Ten things to keep in mind while our children learn remotely

On the first official day of remote learning in Victoria I thought I’d share some tips and things that I have learnt over the past few years homeschooling.

1) Remote learning is not the same for everybody. For some, it is a learning pack with little support from school. For some, it is online classes that follow a timetable and the biggest change is that class is conducted online. There are also many variations in between. It is important not to compare yourself to others during this time. Different schools have different demands on parents. Also, as parents, we have different circumstances, different responsibilities, and different children. Some parents work, some parents have more children, some parents have children who put an unusual amount of effort trying to avoid work. Just do your best, make dua, and don’t worry if your best looks different to somebody else’s.

2) Routine is key. Try to start school work at the same time every day and have consistent breaks, you can use recess and lunch for familiarity. Some have suggested packing a lunchbox. Make a basic timetable even if not required from school, it gives your child some direction and lets them know what to expect. Having said that don’t feel you have to stick to it 100%. Do not be afraid to be flexible, if something comes up, or if your child is struggling to focus, send them outside or let them read for 5-10 mins then come back. There is nothing wrong with a bit of flexibility as long as you don’t let them take it too far.

3) Don’t be surprised if your child does not take to learning at home and everything seems like a big battle. It is not unusual to take up to a month for your child to get into a good routine and stop fighting it, this is just how some children are and it is not a reflection on you. It is often the case with children who regularly push boundaries. It is also more likely when children have used devices regularly (which let’s face it, with the amount of time our kids have been spending indoors lately is quite common nowadays). Try to be patient and consistent. Avoid getting frustrated at your child or allow negativity and stress into a situation that is already negative and stressful. Choose your battles and if you are not initially happy with the amount of work completed aim to build up over time.

4) Focus on literacy and numeracy as these are the most important areas. As long as your child can read and comprehend at the expected level it is not difficult to catch up on other subject areas, but literacy and numeracy will require a much greater effort if a student falls behind. So if you are unable to complete the work assigned for an entire day prioritise these areas.

5) Now that you are home educating you have more flexibility to complete things outside of school hours. If there is unfinished work, you can do it in the evenings as ‘homework’. You can even do it on the weekends. There is nothing to say it needs to be completed between 8:30am and 3:30 pm (unless of course your child is doing live classes online). Bottom line is you are no longer constrained by school hours, so do what works for your child and your family.

6) Make a ‘no devices for anything other than schooling’ rule for school hours. If you allow them to play the odd game here or there during their breaks trust me, it will not end. Then anytime you are busy with a chore or helping another child you will suddenly find them playing a game for “just one minute” which of course stretches out longer and longer. I don’t allow devices on ‘school days’ until all work is completed. If my son decides to drag his feet, I tell him that fine with me as I prefer him not to use devices anyhow. Having said that I do use my judgement. If I see he has made a genuine effort for most of the day, but something has taken longer than anticipated, or he had a stumbling block, I will make exceptions. For me, the effort is more important than the results.

7) Another idea is to let your child earn device time through other means. On top of the ‘no devices for anything other than schooling’ during school hours rule, I also make my son earn his device time (when I’m organised enough to follow this up which I admit isn’t as much as I’d like). This can be done through chores, reading, or any other activity you feel would be beneficial. I made a log to record this and some rules to go along which I am happy to share if anybody is interested.

8) Do what works to motivate your child. For some children this is a checklist, for others, it is a star char. You can invest in some stamps and stickers, young children love these! You know your child best, but feel free to experiment until you find something that works for your child. For my son, it was the timer. When he drags his feet and a simple task takes 10 times longer than it needs to, I simply use the timer on my phone and tell him I’m going to time and see how fast he can do the next problem/worksheet etc, All of a sudden he becomes super-efficient and the time-wasting disappears.

9) Be kind to yourself. Don’t forget to rest, sit down, put your feet up, have a cup of tea when you can. Do not expect your house to look like it does when they are at school, or even how it looks on the holidays. You have children around making mess and now that you are expected to help them with their schooling you have less time to do housework. Do not expect perfection.

10) Be kind to your child’s teacher. Just like the rest of us, they are trying their best in a situation that is stressful and very new to them. Just like us they are human and just like us they will probably make some mistakes along the way. Contact them if you are concerned or unsure about anything, but when doing so be aware that they are currently under an enormous amount of pressure, so as usual, be kind. And if you are happy with their efforts don’t be afraid to drop them a short email to let them know.

I hope some of you find this useful and let me know if you have any questions.

The best toilet training advice I ever received

My first attempt at toilet training was an absolute nightmare.  As a relatively new parent, I took everything I read a little too seriously and I was keen to wait for the perfect time to avoid the dreaded regression.  Going through all that hard work, succeeding, and then ending up where you first began was something that I wanted to avoid at all cost.  So I waited for the perfect time.

The problem was that the perfect time took a long time in presenting itself.  We were looking for a new rental to move into and for some reason it was taking an unusually long time.  I also was pregnant with #2 and was acutely aware that yes, a new baby also caused regression.  So by the time we found a house, moved in, had #2, and I felt human again over a year had gone past.  Suddenly my son was 3 and a half years old and very set in his ways.  Toilet training was the last thing he wanted to do and he fought it every step of the way.

A few months later I was with a group of mums who were discussing experiences with toilet training when I received some of the best advice I’d ever had.  My daughter was probably about 8 months at the time and she suggested that I start sitting her on the potty.  “Now?” I asked perplexed.  “Yes, just sit her on the potty when you change her nappy.”  I’m sure the confusion must have shown on my face, but after my first experience I was willing to try anything to make the process easier, so I did it.

The next day I dragged the potty out and was ready.  After removing her nappy and cleaning her up I sat my 8-month-old on the potty.  As expected nothing happened but I thought I’d persevere at least a few days.  The next change I did the same thing, removed her nappy and sat her down.  But this time something did happen, much to my surprise there was wee!!  Naturally, I was so elated! After all, there is nothing like toilet training to bring about a disturbing level of excitement for body waste.  I may have been a little over the top in my celebratory gestures, clapping and cheering like crazy but I wanted to make sure that my daughter knew how proud I was of her!  And she did, she was beaming; her little gummy smile as wide as can be, she was super proud of her achievement- we both were.

If I suspected that this could be a fluke, the next attempt proved otherwise – success again.  Over the next couple few days, she was weeing in the potty more often than not.  And it wasn’t before long before she also added #2’s to her repertoire.  I was over the moon!

What I most loved about this technique was that it was completely stress-free.  If she did something in the potty that was great, but if she didn’t that was also perfectly fine.  Because she was so young there was no pressure on either of us to progress, any improvement was a bonus.  She was able to slowly, at her own pace build up her control.

This was not an all or nothing endeavour, there was no need to do this at every nappy change.  When I was free and had the energy I would just take a few moments to sit her on the potty.  While there I would maybe tidy up a little for a minute or two before removing her and putting her nappy on.

When she was older and we were both ready, toilet training was considerably easier.  I won’t say it was it was a piece of cake, but because she already had control half the battle was already won.  The physical hurdle had been accomplished over time in a steady fashion, devoid of stress. Now all that was left to do was tackle the mental hurdle.

I have no doubt that over the years and through my journey of toilet training an additional four children that this advice has saved me countless hours of stress and frustration.  I am forever grateful for her simple words of wisdom.