Take care of your own wellbeing
This is the one that gets lost along the way, that’s why I have listed it first. You need to take care of your stress levels and happiness, not just that of others. Your child will feed off your energy. Chat with family, take a walk, put on an educational show for the kids when you need some down time. It is OK to do that and as parents, we often feel guilty. But we cannot keep our kids happy if we are not happy and well-rested. Taking care of each other and yourself is essential to getting through this with a happy family.
Create a space for learning
Where will your child sit to complete their school work? Every child is different and studying at home provides an excellent opportunity for the learning space to cater perfectly for their learning style. If they cannot concentrate at the kitchen table, you might need to find a different space around the house. Perhaps, their own desk away from noise. Don’t forget to make sure that the internet connection needs to be strong wherever they choose to learn. Your child might want to lie on the ground, or sit on a beanbag; as long as they can concentrate and be safe, there are no limits to what a learning space can be like! Keep everything organised by using bookshelves, baskets or other dividers.
Have a structure: Make a schedule
Create a plan together with your child. What times of the day does your child need a break? Schedule breaks at least every hour, and more often with younger students. Stick to your schedule for recess and lunch breaks. Kids are much more settled when a routine is in place and they know what’s coming up next.
Incorporate movement into your day
Give your child time to move throughout the day. Each break they have should involve some sort of moving around. 10 star jumps, 5 minute yoga, a walk around the block or a kick of a ball are all great ways to switch off and have a break before getting back to learning.
Know what your child is learning
If you want to find out more about what your child needs to know, speak to your child’s teacher or have a look at the curriculum for that state. The curriculum websites have very detailed outcomes and progression statements which students need to know by a particular time.
You do not need to be the ‘teacher’
You, as a supervising adult, are effectively a teacher’s aid or a facilitator. You are not a replacement teacher. Use what the school provides as a guide to your child’s learning and help your child stay on task. If you do not know the answer or what to do next, work with your child to find a solution. Children of all ages can self-regulate, that is to take control of their own learning without constantly relying on you. Younger children might be able to do this for less time than older kids. Give them the opportunity to practise that skill.
Show support to your child and teach social-emotional skills
When your child experiences big feelings they can be communicated through their behaviour. Their behaviour is telling you something. If your child is having a meltdown over something that seems small, it could mean they are overwhelmed by their emotions. Children do not have access to their thinking and reasoning skills when they are overwhelmed. Showing them empathy is the way through it. Research suggests empathy calms the nervous system and re-engages the thinking side of the brain. Developing a list of calming strategies before your child needs them, will help in the moment. When your child has a tantrum you can ask them what calming strategy they would like to use and help them complete it. Empathise with your child. After the moment has passed you can talk with your child and re-establish behavioural expectations.
Playing games throughout the day with your child will also develop their social skills. Teach them about how to win and lose graciously. Perhaps, you can organise an online game to play with a friend. Or have a video chat and create Lego challenges where you can see each other’s progress. Most importantly, don’t forget to have fun!
Learning at home is a new challenge for everyone involved. Remember, the most important thing is a happy child and a happy parent. Everything else will come in time.