Home educating or caring for your children?
Rightly or wrongly, over the past few weeks, many parents have proclaimed to be home educating their children since schools closed to the majority due to COVID 19.
Two of our regular columnists, Missy, a home educator and mum to two, and Vicki, a teacher, writer and also mum to two, share their thoughts on this issue.
Despite the sudden limitation to our social and group interaction, we are generally well equipped for ‘at home’ learning. However, this is not home education. We are missing the input of four separate academic and sporting establishments. We have lost our freedom to explore and interact with the world. And the effect of this lack of stimuli and contact is apparent in certain behaviours of my children.
I believe a carefully considered response to suit the individual need of each child is necessary during this strange time. For some children, formality and structure might provide comfort and normality. For mine, it is regarded as another distressing imposition. My advice in reflection of our current situation is to be flexible. What works for them one week might fail the next. If a guitar lesson becomes a freestyle, that’s okay. If maths becomes role play, that’s fine. Learning is always present in play. Since isolation cannot adequately provide a balanced education, our focus has shifted to fun. With the present disruption we face, a child’s concentration may purely reside in processing this change. So, we’re baking, painting and gardening, with equal measures of relaxation and cuddles.
In some respects, I feel my kids have been handed an opportunity to unwind from the bustle of our usual routine. My opportunity as their primary educator in this situation is to step back and observe their natural inclinations. I also keep in mind it is no crime to let boredom creep in as it can spark the most extraordinary creativity.
Home educating has always appealed to me in certain ways, but these past few weeks have reminded me why I choose to send my children to school. Yes, it might seem selfish, but I am currently craving normality, the going out to work, the socialising at Zumba class, the freedom to walk out of my house or drive to the coast if the desire so takes me. Currently, I feel trapped. I wholeheartedly believe that staying at home is a vital step to take, but that does not mean I am finding it any easier.
Back to home educating… although the situation is far outside of what a typical home education set-up would be, I have aimed to give my children some sort of structure. Both of them adore school and everything that comes with it: the learning, the playing, the socialising, the love and care from the staff, the school dinners even. They are desperate to return to school. Not because they are not learning here, but because of everything else that school gives them and I am unable to. As much as I love my daughters, I am not their friend. We can play, laugh, learn, create together, but I will always be the adult, the one in charge, the one ready to intervene whenever necessary.
The learning that has occurred is far looser than their typical school education, though more similar to early years perhaps. We have baked, learning about measures and ratio. We have pretended to be pirates, discussing the unlikely things to be found in a treasure chest (stinky socks and a toilet!). We have made a party for a teddy, working out the costs of food and drink items, creating invitations, designing the cake. BUT as much fun as all of this has been, I still feel as though they are missing out. As a teacher, I know what the girls should be learning, how a lesson could be structured to make it work properly, and what Ofsted would say. I guess my overriding feeling right now is relief that no inspections will be carried out. However, the speed at which my youngest says, “Can I go on my tab?” is evidence enough that my lesson would have been graded ‘inadequate’.
Here are a few suggestions of how you can keep your children’s maths and English skills up to scratch:
- Set your child up with their own email account. Of course, you will need to keep a close eye on your child’s activity on there, but it is a fantastic way of them keeping in touch with their school friends and also family members, practising reading and writing skills at the same time.
- Get your child to help with cooking the tea. Print out the recipe and they can read it as well as helping you to weigh and measure. If, like many of us, you don’t really follow a recipe, they could photograph you each step of the way, print them off and write the instructions instead.
- If your child’s school hasn’t signed up for Times Tables Rock Stars, you can subscribe as a family and the price is reasonable. It is a fun way of practising their multiplication skills.
- Encourage your child to keep a diary of what is happening each day. You could print a snippet of the news from online and stick that in. Another way of doing it would be for your child to read and rewrite the news in their own words. It is a great way of encouraging the use of synonyms via a thesaurus.
- Play board games which involve reading and maths skills. They won’t even know they’re learning!
Many thanks to Missy and Vicki for sharing their views and ideas. We would love to know how things are going for you. Is it the Easter holidays yet in your school or perhaps Ofsted has already shut you down? Anyone looking to be bought out by an academy chain? To each and every one of you out there, we wish you all well for the coming days, weeks and months. This situation is not easy; hats off to everyone simply doing their best.