As the school year draws to a close, I would…
Newmarket School is one of the schools CPDS collaborates with as part of our Community of Learning and their Principal Wendy Kofoed, has graciously allowed us permission to publish some answers she has compiled in response to some common questions around online learning from home, that may be of help to you.
- Can I let my children talk when they are working?
Children can often work productively and chat about what they are doing. Encourage your children to learn how to listen as well as talk. Listening is a skill and it needs to be taught. When out on your local walks, get children to listen for sounds around them. Make a game out of it. Listen to the lyrics in songs, and try to sing along.
- Will my children get left behind?
This time of home learning while in lockdown is just a small blip in a child’s overall time at school. Teachers will pick up the slack once schools are open. Helping kids to develop important skills like oral language and listening would be a real help for teachers and these are easily managed at home. Allow children time to talk and listen, and play and connect with whānau. Strong oral language and listening skills are really supportive of learning, and might even fast track your kids.
- Should I supervise the activities?
If you can, yes keep them company for some of the time while they are working. If you are reading your book, they will more likely read theirs. You know your kids and what is possible. Don’t worry about doing enough or not doing it right, we are all living in new times and there is no right way.
- How should I manage if my children are getting stressed?
There won’t be much learning happening if children are disengaged or stressed. åRelax and enjoy being with your children because out of that learning will happen, whatever this might look like for you and your whānau.
- I like to be quite strict, is this okay?
If a strict, structured, more formal teacher-like approach works for your family, by all means try it. If it turns to custard, try a gentle and more pragmatic and flexible approach. Good luck, and remember the wellbeing of all is a priority in these stressful times.
- How do I manage home learning if I have 3 kids at different schools?
This comes down to the wellbeing of your children and whānau and what works for you. Take the lead from your children, and who needs the most support. It could be a teanager struggling with NCEA achievement standards, or a six year old who just needs a cuddle and a story.
- How do I manage different timetables for each child?
Just get through as much as you can without being ground down by the stress of it all. No two families will be the same, so maybe create a plan for each child and encourage them to work at their own pace. If they are working on projects they enjoy this will help motivation to complete the activities.
- I am a solo parent working from home, how can I manage home learning?
Have a conversation with your children, and try to negotiate a balance with their activities and your work time. You might need to change your expectations about what you can achieve for work, and of working at home in this challenging time. Try giving children tasks they can manage when you are working, they might use putty, coloring books, sketch pads, Lego and puzzles if you need a bit of quiet time. When you get to a morning tea or lunch break from your job, spend 20 minutes reading out loud to them, go for a walk, or have a noisy time.
- How should I manage my child’s wellbeing?
Acknowledge that this is a difficult time for all of us, our emotions and frustrations can swamp us, be gentle and kind to yourself and your children. To motivate children ensure activities are manageable for them to achieve. Children need to believe they can do the tasks assigned, so acknowledge their perseverance, and try not to give rewards for completing activities. Encourage activities that help them learn how to collaborate and help each other.
- My kids are always arguing – how do I manage?
Take time initially and talk with your children, possibly setting up some expectations of how the home learning will work and how the family can help each other, especially if parents are working at home. You might need to be more flexible, if they want to play with lego let them, it is not the end of the world. If children have ownership of activities and tasks then this might reduce the squabbling.
- I end up yelling at my kids, what should I do?
Try to keep calm, it is not the end of the world if you can’t manage home learning, we are all trying to get used to this ‘new normal’ and our anxiety levels are through the roof. Let the school know if you are struggling with tasks or are having difficulty getting through these.
- How should I discipline my kids?
Don’t set high expectations initially, everyone needs some leeway in these times. Start each day afresh, keep calm, kids test boundaries at school just as they do at home.
- How long should kids spend on devices?
Devices are a great tool to support learning, though balanced use and breaks are important. You definitely need to monitor the time on devices, and break this up with kitchen, garden, physical, and more robust activities.
- Are devices okay for use at home?
Parents really need to moderate the use of devices, and I know this will be hard especially if parents are working from home too. It is good for adults as well as children to have time off-line during the day, try and sync this time with the kids. Working at home is not the same as working in the office, just like home learning is not school.
- How much supervision do I need to give my kids?
We all need to be realistic of expectations for our children’s home learning time, and time spent on our own work. We can not do now what we did prior to the lockdown starting. We need to prioritise our time so that we can manage competing demands.
- Will teachers think I am a failure at home learning if we do not get everything done?
Do what you can do, don’t think that other parents are running perfect home learning programmes, they are likely out in the garden with their kids, or walking locally, teaching their kids how to clean a bath, tidy a toy box, learn a new kapa haka routine, or make a silly video to share with whānau. This is a health crisis not an academic one, nobody is judging anyone.
- Will my kids get behind in their learning because of the lockdown?
Once we are back at school teachers will be turbo-charged in making up any lost time and will probably be pleasantly surprised by the learning gains the kids have made.
- How much exercise should my children have?
While they can do video exercises, local walks, runs and bike rides are also important for wellbeing and learning. Seize the moment on the walks and get kids to be observant. Yes, spot the teddy bears or Easter eggs but also the bugs, butterflies, or other oddities. They will bring back a wealth of learning if they are observant.
- Is it okay for kids to spend time playing?
Play, especially outdoor play in the garden, or anywhere, is an important even vital part of learning – a way to develop the imagination, engage in conversation, build relationships or work through anxieties. We learn through play, and it is also a kind of work. So more play, less work, might actually be good for learning at this time.
- What is the most important thing I should be doing?
Part of being at school is feeling safe and being cared for. The most important thing for home learning is not rushing through planned lessons but is making children feel loved, safe and reassured. So, hug them, talk and listen to them, enjoy some moments of silliness and laughter.
- What is the best outcome of home learning
That home and school can work together so that we each lift each other up and support each other in this challenging time. Be gentle with yourself and your children. Enjoy your time together, be kind, respectful and persevere with keeping safe and well.
Please note: These questions and answers are my views and not necessarily those of my employers.