Freelance writer, mum and lover of all things Melbourne :)
Published March 24th 2020
Tips and Tricks from a Teacher and Parent
Home Schooling during COVID-19 As a teacher and a parent, I am looking at home schooling during the current situation over term two and possibly beyond. I know from friends who aren't teachers this can be an overwhelming prospect, so I thought I'd put together some tips and hints of how I'm planning on tackling it in the months ahead.
In Victoria, each school now has time to prepare students for online at home learning for next term. Many have already been doing this in preparation for a possible shut down and are aware some parents don't have regular reliable internet access so are attempting to prepare alternatives for this as well. This is a new situation for everyone, so be kind to the teachers who are trying their best and know that no one is expecting you to suddenly be able to teach your children for a full school day.
Boardgames and card games are great for numeracy and literacy learning (photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons)
I know everyone's situation will be different, whether you're trying to suddenly work from home or have lost your job or have different aged children. The majority of suggestions are free of charge, so they can be available to everyone. Also, your child's school will take the lead on this and there will probably be more official advice from each state providing support for parents in the coming months.
As a Primary Teacher, my tips are more focused on younger students and not those in the upper years of secondary school. Just take what you believe might be useful from this article in line with your own individual circumstances.
Breaking Up The Day
Even in the most academically driven schools, students aren't working from 9am until 3.30pm, there are transitions, eating and play times that break up the school day. Also, consider how much one on one time students usually get with their teachers when there are approximately twenty other children in their class. If you manage one to two hours a day on average, this would be more than enough given the circumstances.
Stop homeschooling being a slug by breaking up the day (photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons)
Consider structuring the learning day to fit around your own circumstances; you may consider replicating a normal school day with morning and afternoon sessions and break times (but with much less work time in between) or mixing it up altogether. It's important that students keep learning but expectations from everyone will be lower, the most important thing is that we all stay healthy and sane.
As much of the lesson content is likely to be delivered online, it's going to be important to mix up the way kids learn, so that they're not spending too much time on screens. This means worksheets, writing and reading via the traditional methods of books and pencils and hands-on learning where possible using resources from home such as blocks and other toys. Brain breaks will also be useful, adding in some time away from learning preferably including physical movement is beneficial for learning.
There are many resources already available online and some are more useful than others, look for reputable organisations and those linked with your State's curriculum. I'm sure your individual school will both provide you with and link you to some they want you to use and more will become available over the coming months. If you know of any others, feel free to add more in the comments section.
The Victorian Curriculum is available online, as in other states so you can look up exactly what content is applicable to your children's year levels from Foundation to Year 10. This will provide you with extra guidance as to what students are expected to learn in different year levels, though it may vary with individual students and your teacher will know this best.
Virtual excursions to cultural institutions around the world are a possibility (photo of Museum of Natural History, USA, photo courtesy of Wikipedia commons)
For online resources with direct links to the Australian Curriculum. The Victorian Government FUSE website is one teachers in Victorian often use, they now have additional learning from home resources, also the WA Government have released Learning at home, which provides you with resources for each year level and other useful links. There are also great Australian wide resource websites such as Cool Australia and Twinkl. ABC Education and SBS Educationhave some great Australian content and TedEd have some broader world content across many different levels.
All of our cultural institutions have shut down over this period but have provided both old and new content online that may be beneficial. As students will not be attending excursions for some time it may be valuable for them to virtually see some of our alternative learning spaces. Zoo's Victoria are live streaming some of their animals, the NGV have released their kid's activities online and also have virtual tours available, the State Library has a great online resource Ergo for secondary students, and Museums Victoria have launch Museum at home with virtual tours.
Many of these types of places around the world have had virtual tours online for years so you can google and explore anywhere, the Smithsonian museum in America or the Tate in the UK, for example, have some great online learning resources and activities.
Also, don't forget while your local library may be closed they have digital collections of ebooks, audiobooks, films and TV series, games and I noticed one of my locals is live streaming their story time program for the time being so it may be worth checking out.
While there are more formal learning options this may be a good time for the children to be involved in less formal learning or playing that can have great educational benefits as well.
Resources that you may already have at home like board games, blocks, lego, puzzles, packs of cards and other toys can teach children of a wide range of numeracy, literacy and social skills. Some time to have free time to be writing stories, drawing pictures, doing paintings, colouring in etc. is all great for creativity too.
Activities like cooking, chores and gardening can provide great learning opportunities (photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons)
Just as the teacher makes the greatest difference to classroom learning, one of the most important resources for students will be their families. Spending time with parents or siblings playing, gardening, cooking, making things, playing in the backyard and reading stories all offer great learning potential, wellbeing benefits and a valuable way to spend their time.
Where To Seek Help
When teachers return in Term 2 they will be your best source of information for your individual child and your individual school's circumstances and plans going forward, and the best person to assist your child's learning, just bear in mind they will be trying to communicate with multiple parents in an unknown new world.
There are lots of Australian based tutoring companies with qualified tutors, many of whom have online tutoring options or will be seeking to provide those alternatives soon. These could be valuable if you feel your children will find particular subjects difficult and don't believe you have the knowledge or skills to assist.
It may be valuable to keep in touch with other parents and friends both of your children and the family as a whole, both for mental health and practical support on learning. Check out Facetime, WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook groups and Messenger and new ways of communicating both with audio and video. If the shut down occurs for an extended period my most significant concern is my young child having social connection with others, this is one way to counter that.
Local libraries have books and other resources available online (photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons)
Overall, I'm going to aim to keep my children learning in whatever capacity I can, but will focus more on our family's health and wellbeing. I'll try some different approaches and ways of setting out the day but will be open to changing it as we go along. School holidays will remain holidays here and I won't have high expectations for anyone, just on being kind with each other and to ourselves.
There are so many great resources available if you need them but don't feel overwhelmed, be guided by your teachers and hopefully, some of the resources and suggestions I've made are of value. Feel free to add more in the comments section if you think they'll be of value to others.