The Covid-19 lockdown has become a minefield for many families, as parents are having to negotiate their children’s schoolwork along with shut-down, or having to adjust to working from home and teaching.
Muizenberg teacher, Katherine Therese Whaling, offered some tips for first-time homeschooling parents, one of whom is Liesl Robbins of Fish Hoek.
Ms Robbins says day one of homeschooling started with the best of intentions.
“Maths, day one. I decided to test myself too so I did all the calculations as required and 15 minutes later eagerly awaited my child’s answers.”
Three hours later, they finished. Distractibility was an unforeseen problem.
“Not that I hadn’t seen this in the past, but working from home brought it out into the spotlight.”
Ms Robbins says day two was challenging, but she tried being really patient, loving and encouraging.
Day three? Well, this was where she met the zeitgeist of current-day homeschooling memes where parents en masse turned their attention from their children to imploring teachers for forgiveness and begging them for help.
Day four descended into: “Get it done, submit it to your teacher, ask me if you don’t understand anything. Any questions? No? Right, no TV, no wi-fi, no treats or anything until this is done.”
Ms Robbins, one hour later: “Finished?”
Two hours later: “Is it done?”
Three hours later: “Sent it to your teacher yet?”
Four hours later: the yelling starts. “What are you up to? You had better not be playing on that phone, it’s dedicated to schoolwork.”
At the five-hour mark: “Are you purposefully trying to give me a heart attack?”
Six hours later, her child appears and says: “Mom, it’s done. I really like this subject and tomorrow I will work faster and really focus. Are you proud of me?”
Welcome to homeschooling for newbies.
Ms Whaling says she is not usually an advocate for online teaching because she favours human connection which she calls an essential ingredient in education.
“But current circumstances are necessary to keep the wheels turning,” she says.
Ms Whaling says lockdown has found us all in unfamiliar and uncomfortable territory, having to adapt to various unrehearsed roles: homeschooling being one of them.
“Parents have had to scramble to meet the requirements of being their child’s teacher overnight and many are struggling with the task at hand. Schools are sending reams of online worksheets and content, and children are having to sit long hours in front of screens to get the work done.”
Ms Whaling has a list of dos and don’ts for first-time homeschooling parents.
Make sure your child eats a healthy breakfast. This will help them concentrate and stay focused.
Have a routine and rhythm to the day, write down a timetable with your child. Children like to have a plan.
After every half an hour of online work your child must have some exercise, even if it’s five minutes of star jumps or a run around the garden. Ideally, this could be nature time.
Have fun and breathe: learning happens when you capture the imagination of a child.
While you are at it, take the time to notice the content of your child’s schoolwork and the way they respond to it.
Panic. There is no need to replicate what is done at school. Do things in your own way.
Forget children learn through their head, hands and heart.
If you and your child are getting stressed over a task, take a break. Stress inhibits learning. Rather let them draw, create, play, sing, bake or dance. If you have to go back to the task, do it later or try the next day.
Overload your child with work. Use your own autonomy in knowing how much work they can handle a day. 4. Don’t let them eat sugar. Getting them to do their work, will only be a struggle from then on.
Underestimate what your children are learning in the in-between times. They learn through imitation, exploration and through their environment. They are learning all the time, so your happiness and well being, as much as theirs, is directly related to their learning. Do whatever you can to maintain peace in your hearts, and in your home.
Other resources for home-schooling include Vodacom’s e-school.There is some guidance in this link: https://vimeo.com/403758186/f125867320 and parents can visit Snapplify which has opened access to all e-textbooks for free until the end of the year. For more information visit: www.snapplify.com/freeaccess