Like parents all over the country, we have entered the home schooling zone, one full of frustration, confusion and, let’s be honest, a little chaos. Around this we are trying to work, whilst mindful that we don’t want our children’s education to suffer as we stay in lockdown to protect ourselves from this dreadful pandemic. Our team at NEXA Bristol were discussing how we felt this time compared to the first lockdown; I think we all admitted we somewhat winged it last time and want a bit more of a solid structure this time around. So we got to work to share ideas, inspiration and resources, to ensure that we survive home schooling the second time around. We hope this helps you too.
One thing we were extremely conscious of, and wanted to find some tools for, is how to support the mental health of our children. Just like us, our kids are having to deal with a lot emotionally: they are stuck at home, they can’t play with their friends, they could also be worried about Covid. Yet we are asking them to forget these feelings and focus on their school work, and as you will know, stress does not equal a focused and productive mindset.
Make the most of your one bout of exercise a day and do something fun, whether it’s going for a bike ride, exploring the woods – aka ‘going on an adventure’ – or making your walk a scavenger hunt. We all know the benefits of exercise, and for these young minds it can really help their mental health. It’s good to talk, have a conversation about how everyone is feeling and find ways they can connect with friends, whether that’s a weekly Zoom or, like many kids today, chats whilst gaming. If they struggle to express their feelings, get them to start a diary where they can write down everything they feel; it doesn’t matter their age, this is their space to write, draw or even scribble.
There are a great number of books that can help them to explore their feelings. I can’t praise ‘My Hidden Chimp’, by Professor Steve Peters, enough. It’s a great book/workbook that helps children to understand and manage their emotions and behaviour.
Create a schedule
We all know our kids love routine, and the big thing about not being in school is that their routine goes out the window. Having some kind of schedule for each day means that, as a family, you all know what is happening when, and it allows older kids to then take responsibility for themselves. Work on it together. Of course, they may want to add drawings, stickers, or emojis, but the more fun it looks, the better, we think! We know that it may not be possible for every day to be the same, but work to include their virtual lessons with school, time for your daily exercise, and maybe a lesson can be delivered virtually by a grandparent. Make sure each session isn’t too long, and remember there are lots of resources you can use, which we will look into now.
What to teach
Firstly, don’t try and be a school, you are not one and you could send yourself loopy trying to be one – we know, we nearly did last time! You know what space you have, and also what motivates your child, so create a schedule that works for them. If you were a fan of Joe Wicks’ PE Sessions, you will be rejoicing to know that he is back, as have the highly advertised materials on BBC channels for both primary and secondary. We wanted to try and find some other things that are not so widely shouted about that may be of interest.
On searching for ideas for my son Harvey, I came across some amazing worksheets from Bletchley Park. He loves the idea of spies and secret codes, and is fascinated by the story of the Enigma. We had a small conversation about Bletchley, what it was and what they did, and then he got started. He got to find out about different roles, broke some codes, and even sent me a message in code that I had to break. He loved it!
One of the great things about these worksheets is that it keeps them off a screen, and there are other books and tools that can do the same. Ada Twist’s Big Project Book for Stellar Scientists is a fantastic book for curious minds and budding scientists, and then there’s Iggy Peck’s Big Project Book for Amazing Architects, ideal if your child prefers something more creative. Pixton is a really cool app that allows your child to create and edit their own comic, ideal for practising storytelling. For older children, The Story Starter is a great tool to help develop their creative writing.
Just another day
You’re going to have good and bad days, that is completely natural but don’t be hard on yourself. If World War 3 erupts – which it is bound to do on occasion – find a way to defuse it together. None of us are going to be perfect in this world of home schooling, but whatever you’re able to do, no matter how little, you have succeeded.
If you find some great resources which you think we and others would love, please share in the comments. Together we can survive home schooling this second time around.