Lockdown Learning - the experience of teaching your kids at home during lockdown is different from home education, or homeschooling. Here's how:
Lockdown learning happens without warning - you never know when or for how long you will suddenly be taking a much larger role in your child's education. You didn't choose this - it has been thrust upon you. Homeschoolers may start home educating unexpectedly, but many choose this option, and have control over how long they will home educate.
In Lockdown Learning there's a teacher planning lessons, and maybe even delivering some online. Home educators plan and deliver their children's lessons.
In Lockdown Learning the teacher plans learning material for the whole class. Home educators plan learning experiences for their family - which gives lots of scope to plan individualised education plans.
If you've got two or three children in different school grades and potentially a couple of different schools, during lockdown learning you are trying to juggle multiple class schedules. Home educators have control of their schedules and can plan to teach all the children in the family at the same time rather than having completely different schedules and lessons.
During lockdown learning, children are still enrolled in their schools. Home educators register with their state regulatory body. (If you are looking for home education registration information, go to: https://www.hea.edu.au/state-information)
Despite the differences, there are lots of things home educators know and do that could help you survive (even thrive!) the lockdown learning experience. Here are some tips from a homeschooler that might just help.
Relax. It seems obvious, and you've probably heard it before, but it's super important. Kids are hard-wired to learn - we just need to tap into the more natural ways of learning during these challenging times. . They are learning all day every day, regardless of whether they are at school or having planned lessons or not.
You are equipped to teach your children. You are your child’s first teacher. You taught them how to talk, how to walk, how to take turns and use a toilet. Many of the most important skills in life are learned at home, and taught by parents.
Your child isn’t going to be “behind” - everyone is in the same boat.
In order to successfully educate your child at home, you don’t need a dedicated space (school room), or a rigid daily routine, or a uniform, or a whiteboard. Home educated children successfully gain admission to university without a year 12 certificate (HSC/VCE etc), enter the workforce and chase their dreams. Even if your child is in year 12 this year, it'll still be OK. There's lots of other pathways - check out Stepping Stones or our Blog for some Grad stories and tertiary pathways information.
Teaching your child at home doesn’t need to be a different role - i.e. you don't need to be the teacher. You might find that your relationship changes as you spend all day together - but usually this is a positive change.
Remember to breathe - you’ve got this! There is no one more committed to your child than you. Be gentle on yourself. So relax, and enjoy this extra time you suddenly have with them.
Stay flexible. Again - it's probably obvious, but trying to stick to two or three different learning schedules, plus working from home, all sharing one internet connection, and possibly sharing computers/devices too, is destined for failure. Talk to your teachers and work out a plan that can work for your family. They'll understand - after all, they are probably experiencing lockdown learning with their own children. Stay flexible. If something isn’t working, change it.
Adjust your expectations. Learning at home and learning at school don’t look the same. Time spent at school is not all learning time - lots of time is spent on organisational stuff - lining up, assemblies, roll call. By the time you take out all that, and recess & lunch, most students would have between 3-4 hours of actual learning time.
Learning is also faster when there’s a smaller group. So your kids might get the assigned tasks done much faster at home than they do at school.
Your children probably only need 2-3 hours of planned learning time to complete their school work. The NSW Department of Education agrees, and has provided a helpful guide When you talk to home educated students, you'll find it's normal to be finished with 'school' by lunch time.
The great news is, learning is not restricted to the hours of 9-3. And it’s quite possible that if you’re working from home, your work hours might be more flexible too. You gained however much time you used to use travelling to and from work, and all the after school activities are not on at the moment. You have heaps of time! Just remember to stay flexible.
Many families find that it’s helpful to get the academic work done in the mornings, and then spending the rest of the day exploring creative options or sneaky learning that looks like play. But it might work better for your family to do it the other way around, and tackle the tasks the teacher set in the time that used to be known as ‘after school’.
Experiment with ways to fit your own work into the day too. I discovered that if I worked on a project in the same room as my kids, I could get lots done alongside them, and be available to help them as needed. We all stayed on task better that way. But I also discovered that if I was reading and they interrupted me, that bugged me. So I didn’t read until the work was done.
If you have meetings at specific times, plan for your child to be doing a self directed activity that they like during that time - they are less likely to interrupt you that way. That might be an online learning game, legos, free play, educational TV. The ABC has a huge suite of educational programs and resources to go with it - all free.
If you have younger children or children with special needs, think about what they can do on their own and set up a couple of work stations around the house for them to move between. Maybe playdough, construction toys, and ipad activities. Try to get your own work done when they are engaged in independent play.
You might be able to get your work done when the kids are taking a break. Or you might find that if you focus on them for 3 hours in the mornings, everything is done and they can play for the rest of the day while you do your work.
Share the workload. Over the years my husband and I juggled shifts to try to take it in turns to be there for the kids and to go to work. Sometimes I swapped time with a friend - I taught & cared for her kids when she was working, and vice versa. You might be able to do similar things using online video-conferencing apps. One parent teaches, while the other parent does their work.
Engage your teachers help. If there are too many worksheets - talk to your teacher about it. They probably already know. If you find an online learning game that your child really loves, let the teacher know about it. Maybe you can do that instead of some of the worksheets, and maybe other kids in the class will benefit from it too. Remember that in every classroom there are kids who work at different paces and different levels. Try to keep your expectations flexible and realistic.
We don’t do our best learning when we’re stressed. Stress impacts our ability to lay down memory and to pay attention. When everyone is trying to find a new routine, or perhaps even stressed, the most effective learning is often sneaky learning - it looks like play! Kids can learn a wide variety of social skills, literacy & numeracy skills, strategic thinking and problem solving through play. Here are some suggestions, all of which have learning built-in:
Board games, card games, dice games, online games, construction toys are all useful resources, and you probably already have a bunch. On the HEA website, you’ll find a list of free resources to check out, reviews of free resources in focus on free on our blog, and access to Stepping Stones e-magazine.
Cooking: When we cook, we engage with a specific text type - a procedure - and learn to measure, weigh, set temperatures and time the cooking. We can cook foods from other cultures as well, and use that as a launch pad to learn about other people and places - maybe colour in some maps or read some stories from another culture. We can talk about the nutritional value of food, and you might just get dinner cooked in advance!
Gardening: Grow a food garden - even if you can only do a couple of pots. In the garden we can learn about the science of how plants grow, where food comes from, and the insects that live there too. There are some great free educational resources on the Junior Landcare website.
Art is an opportunity to express yourself - it can be calming and centering in a world of pandemic. It doesn’t need to be a masterpiece - it’s about the process not the product.
Exercise is important for wellbeing; sport is in the syllabus and it was part of your child’s school routine. It is going to look different now - it won’t be organised sports, but it might be jumping on the trampoline, going for a walk or a run, an exercise routine with an online instructor.
Read together - snuggle up on the couch and remember how nice it is to read to each other without the crazy busy-ness of our lives. This might be an opportunity to read aloud one of your own childhood favourites (I've read around The Faraway Tree books to each of my children). Often, even children who can read enjoy being read to. Your child will develop important literacy skills, and you’ll have a chance to connect and de-stress. Even 10 minutes will be worthwhile.
Above all, remember that some days are hard. Be gentle on yourselves and your children. Take a break when you need to. Tomorrow is a new day - dust yourself off and start fresh.
I hope this helps you survive lockdown learning. You never know, you might even find you love it! Many families have discovered that they love the closeness that comes with being an integral part of their child's education, or that their child learns more effectively at home or that learning difficulties become learning differences in the home environment. If this is you, and you are considering continuing homeschooling beyond lockdown, the HEA can help. If you'd like information on starting home education or support to navigate the registration process, just email firstname.lastname@example.org If you'd like to talk to an experienced home educator, call the HEA Helpline 1300 72 9991