perfectly placed to join in – and even lead - these activities.
- Change the environment − the current lockdown restrictions permit going outside for one form of exercise per day, and it’s important to make use of this time, advises Professor Gallagher: "Getting a bit of fresh air is important and children should be encouraged to do that, keeping in mind the social distancing rules. Getting exercise, a bit of fresh air and sunshine are a good idea to break up the day. That can become part of the routine. Talk to your kids about what you are going to do; develop different walks and let them decide which walk you are going to do".
Alongside any work your child receives from school, try using these online educational resources which have been recommended by teachers and school leaders.
This website gives free access to online classes each day including fun learning lessons for ages 3 −11 years.
This website covers resources for all ages and secondary learning.
The support from schools themselves has also appeared to provide a huge help for parents. Constant updates about what their plans are and pointing parents towards online resources so we can help our children.
We are unsure of what lies ahead. Some schools are re-opening and others are not. As long as we all stick together, ask for support when it is needed and give support to others too, then I’m sure we will all come out of this pandemic as best we can!