BY WHITNEY DAVIES (GUEST WRITER)
Whitney is a primary school teacher based in Staffordshire. She has been teaching for nine years and is now part of the senior leadership team in her school. She is also the SENCO (Special Educational Needs coordinator). Whitney shares her life as a parent to two year old Rory over on Instagram as @mommy_davies. We have asked Whitney to share her top home learning tips.
HOME LEARNING TIPS
Firstly I’d like to say a huge thank you to That Mama Club for asking me to write this guest post. As a primary school teacher with almost 10 years experience, I can honestly say these have been the hardest and strangest months of my teaching career to date. With the majority of the country’s stuck at home, there have been many new ways of life we’ve had to become accustomed to. I’d like to share some home learning tips, resources which you may not know are accessible to you at home, and some positive affirmations to help you through these unprecedented times!
You Are Not Home Schooling!
Now this is a bold and controversial statement for me to begin with, but I feel the term is misunderstood. Yes your children are at home, yes your children are completing school work, but it is not home schooling. If you were home educating your child, they would not be enrolled in a school, you would be responsible for all of the lesson planning and you’re subject to inspections from the local authority. This time around, teachers are providing much more for children at home, with many providing live lessons. 12 months ago, remote learning wasn’t even a thing, and now it is law for schools to provide a minimum of 3 hours learning a day (higher in Key Stage 2!) for children at primary level. In the first lockdown, learning was being set, but with less pressure from the government, and with the beautiful summer weather on our side, it was a little easier. Now, the learning is much more structured and formal, and with more people working from home now than ever, trying to find the balance is tricky.
Parents, just like in most other aspects of their child’s life, are there to guide and support their children whilst juggling work, but ultimately, your child’s teachers are still responsible for their academic progress. When you decided you wanted to become a parent, you didn’t ‘sign up’ to be teaching them the national curriculum during a pandemic whilst working full time. Nobody expected to be living life like this, and teachers didn’t expect you to be doing their job for them – these are the things they don’t teach you at university! Tap into the resources school are providing, whether that be a video call, resource packs, or an email address where you can bombard the teacher with questions. Us teachers are here for you and working harder than ever before.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Something is better than nothing. Children are far more resilient than we are as adults. I can say from experience, that our children returned to school after such a long time off, and you wouldn’t have known they’d had almost 6 months off. Their passion for learning was still there and they were so eager to get back into school.
Routine & Rules Are Key!
We know that routine is good for everyone. We’re all trying to get our heads around establishing a new routine. Just when we thought things were getting better, it’s been thrown right back up in the air. When schools reopened to all children in September, we began to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We never imagined that we’d be back to pretty much where we started. We’ve done two weeks now and we’re all still finding our feet. My biggest piece of advice is to not put too much pressure on yourself, and do what works for you. I know this is easier said than done, but a routine that works for one family will certainly not work for another. Depending on what your home life is like will depend on what a good routine is. I have families whose parents are working 8-4 from home so ‘school starts at 4pm. I have families whose parents work nights, so they sit and work with their children as soon as they get home before they go and catch up on sleep. I’ve got learning being submitted at all hours. Yes there may be live lessons, or meetings which you have to attend at particular times, but otherwise, there are 24 hours in a day and you can use them in a way which suits you.
Once you’ve found your flow, stick to it. Getting up each morning knowing what your day is going to look like will alleviate a lot of anxieties. For example, making sure everyone is up, dressed and ready for ‘school’ at the same time will get you all in the right frame of mind and ready to tackle the day ahead. We don’t want our children to lose that desire to learn, so if it’s a constant battle trying to get them doing 8 learning assignments a day, then don’t do it. The time parents have with their children is precious enough as it is, you shouldn’t have to spend it arguing about doing some learning. As I said earlier, something is better than nothing. Short bursts of learning split up with breaks is much more effective than slogging over the same piece of work for 3 hours. Remember, children will probably get their learning done much quicker at home as they’re working on a 1:1 ratio rather than 1:15 or 1:30 they may have in school.
Technology Is Your Friend!
Another controversial topic! There have been debates surrounding screen usage and screen time since it ever became a thing. Whether you’re an advocate of screen time or not, we cannot deny the fact that it is a huge part of our lives today.
The reason why I mentioned technology here though has nothing to do with the learning side of things…for now. It is just as important to look after your own mental health as it is your child’s, so if they sit watching YouTube for an hour so you can reply to emails, put a load of washing on or just so you can have a hot cup of tea in peace, that is absolutely fine and you are not a bad parent.
Our children are growing up in a society where technology is all around them, and they’ll be training for jobs which don’t even exist yet. Allowing your children to have access to technology for a range of purposes will support them with their future prospects.
Life Skills Are Important!
This is one thing that I think we can all take away from lockdown. We’ve all suddenly become Mary Berry and Alan Titchmarsh rolled into one. When you think of learning, people automatically think of reams of paper full of maths questions. However there are so many skills that we can’t always teach at school that are invaluable. Maths is found everywhere – playing shops where children can buy and sell things from the cupboards in the kitchen, baking cakes where they have to weigh out the ingredients. These are the types of activities where children will learn far more than they would doing a worksheet but are often overlooked. Getting them to help around the house with simple chores will also help them develop a sense of responsibility, but it also helps you out too!
Use What’s Out There
Especially this time round, there is an abundance of resources which you can tap into without paying a penny. This is where I’m going to come back to screen time but talk about it from a learning perspective. Here is a list of resources which I think are great and use them as a teacher myself in school and at home.
The BBC have done a brilliant job by carefully selecting the programmes they are playing on their channels. Most programmes on CBeebies are educational without children even realising. Why not rely on Andy & The Oddsocks to teach them a bit of History or Joe Wicks to get them active? Don’t waste your energy reinventing the wheel if it’s already there at your disposal. As I said earlier, if you know they’re engaged in that, it leaves you free to do whatever you need to do as a parent.
The Oak National Academy has approximately 10,000 resources and lesson plans which are totally free of charge and accessible to parents. If you’re unsure of a concept in Maths for example, your child can be taught by a qualified teacher before completing their task – told you technology could be your friend! In addition to this, if you’re on particular phone networks, accessing the website will not eat into your data allowance. https://www.thenational.academy
Teach Your Monster To Read is a wonderful app which does exactly what it’s name says. It’s jam packed with activities to support children’s development in reading, from learning initial sounds in phonics, right up to confident readers. This is aimed at children in Early Years and Key Stage 1 (up to Year 2) and is currently free to download.
Phonics Play is another fantastic online resource which has been made freely accessible throughout lockdown. This is used in many schools as a great interactive tool when learning phonics. It’s full of games and printable resources which will support their phonic development. This will be a familiar resource to many children so they will like the continuity between home and school. Just use the username ‘jan21’ with the password ‘home’ to access the free resources.
White Rose Maths is a popular scheme across the country that many schools (including my own) use for teaching. Their activity workbooks for each area of Maths for each year group is available to download for free on Amazon. Download the Kindle version (and download the Kindle app to a device if you don’t have it already) and away you go! These are lovely colourful activity booklets the children can complete as a short Maths activity.
Remember, these times are not normal, and the priority for everyone is to stay safe and happy. When children feel safe and happy in the environment they are in they will thrive. Just like every other aspect of parenting, do what works best for your family, and it will be the right thing to do.
I hope you enjoyed my home learning tips! We must be thankful that we’re in a digital age where our children can still access learning despite being at home, so embrace it and remember, us teachers are here to support you in any way we can!
Mommy Davies x