The truth is, on the whole, you can’t. No one expected that as a parent we’d be looking at the prospect of our children learning from home for the near future, any more than teachers would have expected to be delivering an entire curriculum online - and adapting to those scenarios within just a few weeks. The point being, that we’re all just winging it.
Make no mistake - schools, teachers and parents alike - we are all just making this up as we go along. Schools are busily trying to work out how to translate knowledge and skills built over many years into one neat, learning from home platform, while parents are trying to work out how to get their own heads around those lessons (my maths teacher warned me one day I was going to need algebra!). But take it as given that these first few weeks are going to be a little rocky for all of us.
How schools will do this will be different in every community. How well that works for your child and your family will vary too. So their big message is go easy on yourself.
Why? Because schools know that what you may find when you go to put these new routines in place, is that none of it goes quite right. ‘May’ is being kind here - it’s inevitable that most of us will receive pushback from the kids about this new style of learning at some point. And by pushback, I of course mean, a total downing of tools, yelling, tears and storming out. And that’s even before I talk about the kids’ reactions!
So here are a few things for parents to keep in mind while they try to put lessons into action.
Create a learning space. This may be the kitchen table, or it may be at a child’s desk. Word of experience, try not to let it be a child’s bed, unsupervised, with an ipad. Spoiler - Facetiming friends doesn’t lead to high levels of productivity.
Give your kids clear instructions. Even if you make these up, make sure each child knows what they should be doing. As in “please finish this worksheet and do not use the house party app.”
Be clear on your expectations. Particularly prevalent if you are trying to juggle any sort of paid employment from home, or even if you just need that 20 minutes to finish a cup of tea and work out the next lesson. Clearly set out what you want and expect your child to finish during that time.
Go easy on yourselves. We are all just learning and adapting here and for better or worse, sometimes that just takes time. This learning from home malarky is for a reasonably short time and it’s not worth getting yourself or your kids stressed about what they should or shouldn’t be doing.
DO NOT compare your own learning from home efforts to anyone. Remember - Facebook and Insta allow us to present the image people want to present to the wider world! They rarely include the fact that your child has refused to say a single word for the past hour other than “flatwear” (what even is flatwear?) and that no one has showered for over 3 days.
Be adaptable. You are going to hit some days where all the kids want to do is eat fruit loops for lunch and wear a pair of underpants on their heads. While trying to maintain your routine as much as possible, just roll with it.
And of course, when in doubt - ask the teacher! Yes, it may be humiliating to be reminded about how to do long division (I swear it’s changed since I first learned it!), but it is always best to ask the professionals.
This mightn’t be what we’ve all chosen, but it doesn’t all have to be serious. What our kids are going to remember most about this time is how we made them feel. It’s not just about the schoolwork. So try to take some time out to do something fun - whether that is running around with gumboots in the rain, or lying on the trampoline together and watching the clouds pass by.
Like the clouds that always seem to form the shape of crocodiles and elephants, this too will pass.
IN RESPONSE TO: "I just don't know what to expect, or how to prepare!"
AUTHOR: Natasha Poynton. Writer and Chief Wrangler of three primary school aged kids. c2020