Some schools around the country have begun implementing alternative measures for remote education. Many parents are having to adapt working from home, while managing their children’s schooling at the same time.
Schools and educators have already implemented ways children can adapt their learning time while at home. Some gave children learning packs as a way to help parents and caregivers implement daily learning. Others have made online learning facilities available.
Depending on your school, you might still be able to contact your child’s teacher. These teachers are available to guide and support parents during this period.
When you have to fulfil multiple roles
Working parents and caregivers are currently having to cram in more responsibilities into their day than ever before. They’re parents, educators and extracurricular activity specialists as well as income earners. The home has become a classroom, office, and a space to bond as a family.
Working caregivers cannot dedicate themselves to their children for normal school hours during this stay at home period. Parents need to work out ways to juggle their time productively, and not be too hard on themselves or their children.
Facilitating learning when you’re not a teacher
Many parents and caregivers are apprehensive about filling the shoes of educators and teachers, and understandably so. Teachers have training and teaching takes skill. You can help your child even if you don’t feel 100% comfortable with teaching.
The way in which different age groups are taught differs and for good reason. Foundation phase learners are taught in a way that lays the groundwork for the kind of learning they’ll receive later on. It’s likely that guidance from schools for this age group have requested that parents continue to facilitate and reinforce this foundational phase of learning.
For older school going children, learning is required at a different cognitive level. Foundations are already in place, having primed children to continue building on what they need to learn. These children may be able to do some work without constant supervision.
Schools and their teachers have developed the different structures to follow. You need to follow their guidance. Use the available points of contacts to ask questions and seek advice. They’re there to help.
Create the structure and predictability children are used to
Schooling still needs to successfully take place at home before and after the regular holiday periods. Children need a ‘new normal’ during this temporary period. You can benefit from creating a productive routine, not just for the kids but also for the household as a whole.
Children fare better when there is a routine in place. A disruptive or erratic set of days is jarring and adds to their stress levels. It also makes getting back to normal later on much more difficult.
Routine helps to define clear and predictable expectations, as well as giving every member of the household some sense of comfort and a degree of control.
You can try to recreate the structure your children are used to (as close as is possible) in the way they draw up a daily schedule. You can place this schedule where everyone in the household has access to it, such as the refrigerator or in the area set up for school work.
Tips for creating a daily schedule
Involve your children in this process. Here are some things to keep in mind when drawing up a schedule:
- Start from the time everyone wakes up: No productive routine can be successfully implemented without this basic starting point. Wake up at the normal time, get dressed and have a heathy breakfast as a family.
- Predetermine spaces in the home for different functions: Homes are not designed to be classrooms and offices, but be flexible here and adapt. Where possible, make certain spaces in the home comfortable for school learning (work spaces) and others for play or downtime. Separate the two; children can be easily distracted.
- Structure the day: Children need learning time, short breaks, periods of downtime or exercise and meal times. Structure the day in blocks accordingly. Set alarms in a similar way to how they are used at school. Use their usual school schedule as a guide here to structure academic blocks, short breaks, lunch breaks, time for a quick snack, and activity time. Children must be encouraged to move and not sit for too long at a time.
Importantly, you can incorporate their working block times to the schedule as well. This is tricky with expectations from children, employers, and colleagues. Parents and caregivers may need to be a little flexible here too. Online or telephonic meetings are likely to be scheduled. Factor these in and ensure that your children are occupied when you need some time to focus.
- Make downtime, family time: Play, read, watch a movie, exercise or cook together. It’s a great opportunity to work in some time to function as a family unit. Make the most of it. You could also embrace technology here, by getting in touch with family who aren’t under the same roof during the stay at home period. Cousins could play online games together; or grandparents could be connected to read a book to a little one via video chat or FaceTime. Find ways to connect digitally to include loved ones in the day.
- Balance out downtime: Get the most out of non work time – for both adults and kids – by using some of the time to incorporate gross motor movement activities, balanced out with some quiet time. Downtime can also function as a fun way to learn. Children can engage in hands on activities such as drawing, painting, crafts or building puzzles. Young children, in particular, enjoy independent play too where they can indulge their imaginations. Handwriting and grammar can be practiced by having children write letters to family and friends with the intention of sending them on after the stay at home period.
- Have dinner as a family: Another healthy way to bond is to have dinner together without screens or distractions. When school and work is done for the day, switch the focus to each other.
- Keep a normal bedtime: A normal routine also includes getting enough sleep every night, so it’s a good idea to maintain the usual bedtime.
A schedule is also useful for children with special needs, such as those coping with conditions like autism. Many such children already function in a very structured way. In order to help children with special needs thrive, predictability can be helpful. Parents needn’t feel overwhelmed by this process. When in doubt, speak with the special education specialists who normally take care of their schooling for advice.
You can choose to create a schedule each day, or create a daily schedule for each week. A schedule can take on different forms. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a standard grid on plain white paper. Some children may like to create one that has a pictorial sequence of events.
Normal household rules also need to be factored in – like cleaning up after play. Working a specific set of rules into a schedule can sometimes be beneficial for very young children. A reward system could be an effective way to ensure that the house is run as smoothly as possible.
Families needn’t feel out of their depths during this time. Schools and their staff are there for parents. Technological or connectivity challenges may arise – take it in your stride and keep communication open with the school. If children experience challenges, lean on the support channels provided by a school.
Parents may need to help their child with using the online mediums provided by switching on devices, reading instructions and in some cases, typing out answers.
Be patient with your children. It’s a new way of doing things for them too, but they’ll get the hang of it, just like you will. Everyone is learning together.