How to treat your home learning headache

It’s Coronavirus déjà vu; trying to effectively support the kids in home learning while holding down vulnerable jobs or helping multiple siblings at the same time. Cluey Chief Learning Officer Dr Selina Samuels shares her advice for struggling parents.

I have a job and two school-aged kids who are young enough that they still need plenty of help. How can I dedicate time to my work while monitoring my children? 

It’s very challenging to navigate your own work schedule without having to log on while everyone else is asleep. It’s a good idea for families to set up proximate workstations so that you can easily offer quick, “just in time” support without too much interruption to your own work. It’s also important that younger children are working in a public space so that you can see what they’re up to and what’s on their screen. 

What advice do you have for parents of senior students? 

For older students – and particularly those who may be working on their own in their bedrooms – establish specific points during the day to check in with them. For example, you can sit down and have something for morning tea and look at what they’ve been doing.

Our school has introduced online lessons to help support day-to-day learning. How much monitoring does my child need during a video call?

Rather than think in terms of monitoring children, it’s better to think in terms of understanding and showing an interest in what they’re learning. That way your interaction with them feels less like surveillance and more like support and encouragement. This might be a good time to work alongside them so that you can maintain a level of involvement without appearing to be looking over their shoulder. 

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I need some tips to help keep my children motivated…

No child will remain motivated if they’re sending work into a void or they feel that no one cares about what they’re doing. The best motivation is proper, useful feedback, which is specific to a task, rather than related to the child, and focuses on process and application, rather than outcome. 

For example, praise your child for the way they tackled a task or persevered with a difficult problem, not for the fact that they got the right answer.

Right now, our family schedules feel like a game of Tetris in which no one wins. How can parents structure their day to work and homeschool?

Structuring the day needs to be a collective family negotiation. I suggest that all members of the family input their meetings into a shared calendar (online or perhaps on a board or wall calendar with different coloured pens for each member of the family). Include your children’s scheduled school or tutoring lessons as their meetings.

You may need to accept that even without the commute, the working day may be longer and more complicated than usual. Try to use your child’s downtime – when they’re watching a movie or playing a game – as more productive time for you.

Even with the best strategies in place, some days are definitely more productive than others. What should I prioritise in terms of schoolwork and learning if we can’t get through it all?

I recommend that parents prioritise the fundamental literacy and numeracy skills that are the foundations for all learning. 

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