3 steps and 9 tips to getting the best out of time with your child.
Congratulations, you’ve won an extended period at home with your own children and have the added responsibility of guiding them through learning as well whatever mountain of duties you have to manage.
I’ve seen a lot written about homeschooling over the last few weeks, and it’s evident not many people writing articles have ever home-schooled their children or been involved in the home schooling of other people’s children. Having home-taught my own children at times between international moves, dozens of students out of school for my tuition center, and been a teacher and headteacher with 12 years experience, I can honestly share from experience, what has worked for me and for others. Hope it helps
This follows in 3 sections - Approach / Delivering / Expectation
This isn’t school, or even homeschooling. ‘Homeschooling’ is now a widely misused term for what millions of parents are currently trying to emulate, when in reality homeschooling is a choice to remove a child from an educational establishment, fully prepared, with obligation and legal responsibility to adhere to government standards.
Millions of us did not elect this and did not prepare for it. It was thrust upon us as a result of a worldwide pandemic and as such we have to consider it something new and a bridge to the extended work the brilliant schools are now offering.
You are simply guiding learning or connecting to learning opportunities. You are not responsible to create schemes of work or long winded action plans, don’t over prescribe to you or your child, you’re heading in a direction, not creating a user manual on how to follow everything you are doing.
Decide goals for what you’re doing - you are ultimately filling a unit of time, to the best of your ability. How can you be the best conduit for learning with the time you have allowed? Can you sit with your child throughout, can you set up access to online materials, do you need to leave often? Pick a realistic way of working with your child and stick to it
Pick the times - Compact it all into two hours? Or have 6 half hour sessions through the day? Pick the method that will serve your skill set and other responsibilities best and of course what your child will like. Many schools are offering resources and recommended times, but they are aware you are not free for much of the day, so access will be day round, consider where is fairest on yourself and your child. And why do I say 2 hours? School lessons involve lots of student engagement and over explanation - you’ll have videos / text books or MP3s doing the information delivery, you need to help with understanding and activity completion - so your sessions will be far less in duration than school lessons.
Help before there is a problem - ah, seems here I’m only asking you to be Cassandra, but really it’s about being available. Multi-tasking is one of the most shot-down notions in history, second only to doctors being paid to recommend cigarettes in the 50s. Be present for your child in the times you allocate as well as aware and supportive. If you can’t do that for set periods of the day, it’s understandable - you may not have practiced it - but this means, phones down, tv off and eye contact. Your child needs that from you.
Watch your tone - simple as this may sound, it’s important to recognise the way you normally speak to your children and if there is negativity in it, be mindful. Years of parents of evenings and home tuition have shown me that a lot of parents speak to their children in never ending refrains that have lost meaning. Explain that your both in a new situation and that you’re only there to assist - you’re not in mummy or daddy mode.
This bit is simple yet hard to master:
A) Take your child through something, then ask for understanding and a recap, then check understanding of all the parts of a task: ‘how many words will you write?’ ‘how long have you got left?’ ‘what’s the outcome? - if they don’t seem to understand, EXPLAIN IN A DIFFERENT WAY, repeat until they understand, or, let them explain to you and do the best you can with what you both understand. YOU ARE NOT BEING MARKED! Do you think children walk out of school understanding everything said in a classroom? (*keels over with laughter)
B) Focus on the task, complete task / lesson - review by looking to pick three positives. Ask the child where they would like to improve work and if it is specific to this task, or general in their work as a whole . End session with clear time to start the next session. This gives certainty, kids need routine and certainty (as do adults)
C) Do not do more than 30 Minutes in a block: 5-10 minutes to understand, the majority of the rest of the time to complete and feedback (Even if you feel your child can do 2 hours straight - segment after 30 minutes) Check for understanding and give feedback, feedback is everything - help them email work to school, or review with other parent, whatsapp friend or elder sibling - make sure the work they do is noted… if you did a report at work and no one gave a crap, how would you feel? It’s the same for a child with school work.
DO NOT overcook praise, avoid all personal praise, and focus on action based reward - ‘very clear’, ‘well explained’ ‘good demonstration’ - supportive more than gushing - if you say something is ‘amazing’ on day 2 first lesson, what will you do or say week 5?
Whatever the subject, focus on skills they are using as much as subject material. Getting through a ton of work badly is worse than honing a skill and understanding the skill they are using in a very small section. Having taught thousands of students in classrooms and hundreds more in private tuition, I can tell you that students who know when to implement a different skill will fare better overall.
As a very wide baseline for this (and one you can connect to) consider the following skills: Communicating (talking), Recalling (remembering), Observing (looking/reading), Researching (finding out) and Implementing (using) - breaking things down into the general skills so even though they may not complete or fully understand a piece of work, they are aware of the skills they are using and take confidence in that.
Remember you are holding the fort, assisting alongside school and in unbelievably unfavorable conditions: your house! Students have routines in your homes that will take some realigning - do not magically expect them to pick up learning routines. If you feel guilty, you’re barking up the wrong tree, it’s natural but false.
Progress not perfection - if 3 of your sessions go well and 2 don’t fine - tomorrow is another day, if one week feels easier than the next, so be it, fine - if everything feels like a struggle - reach out, tell people, and simplify what you’re doing. Reading and creating with anything of their hobbies and interests that you're part of is great too, then see if you can divert with a link: drawing a favourite film character, writing a prequel idea for a favorite film, making jokes, taking pictures, whatever you have the space to do.
Finally, and most importantly, and this pretty much removes all the importance of the above points: your relationship with them comes first - no matter what you do, this should be a time to draw closer to your child as they'll need you - if all the above goes out the window, so be it. Be there for them. With my first child, I was writing TV shows from home so spent years her, with my second child I was headteacher from when she was born to when she was 3 and saw her for barely 2 hours a week.
This time with them now, for all that's going on - I utterly cherish and our relationship comes first. I hope yours does too.