Since UK schools have closed and everyone has been advised to “stay home”, families across the UK are facing challenges that noone could’ve expected at the start of the year. Keeping your child’s education on track, managing their disappointment from exams being cancelled and avoiding cabin fever as a family are all hurdles that parents are facing at the moment. We spoke to Emma Bradley, parent, qualified teacher and founder of blog Emmaand3, to find out how she’s guiding her three children through this tough time at home. Read her guest blog below for her experience so far and some expert advice on homeschooling.
1. Everyone at home
I don’t think any of us could have imagined just how much things would change in the space of week. We went from questioning whether schools should shut in the face of Covid 19 to the dawning realisation that schools were shutting for 12 weeks. The fast pace of change is like nothing we could have predicted and many of us are feeling shell shocked and confused as to what we should be doing and when. In this post, I want to put some thoughts in place about where I am now and also explain what I am planning going forward.
I have three children, a second-year university student, a 16-year-old son who has just found out he won’t be sitting GCSE exams and a 10-year-old daughter who I pulled out of school mid-week due to having asthma and other underlying health conditions. As a qualified teacher I am not worried about the teaching side of things. I know what I can do but realise that many won’t feel so secure in home educating their children.
The university seems to be prepared and Chloe has already come home. Her lectures are available online and she has her assignments to do. I have some concerns over paying her accommodation despite not being there, I hope her landlords will at least reduce the fee as it is an all-in price and they aren’t using any amenities like water, heating as they are not living there.
2. Cancelled GCSEs
We learnt that GCSE’s were cancelled as we listened to a daily briefing. I expected it but again hearing the words officially was something else. These young people have spent years being told how important their exams are. They have studied for years all culminating in GCSE exams that are now not taking place. The look of shock on my son’s face was heartbreaking, the dawning realisation that they won’t have the opportunity to prove themselves was beyond anything I’ve witnessed in my years of working in Education. Yet it is not only the exams, but they also won’t have the joy of a long summer with friends after months of exams. The prom’s they have imagined and planned for won’t take place. Instead, my son left school without any goodbyes, they didn’t know that it was their last day. They left school at the end of the day and an email followed saying they were not to come in again. No shirt signing, no selfies and no opportunity to say goodbye to the teachers that have taught them for the past five years. The hashtag #Classof2020 has been really hard to read as parents and students share their thoughts.
3. Primary teaching time
Erin is in year 5 and is also preparing for grammar entrance exams. This means that I can focus on the preparation for that and thankfully I already had a number of workbooks to work through with her. We are doing a mix of verbal, non-verbal reasoning, maths and comprehension. I am also compiling resources that we can use. I have been heartened to see how much is already available online including Twinkl, Scratch, Topmarks and more.
4. How to homeschool your kids during COVID-19
- Accept that you don’t have to do everything all the time. Schools know that parents don’t all have the knowledge, skills and mindset to teach – they know that this has been thrust upon us and we are not prepared. However, we all have skills and talents that we can share with our children, teach your children what you are good at and get creative. If you play an instrument, you’ve got time to teach this. If you are good at drawing spend time doing that. Bake together, learn about places in the world you have travelled too and plan to visit in the future.
- Be relaxed over timings. If you enjoy a lie-in, start ‘school’ later in the day.
- Structure your days. We are doing academic work in the mornings and then using the afternoons for fun in the garden, baking and crafting.
- Give them choice. I’m giving Erin a list of tasks and letting her work through them at her own pace. She’s choosing her activities – this gives her some semblance of control, which then encourages her to do some work. I don’t want to be getting into a debate or stand-off with her over school work – that would add unnecessary stress for all of us.
- Give teens some responsibility. Dylan is struggling to find any purpose to his work because his exams have been cancelled. Instead, I’ve got him preparing and helping Erin with her Maths. I think it’s really hard for him as he has no direction, and tutoring his sister has given him some purpose. I’m also looking to get him learning a new skill and doing some prep for A Levels.
- Know that learning can take many forms. Play, crafting and doing things is really important, and importantly, it’s fun! Don’t make this time death by worksheets as everyone will quickly get bored of that approach.
5. How online tuition helps
For the topics or subjects you’re less confident with, there’s loads of support available out there with online tuition. MyTutor is especially useful for teenagers who have started GCSE courses, for A Level students and kids who want to keep learning their favourite things with young, fun and friendly subject experts. This can help eliminate pressure that parents may feel for teaching older students.
6. Supporting your teen’s mental health during lockdown
Teenagers are naturally on the cusp of independence, so with their freedom curbed so drastically, this is an especially challenging for them. I’ve been thinking about how I can help my teens deal with this. My teens did a home workout this morning including weights and body weights which is great for their mental and physical health.
I’ve also stocked up on board games and I’m encouraging us to do things together as a family. Dylan has decided to invest his time in becoming a darts player – it will keep his mental maths up at least! You can watch my regular Instagram stories for inspo and to see what we’re doing.