Learning New Routines- Homework and Homeworking
So, the world is different, schools are closed, many of us are finding ourselves now either furloughed or working from home and for many of us that means we are suddenly combining the dual roles of ‘home educator’ and working parent. As someone who has four children (aged 10, 12, 14 and 18), who usually works half the week as a HLTA in two primary schools and half the week in recruitment I’m used to juggling roles and could perhaps be seen as having an advantage in the whole ‘home-schooling’ situation but these are no ordinary times! So, while I assess how successfully my own intentions have played out so far, I look to some of my incredibly capable recruitment family for their perspective on this whole new world!
Nelly, commercial consultant and mum to Alessia, 5, describes her experience so far:
“I must say working from home has been a challenge, it’s hard knowing that I am at home but I can’t spend the whole time with Alessia. It took us both a few days to adjust but when she made me coffee and came into ‘my office’ saying, “There you go mummy your coffee is ready, now go and work hard and be the best. I will go and do my homework with daddy and I will try and do my best!” (She was very cute) I felt that she was happy and had accepted that I have to work and she is not able to pop in every 5 minutes!
A few things I do is try to keep to my normal schedule as much as possible and follow a routine. We always have breakfast together and then the two of us do 30 min YouTube exercise class with Joe Wicks (the body coach) whom Alessia loves - “He has curly hair like daddy.” I then give Alessia some tasks she needs to do as well as the ‘homework’. I think it’s important to be organised and have a list with work tasks just as I do in the office.
I like keeping in touch with the ladies in my team - it gives me that feeling of normality in these unusual times.
I think is also important to tell your kids that working from home should be just like working away. Let them know what to expect, but be flexible as well.”
Vicky, whose daughter Liv is also 5, is a big believer in the need for routine. She advises:
“Set a routine – although I am not following the school timetable. Mornings are learning time, with intermittent breaks & afternoon is outside time – a cycle/scoot/walk.
Have a learning space – we share the dining room – half of it is school for her (& her dolls) and the other half is my office.
Target setting – every morning we would pick what she would like to do for the morning and I would sit with her, check that she understands and then leave her to it – work time for me.
Variety is the key – I have printed off work books from school and educational sites; I have downloaded a maths app for my maths loving child; set colouring/art projects to send to grandparents & friends (we loved painting the rainbow) I soon realised the more options I had, that she could choose from and she felt a little in control.
Using the socials for celebrity fun– we started Joe Wicks but she found it a bit too much, so would prefer ‘dancing with Oti’ and laughing at all the funny videos.
Bribery – if the morning goals get achieved then she gets a prize – this started as sugar related but swiftly changed. Being an only child, and an extrovert, what she craves the most is time with us, so the bribe soon became that we will play a game together or do an activity together. We have turned her summer house into a café – although business is a little slow!
FaceTime is a wonderful thing – if she asked me a question that I was unsure of, instead of going to the encyclopaedia, I suggested that she FaceTime either Nana & Grandad or a relative who I feel would know the answer, a win on both sides.
School interaction – when she has finished a piece of work, set by school, we are emailing it to her teacher and receiving lovely feedback
And finally... don’t sweat the small stuff – luckily for me, my daughter loves learning, but when she’s not in the mood I am not pushing it. This is a stressful time for us all, so lots of hugs and cuddles are highly recommended.
Rosanne, has three young boys (Ryley, 9, Bentley, 6 and Austin, 4) and has seen this time as an opportunity to take stock and reflect at how much her boys have achieved:
“Working from home with my 3 little monsters is proving to be challenging but really rewarding. Seeing how my boys learn with the school curriculum is amazing. Doing PE with them every day is killing me, but we make it fun and all get involved.
I've always been certain that my boys are bright but having the chance to see it first-hand is really lovely. It has made me realise how grown up they've become, so it's really a bittersweet experience for me. Although saying all of this I have never had as much respect for teachers as I do now ... roll on back to school!”
Like Rosanne, many people are gaining a renewed respect for the work teachers do and I think that it’s important to pick up on that. What we are doing at home as parents right now is not really the same as officially ‘home-schooling’ (by choice) and nor should it be. As a HLTA in primary schools, and therefore having been in school on a rota over the last couple of weeks, I have been involved in the ‘teaching’ of the children of our wonderful keyworkers. I say ‘teaching’ very loosely as its really facilitating learning through play and that, I hope, is what most primary school aged children will be doing. The children have been doing lots crafting and cooking, investigating and exploring - all things that we parents can do with them at home, which they will learn so much from. The rest of the ‘home-schooling’ that is expected from us is just really making sure the basics are not lost when we all get back to whatever reality awaits us. Reading with our kids, doing times-tables, making use of those wonderful educational apps like Spelling Shed and Mathletics, as well as trying some of the activities that most schools have provided their pupils with.
My three oldest children are at secondary school (and my youngest should be preparing for his SATs right now), so my experience has been a little different to Vicky, Nelly and Rosie’s. If your world has become a balancing act of your work, schoolwork, (feigning enthusiasm while) listening to the latest about YouTubers, Xbox tournaments, learning TikTok dances, trying to stop the children from eating everything in the house within an hour of getting our (very precious) shop, shaving heads (and wondering why Your children are the only ones who haven’t embraced the opportunity to learn another language/instrument/rewrite and perform a heart-warming musical Von-Trapp style etc) then you can probably relate! We have been fortunate enough to have an incredibly supportive and very much present team of teachers who have set them curriculum work online (in all subject areas), provided them with a variety of resources and been available to help them. They’ve had regular contact with encouragement and useful advice -for the parents and children! They’ve been set a loose ‘timetable’ to encourage a variety of activities (but not until after ‘Easter break’) and told to take everything at their own pace. As parents we’ve been on hand to help them find the answers to their questions (thank you BBC Bitesize, Seneca Learning, Go4Schools etc.), read their work when they do it and encourage them if and when they seem a little lost!
Regardless of the age of our children, now is not really the time to worry about their grades or ‘progress to target’. The teachers, when the time comes, will pick up from wherever the children are. That’s what they do as professionals, it’s a part of their expertise and specialism! So, we just need to make sure they are happy, healthy and supported. That alone is no easy task when working from home, which is why we all need to find our own way, using whatever resources and advice suit us as a family.
So, while I make the most of the rare opportunity and privilege to sit in the garden as I write this, my kids are currently enjoying their ‘Easter holidays’. We've all got our own workspace somewhere in the house- it was too noisy having everyone around the same table! The kids are all (to varying degrees) self-motivated and settling into their own vague semblance of a ‘routine’. We’re all active everyday (we love you too Joe Wicks!) and make time to really talk to each other. We will (perhaps)pick up the pace a little after Easter but, currently, our focus is to be well, to play, to cook, garden, paint fences (!), make games together, whatever keeps our mind and body active. We find our own ways of working in this madness, including ways to block out noise for those vital video meetings! We get along with tasks, keep contact with our friends, family (I love Vicky’s idea of passing over the tricky questions to grandparents- I'm definitely using that one!) and our colleagues, and remember to keep making time to relax and have fun- looking after our mental health right now is paramount.
I hope you’re all finding ways to deal with kids and home-working that suits your family. Oh, and if anyone finds a way to persuade the children that cleaning is a necessary part of the ‘home-education’ curriculum could you let me know please. Asking for a friend.