When I need to occupy my mind (and who doesn’t right now?) I tend to make lists, make plans, and do what I can to channel my anxiety into action. This weekend, I’ve been using some of the extra time at home to think about plans for homeschooling my children – in fact, I’m feeling quite positive about the prospect of playing teacher for a while. If that makes me sound annoying – I apologise, and absolutely get that school closures brought about the Covid-19 pandemic are causing huge amounts of stress for many parents. I know I am fortunate to be a parent who is already at home, and in a position to adapt to having my kids with me for an indefinite period without it causing huge amounts of disruption to our lives. Of course, I do also have other things to do, like supporting my husband’s business (read: frantically researching government advice for self employed people), and hopefully continuing with some writing. But for the most part, we can adapt to this, we can do this. I am lucky. If the situation for you is more troubling, I’d like to help by sharing some of our ideas, and perhaps easing just one small element of your stress.
I should point out here that I have two children – one in Primary 6 (which I think translates to year 5 in England/Wales?), and one in his first year of secondary school. My secondary school age son will mostly be doing his own work, assigned by his teachers on a daily basis, and my role will be mainly to oversee that he is managing his own routine and be there to offer any support or guidance he might need (please no long division queries. Gulp.) My younger son will also have Class Dojo check-ins with teachers, who have provided us with learning packs and lots of useful information to guide us in the forthcoming period. (Aside: education, teaching and support staff – THANKYOU, YOU ARE INCREDIBLE.) At ten, my younger son will need much more support on a daily basis, though, and as he is dyslexic, will require one-to-one assistance with reading and writing tasks. And perhaps, getting into the mindset that home is also going to double as school for a while. That’s going to be weird for all of us, isn’t it? I think perhaps, for a while we are all just going to have to play this situation one day at a time.
I should also point out here, that I am not at teacher, I have no teaching qualifications, I am just a parent trying to do their best – and I don’t think anyone is expecting any more than that. What we DO all have as parents are transferable skills gained through work and life experience (in my past life, I worked for a decade in Training and Development, supporting adult learning, so I am hoping there is some crossover there). If our kids spend the odd day in front of a screen for too long (hello, Netflix kids!) or the schedule goes out of the window, in the vast scheme of things just now, does that really matter? I think our kids will look back on this period thinking not so much about what they DID as how they FELT – as will we adults perhaps. So no beating ourselves up here. Let’s just be gentle with ourselves. And now onto some ideas. Feel free to copy, utilise, or ignore!
My son and I have made up a very loose daily ‘menu’ of learning and activities to choose from, reduced from a longer list of activities under several broad headings – which I will list at the end of this article. We have stuck an ‘Our Day’ sheet onto our fridge, with a selection of cut-out cards with the broad headings on there (pinned with blu-tack so that we can move them around – I’d like my son to help decide each morning which activities we do, and in what order, so he has an element of ownership in his day). We do have a few ‘must-or-at-least-try-very-hard-to-dos’ in there – like Joe Wicks P.E lessons at 9am on YouTube every weekday (big thanks to Joe Wicks, AKA The Body Coach, who has offered to be the UK’s gym teacher during this period of school closures). And things like lunch (and breaks where Mum drinks coffee!) are obviously essential – as for us, are daily, socially isolated walks with our dog (we are very fortunate where we live that it is possible to go a walk and meet virtually no-one while we’re out). But everything else is flexible – and if that’s all we achieve some days, so be it. But most days, I’d hope that my son will pick two of the ‘option’ cards to fit into our day within this loose schedule. Note: I’ve included cards for Duolingo (a free languages site we are using to learn Gaelic) and garden time, even though they actually fit under some of our broader headings. I’m hoping we can fit in Duolingo every day as the daily exercises only take 5 minutes. And garden time – which might also double as break time on nice days if we’re fortunate. Let’s just keep everything crossed for a good Spring/Summer this year, eh?!
So below are the broad headings – please note that this list is not exhaustive, or definitive, or set in stone – it’s just a range of activities we’ve come up with that look like they might suit us. There are huge amounts of information available right now on other websites and resources that will help. These are just ideas, subject to change, revision – or said throwing out the window. We also have worksheets and class-specific stuff from school, so my son can also choose one of those activities, according to the broader heading they fit under. I haven’t included them here, as this is just for more generic stuff. This is also geared somewhat to my own capabilities – I am a creative/wordy type and not a maths/science person. On the reading and writing side I feel more confident to lead activities myself, whereas on the maths/science side, I’ll be guided more by videos and online material (fractions are like a foreign language to me. And please tell me long division is not a thing in primary six). I’ll also be encouraging my kids (especially my older son) to use the Pomodoro technique – I already use this for my writing – which means doing 25 minutes of work and then taking a break period. For my younger son, half an hour of work at a time is probably enough anyway – he tires easily because reading for lengthy periods in any capacity is hard work for him.
So amidst all this there will be playtime, TV time – yes, even video game time – and time where Mummy needs to do some of her own things for a while.
But more than all of that – there will be fun, hugs and Facetime calls with friends and family.
And even more important right now I think – there will be lots and lots of LOVE.
BROAD TOPIC IDEAS FOR ACTIVITIES
Audio books – Audible are offering free stories for kids while schools are closed.
Mummy reading a book aloud.
Bookshelf pick – own choice.
Writing to a local care home resident.
Writing to a child through Post Pals – a charity asking people to send letters and cards to seriously ill children and their siblings.
Writing a journal about the time spent at home over the next few months – this will be history one day!
Twinkl is offering lots of useful resources during the Covid-19 outbreak.
Sumdog have made their resources free during school closures.
HEALTH AND WELLBEING
Daily socially-distanced walk with dog.
Mummy reading aloud a guided meditation (I read one from Fearne Cotton’s Happy book, you could also check out apps like Headspace and Calm).
Drawing or painting.
Making up stories.
Hoffman Academy piano lessons offers free online tutorials (if you have another musical instrument at home, you can also find lots of other free tutorials online).
SCIENCE, NATURE AND OTHER
Duolingo – learn new languages for free.
Feeding, watching and identifying birds in the garden.
Board games, card games, craft kits, science kits, jigsaws, gardening, growing vegetables or windowsill herbs.
Baking or cooking.
Helping Mummy with dishes, chores and clearing up!