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How to support learning from home when you’re working

How to support learning from home when you’re working

We’ve all been thrown well and truly in the deep end right now. How are we supposed to support learning from home when we are, in fact, working from home ourselves? We’ve been doing it for a few days now and day one I. was. done. So done.

But I can’t be done. And you can’t be done either. Because this thing is just getting started. The kids are going to be learning from home for weeks, maybe even months. So, day two I took a deep breath, did some research and put some systems in place. Days 3 and 4 have been much, much better. I hope these tips help make learning from home easier at your place too.

This should help too: 40+ free online resources for older kids


11 tips to support kids learning from home

First of all, keep in mind that we aren’t teachers and this isn’t forever. If you don’t have the time or skills to provide a robust home curriculum for your child, don’t sweat it. We are living through extraordinary times. If it turns out to be weeks worth of excess screen time, then so be it. Some kids will be self-motivated to get on with things, others won’t be able to muster the energy to open a book. We get what we get. Please, don’t beat yourself up.

Most of us have work obligations to attend to every day and it’s impossible to closely monitor what the kids are up to at any moment. Talk to them about giving their best. The responsibility to make this work is really on them, sad but true.

1. Start with the school

Some schools will be providing every class online, some will only be able to offer a few. Check with your kids and the school what the set up is. With a bit of luck, Google Classroom and Zoom, your older kids should be able to work relatively independently most of the day, following their regular timetable.

If your school hasn’t been in touch with information and instructions, send in an email to request clarification. Try not to call the school as they are currently inundated with confused parents (and who can blame us, but I promise, it’s not the fault of the individual school).

2. Keep to a timetable

If your school is running their regular timetable, this will be all done for you. If not, try to work out a timetable for your family that covers the basics. Divide the school day into each subject and give your child access to resources that will help them in that subject. If you have the time, it would be great to schedule exactly what the kids should be studying each day. But most parents will not have the time (or possibly even the skills) to do this. A broad outline works just fine during these challenging times.

It all starts with the routine: How your family can survive self-isolation without killing each other

3. Ban things outright

I’ve banned the word ‘stop’ in my home. Otherwise my three just scream ‘stop, stop, stop’ at each other all day every day, like that’s ever the way to bring something to a close. I think I must have overdone the ‘stop’ training when they were little. Anyway, it drives me bonkers, so right now it is a word that is in the freezer.  My point is, you will have your own stupid-thing-that-drives-me-to-the-brink and now is the time to outright ban it. Gone.

4. Carve out some space

In our experience, learning from home is noisy. There’s the Zoom conferencing. There’s the discussions over Facetime with classmates. Even with headphones on, it’s noisy. So if you can find a private, dedicated space for each person to work from, that’s ideal. Of course, in some homes the only possibility is everyone around the dining room table, and that’s okay too. Just get some rules in place for noise levels and do remember to pack away school stuff at the end of the day to provide some closure.

At home learning tips to get by

5. Pack a lunchbox

Maybe you’re relishing a few weeks off lunchbox duty, but I found I missed it. I am not always free at the kids’ school lunchtime to whip up a sambo. I’m sticking with packing them a lunchbox the night before, so all of their tomorrow food is taken care of. Then I don’t have to think about it again.

Great ideas for lunches here.

6. Stick with bedtimes and wake times

It’s still a school day, so school night time bedtimes are on around here. Once school holidays roll around, we’ll let up on the timings. Until then, we’re sticking with getting as much sleep in as possible and waking at our regular time in the morning.

7. Set some projects

When kids are learning at home it makes you realise that there’s a lot of down time in classes. All the time it takes to move from one class to another (high school), settle the class, transition from one activity to another – your kid doesn’t have that at home. So there will be times where they are idle and most likely moaning about being bored.

Have a few ideas up your sleeve for them to work on within each subject to keep them occupied. You’ll find loads of ideas here, but to summarise per subject:

8. Get off screens at break times

During break times, the kids need a break from screens. Online learning is a killer on the eyes. Get them to write a list of things they like to do that don’t involve a screen (some will struggle) and get them to pick one off the list to do each lunch time. Many of the activities should be active. The only exception to the no screen rule should be using Zoom to conference call a bunch of friends to eat lunch with.

Remember to go outside during learning from home

9. End the day

Create some rhythm in their day by having a little ritual to end the school day and transition to the afternoon. This could be as simple as coming together to eat something small for afternoon tea. Or something more elaborate like heading out for a walk around the neighbourhood. You could even just play a simple music tune that everyone loves and encourage a bit of dancing. Whatever it is, do something. Otherwise, the days just blend into nothing.

10. Check on the kids

We made sure the kids know that their learning right now is their responsibility. Their teacher will be expecting them in the Zoom classroom for each lesson, ready to go. Homework is still being set, as far as I can tell. So, my kids can pretty much get on with things. However, I am still checking in regularly. 

  • To see if they need any support
  • To see that they are actually working on school stuff
  • To help them feel less isolated

Take it from someone who has worked from home for nine years: it can be a long, lonely day by yourself at your desk.

11. Screens down, go outside

Kids will be sitting on their butts in front of a screen all day for school. They don’t need a load of extra butt-sitting-screen-time outside of those hours. My kids DO NOT like this rule, but I think it’s necessary to stop them turning into the size of a barn during the COVID-19 crisis. So, it’s screens down after the school day and outside for at least a couple of hours. My kids are going for long walks, exercising with our punching bag, swimming in the pool, shooting some hoops, taking a guitar outside to practise, weeding the garden (thanks kids), etc. 

12. Stay in touch

Your school should be in touch regarding their plans and what is expected of your child. We’ve had emails from the majority of our kids’ teachers, but not all. Don’t hesitate to contact individual teachers if you’re not sure of the work your child is expected to do. If you don’t think online learning at home is working in some subjects, you also need to let the school know. Our kids only get one chance at this year of education, so we need to support them to make the most of it.

Feature image by bruce mars; Girl at computer image by Tran Mau Tri Tam; skateboard  by shawn henry

The best tips to support kids learning from home