Peaceful Homeschooling

We are not alone as we ride the homeschooling Coronacoaster, let’s ride it as peacefully and amicably as we can.

Almost overnight, COVID 19 plunged parents into what might be considered ‘crisis homeschooling’. For those who are educators themselves, this radical change to our daily routines can be unsettling, for those with no teaching experience, it is close to alarming. We now face new complications and responsibilities in our child-rearing journey every day and find ourselves asking how best we can stimulate our children when motivation is hard to come by in such a bizarre set of circumstances. Many children are finding themselves having to learn in a whole new way, in environments that they may not usually associate with learning. Our best hope is that we achieve peaceful homeschooling, above all else.

It’s all about routine…

It may (and will) feel like a mammoth task, and some days will prove harder than others, but one key step is to introduce routine. It is widely acknowledged that children benefit from boundary-setting and regular study habits. We should aim to achieve a degree of normality during such an exceptional - and uncertain - time in all of our lives. Our children need to feel secure in to learn. Some order and predictability will provide the reassurance they (and we all) need. Don’t underestimate the fact that you know your child best. Your child might need to be eased into a day which requires them to focus on learning. They may be early risers who might prefer to have a dedicated space for their learning and a structured start to their days. Some may opt to wear their uniform and then whip it off once they are ready to play. Others may be barefoot 24/7. Boundaries and expectations help us all to feel motivated, but it may take time to identify which battles are worth fighting in this unprecedented, and unprepared for, time.

… praise and reward…

We all need feedback to know we are on the right track. It’s human nature to need to understand what’s in it for us, especially when we need to complete a worksheet or build a 3D model. Sometimes learning is simply for enjoyment for its own sake. Sometimes the promise of some extra (defined) screen time, some one-on-one time with a parent, a family movie night or a Curly Wurly (other chocolate bars are available) will prove more effective. Younger children may revel in the award of a smiley face sticker. A traffic light behaviour chart, as and when a little more structure and control is needed, maybe something worth trialling. In every case, rewards and praise are key to our children’s motivation levels. There is a wealth of evidence and research which supports this, with Maslow’s Theory of the Hierarchy of Needs perhaps the most well-known. As parents, we can’t necessarily rely solely on our child’s interest in a particular subject to motivate them to complete a set task. What we can do is let them know that they will gain recognition and praise for achieving it.

… but homeschooling pressure need not all be on your shoulders…

Let’s not feel bad about making use of the incredible scope of resources available to us. Websites such as BBC Bitesize and Twinkl have made their content free during this crisis, and let me tell you, it is also quite possible to learn a great deal from a nature documentary on the TV. Few of us respond well to the prospect of a Groundhog Day looming; hearing educational messages and delivering interesting facts that can be shared by voices other than their parents’ can only be a good thing (for all of us). These exceptional times have brought with them greater accessibility to all of our heroes, whether that is Michelle Obama, Joe Wicks or David Attenborough. YouTube Kids (as an example) and a range of child-friendly podcast platforms have a host of inspirational resources to reduce the pressure on us parents right now.

… it’s OK to let our kids run the show sometimes…

Spontaneity is key to finding joy in learning. If our children are excited to set up a dam in the back garden on a hot day/ bake biscuits for breakfast/ create a potion in the bathroom (and we have the time and resources they need), let’s just go with it when we can. A lifelong passion may be born from indulging a digression or by satisfying a random curiosity. Child-centred learning (see Vygotsky for details if you are into the theory) is incredibly constructive. Any learning is valuable right now.

… our children need daily connection, just as we do…

School is not only an academic learning environment; it is the main source of our children’s social lives. Consider an online coffee with another parent and invite your young child to join you for a relaxed chat or to share jokes with their classmates. Breaktimes, with opportunities to play, outdoors if possible, is so important now. The common-or-garden conversation is also under-rated; talking to our children about their favourite book while out on a walk or involving them in the what’s-for-dinner conversation reduces any hothouse focus on ‘schoolwork’ and eases us along in our tricky new roles as parent educators.

… we all need to go easy on ourselves…

Taking a holistic approach in which we all aim to preserve our children’s, and our mental health is the way forward. All of us need to fill the tanks of our minds, bodies, and spirits to build our resilience to change, even at the best of times. It’s worth considering building in some joint yoga sessions, taking mindful walks as a family or journaling/crafting together on a collective project to capture what we are grateful for during the day.

We are our children’s parents, not their educators. What’s even more important than solving any quadratic equation right now is maintaining healthy and reciprocal relationships that will sustain ourselves, our children, and our families.

… We are not alone as we ride the homeschooling Coronacoaster, let’s ride it as peacefully and amicably as we can.

If you would like any advice on how to support your child(ren) towards peaceful homeschooling, you can contact me through our Facebook page.

Stay well, stay connected, stay informed, Siobhan

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