Home schooling during lockdown

Its 2021 and clearly life isn’t much different than it was in 2020 (spoiler alert). Most countries are still in lockdown as Covid-19 cases spiral and schools are closed (again) making parents the de facto teachers. The majority of parents (and teachers) have found homeschooling to be stressful and challenging so far, I know I have! We were winging it really for the most past in 2020, the children too. Now that we are in for another round of lockdown homeschooling maybe its time we figure out how to do this better so our children can catch up on time lost and keep up with this year’s learning outcomes. There is no option but to “fail fast” on this one.

I do not write this as an outsider or expert, all three of my own children have fallen behind with their learning and I am frantically trying to figure out a better way forward. Learning at home is quite a different thing from being in school so there is a lot to consider when creating a schedule for your child. This post outlines some of what I have found in my research that could be useful.

Its not a holiday!

Joy is the first reaction for most children when they hear schools are not opening because they associate it with school holiday where they are not expected to keep to a learning schedule and are pretty much free agents playing and enjoying themselves. Its dangerous to let this happen during lockdown because 2020 taught us the hard lesson that schools will pick up where they left off once they open. It is important for your child to continue learning either through online school, if they have access to a teacher or at home with you the parents as teachers (yes, you!). Otherwise they will lag behind and really struggle to catch up with the time lost.

How many hours should a child learn at home?

Some schools have set up online classes using Whatsapp, Zoom and other technologies. When your child has this opportunity, the workload is set so you can just let them follow the pace set by their teacher. You will realise though that there is a lot of downtime when kids are physically in the class – when learning online all the work easily fits into 3-5 hours. Some parents will arrange so their children get in more hours which is fine but try and avoid replicating the school day – it will be too intense and leave your child bored or burnt out.

How do i create a homeschooling schedule?

Children, like all humans, thrive on routine and having some structure to their day – just like when they are in school – will make learning during lockdown bearable for the whole family. Its tempting to just set down the rules like parents often do and impose on your child what they are supposed to do. You will get frustrated when they do not live up to it! Sit down with your child and discuss what is happening, create a schedule together that best suits them – it is more likely to be followed this way. Naturally, children like to push the boundaries and will try to put in more play time than is ideal. Consider it a negotiation and find a happy compromise for you both.

What should be on the homeschool schedule?

The ideal homeschooling schedule should begin with an early morning as this is when they have a clear mind and the most energy. Early mornings also set the tone for the day by having them wake up early, spread their bed, bath and prepare their things for “school”. If possible find them a spot they can use for their lessons every day so their mind gets used to them “going to school” in that space. Block time for a morning session of academic work and plan it so that every 45 minutes or so they get a mini-break or switch to a different subject. Anything from 2 – 4 hours for this morning sessions should suffice per day – try and not over do it.

Scheduling breaks

Break time and lunch time are sacred! Agree the time they prefer to take these breaks and stick to it. Afternoons tend to be hot, energy levels dip and productivity gets low. Its not a good time to try and squeeze in science and mathematics at all. Instead use this time for reading and creative work. Use the time for them to practice whatever their talent is, explore new interests, make something with their hands etc. for an hour or two.

Spare the rod, spoil the child (or not)

Disciplining children is part of being a parent. Like anyone else they make mistakes, they disobey, they definitely will push boundaries. Many parents see beating their child as an effective way of disciplining them and getting them to follow instructions. Violence has a way of interfering with the learning process though because it instills fear and stops the learner from asking questions when they need to exploring ideas and things freely.

Exercise patience with your child, treat them like a reasonable little human capable of understanding if you talk things out. Set clear expectations, rules and boundaries to see them thrive. It is not easy but nothing about parenting is. We are all struggling emotionally, including the children. Let empathy be your new normal.

What about play?

Look, children love to play and there is learning in play. Staying indoors does suck so depending on where you live let them have part of the afternoons for outdoor play so they can feel the sun and move their bodies. If not indoor play works as well, just try and ensure that they are not just watching TV or playing computer games.

An interesting one is to switch off TV and electronics and let them be bored so they can build creativity as they find ways to entertain themselves and each other.

Learning life skills?

Staying home is perfect time for learning life skills such as cooking, cleaning after yourself, laundry, fixing things around the house, gardening etc – you catch my drift? Homeschooling can feel like a double shift for parents, especially if you are working from home. Have the children help out with things around the house, they learn while you make the house a home for everyone.

Bonding time

There is a lot for children to learn besides what is in the school curriculum so take the time now to talk with your child, tell them about your family, your life, your tribe, your customs etc. There is a lot of rich history children never learnt because we were all so busy. Now that Covid-19 has forced a slower pace on us, use it to your advantage and share our rich culture with the children.

Let us learn from the mistakes we made in 2020, everyone was struggling and adjusting to this new abnormal way of living we find ourselves in. This year, 2021, is time to forgive ourselves for what we did not know about home schooling and level up. Let us make an effort to learn more about it, share what we know and do better by our kids.

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