Homeschooling. It has become an emotionally-charged word during this lockdown period. For some parents, playing teacher is a newly found talent and passion. For many, however, it is just plain torture. Love it or hate it, distance and online learning may be the new reality for a lot of families. We asked a local expert for some advice.
Kip McGrath Umhlanga franchisee and teacher Tracy-Lee Galloway’s homeschooling survival advice starts with a simple rule: avoid unnecessary anxiety by choosing to be involved in your child’s learning. Next, she suggests following these steps:
1. Routine creates control
Routine is crucial so that you and your child feel in control. Set aside a time of the day, preferably in the mornings, from Monday to Friday to focus on schoolwork. Keep a timetable so that you spend the correct amount of time on each subject. On average a person can concentrate for 20 minutes, so break up the schoolwork into bite size chunks. Keep the weekend for relaxing and family time.
2. Create a classroom
Make sure you have the correct supplies and any other necessary resources in a conducive designated place of study. The bed is not a place of study! Your child must ‘go’ to school.
3. Keep it positive
Use a reward system to motivate your child extrinsically and intrinsically. Schoolwork must be seen as a positive thing that helps your child succeed at school. Consistently praise your child for their efforts. Part of learning is the process, not just the outcome. It’s okay if they have not checked all the boxes for the day because this is not normal for you or them.
4. Make time to read
Daily reading is crucial for your child’s development. The junior phase should read 15 to 20 minutes a day, intermediate phase 20 to 30 minutes a day and the senior phase should read 30 to 40 minutes a day. Read aloud to enhance comprehension. If they want to read more, encourage them to.
5. Use online resources wisely
Online resources can be advantageous, but be careful of what is available. Think of what your child’s routine was before lockdown … don’t overload them with online PDF worksheets when they have schoolwork assigned to them already. Choose an online dance or piano class, online Sunday school class or online workout class that is not schoolwork to help excite the learning.
6. Learn ‘outside’ the classroom
Try out passion projects such as cooking, painting, crafting or learning a musical instrument. These types of activities could help you bond with your child and you can learn a new skill together. Alternatively, they can do these on their own while you are working.
7. Ask for help
If your child becomes frustrated, try to assist them. If you cannot help, ask the school teacher. Encourage your child to be open with you and their teachers. It is okay for you not to be able to assist. Alternatively, arrange an online session with classmates. Peers can be invaluable resources.
8. Talk to each other
Talk to your child about his or her concerns and anxieties. Set goals with them. It’s okay to say, “I’m not doing so well right now…” however, encourage them not to abandon their goals. Talk to other parents from your school. They are experiencing the same frustrations and successes as you. You are not an island! As parents, you need to try to minimise your stress first, then your child’s stress.
9. Supervise, don’t do
Be involved in a supervisory capacity only. Otherwise, the teacher will have a distorted view of your child’s capability. It is tempting to complete sentences or find the answers for your child. This does not help your child discover and learn.
10. Be forgiving…
…of yourself and your child. If you need to scrap the day’s work and put your child outside to play or put movies on all day, then do it! You do not have to homeschool if it is going to cause severe emotional distress.
Smart online tools to try:
1. Digital library: Project Gutenberg is a library of over 60 000 e-books. Download them or read them on kindle.
2. Play to read: Teach Your Monster To Read is an award-winning series of games that’s helped millions of children learn to read.
3. Story time: Nalibali is a national reading for enjoyment campaign to spark children’s potential through storytelling and reading.
4. Master maths: Prodigy Game is a popular online math platform for kids from grade 1-8. It has a free parent programme to monitor your child’s progress and get reports.
5. Did you know? Answer life’s biggest questions with Brightside.me on YouTube Kids.
6. Scientific stuff: Mystery Science is a free site for children from Pre-school to Grade 5.
7. Little astronauts: Get free articles, videos and resources related to aeronautics and space exploration on Nasa.
8. Learning made fun: KhanAcademy has online tools for various subjects including science, math and history.
9. Let’s build: ToyTheatre is a fun site for kids to build toys and has free drawings.
10. Play time: PBSKids has a lot of entertaining kid’s games
Text: ELANA WAGNER