Monday, 1 June 2020

Lockdown Education – Tough Times for Many

If you are a parent of a school age child you will certainly have had a few moments over the last couple of months where you worried you might not be doing a perfect job. IT’S OK, everyone has all felt the same! With the closure of schools and general lockdown there came a whole raft of challenges many people never thought they would have to worry about. Even if you are a hardened home school parent you will, no doubt, have mourned the loss of peer contact time during lockdown. So what are the options, what are the ramifications and what will the future look like?

Home schooling Coronavirus Style

It is important to separate home schooling in a voluntary sense, a life choice for parent and child, from the enforced home schooling millions of people are trying to do right now. This article is looking at the latter, the former is something very different and it is another subject entirely. 

The thing people seem to be saying the most is “how much learning should the kids be doing?” Everyone is assuming they are at school from 9 to 3 so they have to then emulate these hours at home. That just isn’t the case and here is why. At school they have multiple break times, play sessions, assembly, lunch and more. So learning time is not anywhere near a full day. Add to that class size and how much contact time they get with a TA or teacher and you can probably strip actual learning time down to about 2 hours for Primary and a little more for secondary but still perhaps around only 4 or 5 hours even at GCSE level depending on the school. So, it is really important for all parents struggling with this to focus on the quality of learning time and not quantity. 
Do not beat yourself up because you can only get an hour or so done…if that! You are doing a great job! 

The other thing to understand is the discipline schools provide. No matter how great a parent you are you will have had some very trying moment over the last two months. Yes, we all know some people who are telling everyone on the WhatsApp group how their child is learning 6 hours a day and loves every minute buy the odds are that may not be totally true. The framework schools provide does so much more than help the learn, it is carefully designed to teach children order, to do what they are told and to learn in chunks they can handle. Trying to be a teacher at home may not always have the same results and that is totally normal.

Online Learning and Tuition

If kids don’t go back for a long time parents may start looking for other options. On another level, if a child has fallen behind over the last 2 months parent may be looking for some outside help to bring them back up to speed. This is where online learning and online tuition comes in. While there is no substitute for face to face learning online tuition can be really effective. There are lots of tuition companies out there that are now offering online lessons. Rhiannon Harman from Discover & Be says “online may not be as good as teaching in person but it works very well. Kids are very adaptable and within minutes are responding and working as though they were face to face”. 

These kinds of options can be very effective, they can help boost a child that is not doing as well as they would like. But they can also help parents who are struggling to home school be it through work, illness, other kids or just the fact they are finding it tough. Where, perhaps, the budget won’t stretch to online tuition there are other online options. BBC bitesize is a great example. It is all free and you can select your child’s year, topic and more. 

Kids seem to be happy to engage with a screen (surprise surprise) and there are some excellent quality lessons to be had. Do not underestimate what they can get from YouTube videos, Bitesize etc and don’t discount programmes like Horrible Histories and Deadly 60 either! I've been browsing for a tuition centre near me and have been really impressed with what I've found.

Parent Swapping and Other Ideas

Another really good idea is to actually share some of the teaching load with other parents. Using Zoom or other video options you can organise little learning sessions for each others kids. You would be amazed how well behaved your child is with another adult, it can be fun and they get to see friends too!

Why not try doing some lessons outside, forest school has been proven to be very successful but you don’t need a forest to do it! Get out in a country park or any outside space. Take some lesson materials with you but use the environment to teach too! Maths is everywhere, reading signs and posters all count! Don’t be too fussy, if they are engaging then roll with it!

Hang in There

It is super important all parents know that all other parents are finding it tough too. It is also important to know it’s OK to use online lessons, its ok to use tutors and frankly any other ways and means you can to help your child learn as best you can in these very odd times. 

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