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.

Perspective

While we sit at home during these uncertain times and reflect on how quickly our lives have changed, I hope that we also take a moment to consider those who also face uncertainty, but uncertainty of a different kind.

While we spend our uncertainty at home, trying to work out how to educate and entertain the kids, others spend their uncertainty in their homes, trying to work out how to distract their kids from the bombs that rain down upon them.

While we are forced to make decisions such as whether or not we should be relaxing our screen time restrictions, others are forced to make heart-wrenching decisions such as whether or not the family should sleep in one room….is it better to be all killed at once so that nobody has to live with the pain, or should they separate so that at least some of them survive?

While we worry about a possible disruption to our children’s education, others worry about the trauma of growing up in a warzone and the impact this will have on their children’s lives.

While we worry about running out of toilet paper and paper towel, others worry about running out of food.

While we panic when we see empty supermarket shelves for a couple of weeks, others face this for months or even years on end.  Not because some are hoarding and supermarkets can not keep up, but simply because there is not enough food to go around.  They watch their children get thinner and thinner.

While we worry about the possibility of spending the winter inside our solid homes with ducted heating and all the creature comforts we are accustomed to, others worry about spending the winter in flimsy tents that offer next to no protection against the elements.  They watch on as one by one other children die overnight from the freezing conditions and wonder if their child will be next.

While we worry about losing our homes due to not being able to pay mortgages,  others worry about losing their homes to bombs, along with their possessions inside of it, and possibly their entire families.

While we struggle today our brothers and sisters in humanity have been facing unimaginable struggles for years.  And while we rightfully stress the importance of being in this all together and helping one another out, our treatment of ‘others’ has not been so benevolent.  Over the past decade or so the Australian government has prided itself on its refusal to hold out a hand to those who are struggling, and our message has been loud and clear: do not bother coming here because we do not want to help anybody.  It shouldn’t take a disaster to recognise cruelty and harshness, but if anything positive comes from our current situation I hope it will be finding our humanity.