Friday, 17 April 2020

10 tips for learning at home without losing your mind

Disclaimer - These are my tips, gleaned from years of trying to overcome my own frustration from school holiday boredom. They are in no way endorsed or shared by Queensland Department of Education, or any teacher I work with.

Tips for learning at home, without losing your mind.


It feels like the world is a little bat shit crazy right now.

I have never wanted to leave my house more than I do right now, because I can't.

And as we face a school term of learning at home, everyone is feeling pressured and overwhelmed.

This is a huge learning curve for everyone.

The staff who have been setting up the online learning portals thought they had more time.

The teachers who have been busy this week creating videos and worksheets, and learning to use the learning portals thought they had more time.

The admin staff who have been fielding phone calls from parents who don't understand what is happening have been out of time for weeks, and have been helping as best they can, because they don't know either.

Take a breath.

Your children aren't going to fail this year.

It's just that 2020 is going to look different for our students.

And this is a good thing.

We all need to adjust our expectations of what learning is right now.

We are not home schooling our children.

Home schooling is a completely different learning experience for children.

We are supporting our learners at home.

Here's how we can do that.

1 - remember, we are not teachers.


I once thought about becoming a primary school teacher. It's one of the reasons I loved being a Scout leader so much. But I'm not a teacher. I struggle to do homework with my kids, so learning at home will be no different. Know your limits.

2 - a school day is not 6 hours of learning.


When we wave the kids goodbye as they enter the classroom each morning, they are not learning for every minute of the day. There's group time discussions, lunch breaks, walking to specialist lessons, students asking questions, even toilet breaks. Learning at home will only be 2-3 hours for early learners, 3-4 hours for senior learners, and 3-4 for junior high schoolers. Senior high schoolers will have different loads, depending on the subjects they're studying.

3 - use the support of teachers.


How many times in your life have you complained that you don't know how to do maths homework? Now is not the time to try and figure it out yourself, so use your resources! Teachers are still accessible to students, just in a different format. Encourage your learners to ask teachers for help, and then set the problem aside until you've heard from your teacher (it may take some time for them to respond!)

4 - have a routine for your day


Even if you aren't trying to juggle working from home and learning from home, a routine will help set the tone for the day. My kids love having a routine, even a loose one during the holidays, it helps them to know what might be next.

Here's our loose routine:
  • 7 - 8am breakfast, dressed, chores
  • 8 - 9 walk around the block together
  • 9am - 10am personal or school work *
  • 10am - 10.30 morning tea
  • 10.30 - 11.30am personal or school work
  • 11.30 - 12pm lunch
  • 12pm - 2pm quiet gadget time or finish school work
  • 2pm - 3pm afternoon tea, chores
  • 3pm - 5pm outside/free play time
  • 5pm - 6pm dinner, chores, evening walk
  • 6pm onwards evening routine
Routine helps children feel in control.

* I'm using the term personal work with my kids to say that mum needs to do her own stuff, so might close the door on you. Be flexible with this part.

You might be interested in this post - 10 self care tips for the stressed mama

5 -  lower your expectations


We've all seen the meme "I thought I didn't have a clean house because I had no time, but that isn't the reason." You are not going to get everything done, no matter how long this lasts.

You are not going to starting learning that language.

You are not going to clean your entire house.

Lower your expectations, and do the best you can with what you've got.

I have a struggling learner, something I've never experienced before, and while part of my brain is dreaming of having focused one on one time with her, the reality is my sanity won't cope with that. Instead, I'm focusing on small bursts of time dedicated to working with her, and doing our best. If all we can manage is ten minutes a day, then that is better than she's been getting from me, and we've done our best.

6 - expect mistakes in the first week


Learning how to make videos, live stream classes, answer emails, view live stream classes, running out of printer ink, learning how to upload homework sheets online. All things that way may encounter in the first week of school.

Remember, this is new for teachers, schools, students and parents. Everyone is learning how to do it at the same time. Take a breath, and move on to something else if you can't figure it out right now.

7- have a communal work space. And individual areas.


I am an introvert. But sometimes I need to be around people.

Your children probably feel the same way.

There will be times when sitting together working is exactly what your learner needs. And there will be times when they need to work on their own to get things done (or just have time away from siblings.)

8- remember that learning doesn't always come from school work.


Crafting, board and card games, reading together, even watching a movie and talking about the characters all counts as learning. Try to include one thing every day that can be "not school" learning.

9- put away the school work at the end of the day.


Just like we need an end to our day if we work outside the home, we will need to clearly end the day when we're learning from home. Use manilla folders to keep worksheets for subjects together, and try using baking trays to keep projects together. Then set everything aside in the same place very day, so it's easy to find tomorrow.

 10 - don't beat yourself up


"Unprecedented" might be the noisiest word in the world at the moment.

No one knows what to expect next.

Our politicians, medical staff, teachers, business owners, everyone is in the dark about what will happen next. They can only do their best based on the information they have right now.

And learning at home will be exactly the same.

We are not teachers.

We are parents.

We can only do what we can, with what we've got right now.

Bonus Tip - take time for yourself.


Everyone's at home. They're eating more food, asking more questions, having more emotional outbursts, and we're all losing. our. freaking. minds.

It's ok to close the door and not let anyone in for a while.

It's ok to take care of you during this time.

In fact, I'd go so far as to say that it is required now more than ever that you look after yourself so that you can continue looking after your family.

Hopefully in 5 weeks time we're allowed to let the kids return to school, and this will all just be something to laugh about with our grandkids.

Good luck with your learning at home experience!
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