Tuesday 17 March 2020

Why You Don't Need to Replicate School at Home During the Coronavirus Crisis

We are living in uncertain times due to the coronavirus pandemic. The world is going into lockdown to try to prevent the spread of the virus. Schools are closing and that means that many parents are having to think about homeschooling their children for the first time.

I look on social media and I see many parents panicking about how to teach their children at home. They worry that they will not be able to teach their children and that their children will be missing out on their education. Well, as a homeschooling mother, let me reassure you that you do NOT have to replicate school at home. Here’s why:

You do not need to do school work for 6 hours a day

What many people do not realise about homeschooling is that homeschooled children do not spend six hours a day sat working at a desk. The thing is, when you homeschool, things get done a lot quicker than they would do in school. This is because there are less children and, therefore, less distractions. Also, the children have more one-to-one attention. The parent can spend more time working with each child than a teacher would do at school. Just think, in a one hour lesson at school, the teacher may spend 10-15 minutes introducing the lesson and 10 minutes at the end rounding it up or clearing up the activity. That only leaves around 35 minutes for the children to complete the lesson. If there are 30 children in a class the teacher can only spend about one minute with each child. Homeschooled children get much more individual attention and can, therefore, complete work in less time.

We normally spend 2.5-3 hours each morning doing school work and a 20 minute break is included in this. We start off with morning time where I read picture books to the younger ones and then a chapter from our readaloud to the older ones. We also recite ayahs or surahs from the Quran during this time. We end morning time with some discussions about language. I often pick a sentence from a favourite book to discuss and we spend a bit of time playing with the language.

Next, we cover maths and English, the latter in the form of copywork. We then have our morning break. During break time we do composer study and sing a folk song. After our break, we do our language lessons. At the moment we are learning Turkish and French. Then we get into our main lesson for the day which could be a history or science-based topic, or nature study. Above all, make learning fun and don’t spend too much time looking at the clock worrying that you should be spending more time on something. Shorter lessons work better for a lot of children.

Learning happens anytime, anywhere

The main advice I would give to parents who have been affected by school closures during this time is to forget the textbooks and spelling tests. Learning can happen in the simplest, everyday tasks. You do not need to try to follow a school timetable or fully schedule your days. Take a few minutes to think about the skills your children will learn by going about their daily lives.

Baking is a great activity that leads to so much learning. Mathematics skills needed to measure out ingredients and English skills are needed to read the recipe. You can read more about how children learn through baking HERE. Gardening is another great life skill. Growing your own vegetables, learning the science behind how plants grow or designing your own vegetable or flower patch are all excellent learning opportunities. Reading good books will lead to interesting discussions where you can explore language and ideas and it may inspire your children to write their own stories or create a play or puppet show based on the narrative. These kind of activities will reduce the pressure on you because you will know that your children are still learning even without sitting at a desk.

 Use this opportunity as a chance to connect

When your children attend school for six hours a day, five days a week, they are spending a lot of time away from you. Therefore, cherish this time you have together by using it as a chance to connect through having fun, not fighting over algebra. I know the government place a lot of emphasis on how much children will miss out on by not attending school for a week or two, but the truth is they won’t be missing out any more than any other child in the same position. All children are off school so all children will be missing the same things. Therefore, the schools will simply have to suspend learning and continue from where they left off once school reopen.

Usually, when children come out of school to homeschool we say that they should undergo a period of deschooling. This refers to a period of time when they do not do any formal work and they just relax and settle into life at home. The period of time for deschooling is said to be one month per year that they have been at school. So if a child has been at school for three years, they should deschool for three months. It may surprise you that children are going for such lengths of time without formal learning but, as I mentioned above, almost every daily activity includes opportunities to learn.

At this time of global panic and hardship, let’s try to remember what is important: our health and our relationships. Let’s do what we can to nurture these things. Forget about the school work and focus on connecting with loved ones. Nothing is more important than that.

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