With the coronavirus pandemic in the UK, we all find ourselves in situations we have never experienced in our lives. Understandably, anxiety, confusion and worry are rife because, along with this, comes many changes to our everyday lives. For many parents (parent is used to cover parents, carers and anyone tasked with engaging children in learning at home), this includes taking on a new role for which the vast majority have not been trained… to teach their child(ren). We at LWP thought it would be useful for you as parent/carer/unexpected teacher to be reassured about the coming weeks no matter how it goes!
Firstly, you are not a teacher, so do not try to be one. Teachers generally have an innate desire to work with children and experience years of training to get there. They are observed, assessed and qualify to do the job that they do. Therefore, it is unrealistic (unless you are a teacher and a parent) to think that you will be able to do the same job. However, this should be reassuring. This knowledge should relieve the pressure of engaging your child(ren) in learning five subjects a day, for an hour each, with limited breaks. Your role as a new learning partner is to help guide their learning in activities set by school. More broadly, it is to help them navigate their changed daily lives with the best wellbeing possible.
If your child’s school has provided learning packs or uses platforms such as Google classroom, it is important that you are able to see what is being set and that clear instructions have been given. It should not be your job to have to learn a whole new topic to teach your child. Where possible, if instructions or tasks are not clear, then do contact the teacher or school to see if there is someone that can help. Your child may already be hesitant to complete any work at home, so removing the barriers of unclear work can really help them to at least ‘try’ for a short while. This also goes for differentiation. If your child has additional or special educational needs, please communicate with the school about ensuring they have appropriate work to complete. This may mean less writing and more hands-on learning such as drawing, painting or audio recording answers.
Remember, teachers often have between 20-35 children in the classroom at one time. Therefore, it will take them a much longer time to get through the lesson material they have. With a parent to child ratio of 1:1, 1:2 and even 1:3, you may find that you can get their learning tasks done in next to no time. This is not something to panic about; they have been set enough work. It would just take longer in the classroom. Firstly, the teaching hour is often divided up into four 15-minute blocks where there is some teacher input (teacher mostly speaks), some group work (class discussion or pair work), independent work and then checking in at the end. Not to mention getting books out, putting books away, finding the right equipment for the lesson and general time to settle down. Essentially, they may only cover 15-30 minutes of work for that lesson. For children with difficulties in that subject, it may take them longer, but that is where being creative can really help.
Work together whenever possible. This could include having learning sessions with your child’s friends over Skype or Zoom. This can really help motivate them to complete work but also gives them some social connection that they will be missing at this time. If you feel they may get too distracted by their friends, then it can be used as a motivator - “complete this bit of work then we can Skype Jack to see how he’s done it”. It may also buy you some time as they conduct their learning discussion to check in on other children or put that load of washing on!
A home and a school are two very different spaces and your child has been used to them existing separately, so bringing them together may be hard for them to adjust to. This is a major change for you and for them. With that in mind, consider everything you do as learning. You could get them to help with the washing up, help pay a bill or count how many toilet rolls you have left! It is all learning about functional and life skills that they will need. If they have siblings, they may be learning about resolving conflicts. The whole family may be learning how to express when they need space or togetherness. So please see all you do as providing your child with moments that they can learn and not just about completing worksheets and quizzes.
Having a routine is beneficial to a child’s wellbeing. So while it may be tempting to blow everything off and see this as a holiday, keeping some semblance of a daily schedule will be beneficial in the long run. It does not have to be a strict routine and may not always go to plan (that’s okay!), but children may feel more settled if they know the adults know what is happening (especially in such an uncertain climate). You can also give them a chance to contribute to the plan and give them a sense of control in a time when things have drastically changed for them. See our ‘example of a day at home’ infographic for some ideas. Let us know if you have any other ideas.
Try to practice gratitude and acceptance with your children. There may be a set time when you all come together, or just mention it in passing. However, it looks, try fostering the habit of naming and sharing positives about who they are and how you and they are coping.
We at Learning & Wellbeing Psychology want to help as much as we can in this pandemic and so we have developed some resources and provided a link to others that we think will help.