- 1 My child can’t manage all the work that is set – can we give up?
- 2 ‘Live lessons’: my child doesn’t want me to sit in and refuses to participate
- 3 Every few minutes, my child seems to lose interest
- 4 The longer it goes on, the less motivation my child has
- 5 I don’t know anything about the bar method of maths – I’m a parent, not a teacher
- 6 I’m struggling to stay patient and we’re having arguments
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Boris Johnson has said England’s schools won’t be going back before March, and for most parents that means no letup to worksheets and Zooming in their own kitchens and sitting rooms. The second lockdown has brought new and harder challenges for families, with expectations rising about the amount of work children should be doing at home. The latest government guidance states that even children as young as five must have three hours of remote education every day, and that should include recorded teaching or live lessons as well as independent work.
Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, piled on extra pressure by telling parents to complain to the inspectorate, Ofsted, if they are not happy with the amount of home learning their child’s school is providing. As a result, some schools have increased the workload. Many parents, especially of primary school children, feel anxious. I’m a parent of a nine-year-old girl and, like many of my friends, there have been moments during the current lockdown when I have shouted at my child about home-schooling, and gone upstairs to cry.
The good news is that schools have more insight into the problems parents are facing than last time around. I asked some teachers for their emergency tips to keep families going until March, or beyond.
My child can’t manage all the work that is set – can we give up?
Alexandra Stevens, a primary school teacher in a deprived area of Bournemouth, says that, in general, parents at her school are “struggling hugely” as lockdown goes on. “They feel they have to do all the work we set, but they don’t. My desire is that the child has a go at each English and maths assignment every day. Some days the child will be tired and feeling low. If they were in school, we would give them a little break and then try them again. So should parents.”
Remember that “if your child does not understand, cannot write perfect prose or does not ‘get it’, the teacher wants to know so they can do something about it”, Stevens says. “It is not helping anyone if the lockdown learning is wonderful, but the child cannot reproduce that in school. We are not judging you, or your child.”
Andrew Beavis, deputy headteacher of Copthall secondary school in Mill Hill, north London, says parents should not suffer in silence. “Communicate with the school. Schools and teachers are incredibly accommodating and remarkably creative when it comes to finding solutions.”
‘Live lessons’: my child doesn’t want me to sit in and refuses to participate
“It can be petrifying for a young person to answer a question in front of their peers for fear of them getting the answer wrong,” says Beavis. “If you add the possibility of a parent, or worse still, a sibling, listening in to the lesson, this has the potential of making even the most confident of students clam up.”
He recommends letting children do their live lessons by themselves, instead of sitting next to them or overseeing their contribution. “One of our jobs as a teacher is to make sure that students feel comfortable to make mistakes,” he says. The best way to support your child is to give them space, away from you, to throw themselves into their lessons.
Every few minutes, my child seems to lose interest
Remember, it is normal for children to be quick to find something difficult and give up. “Encourage them to tackle things in small chunks and try to look at tasks in different ways,” says Beavis.
Most teachers advise that children take a break every 45 minutes or so, to aid concentration. Encourage them to switch off, have a chat with friends and get a drink or a snack. “It’s really important that they punctuate their day with regular short breaks like this,” says Matt Webber, assistant headteacher of Richard Challoner secondary school in Kingston upon Thames.
Johnoi Josephs, a humanities teacher at the Archbishop of Lanfranc academy in Croydon, agrees: “Even adults struggle to concentrate after looking at a screen for 30 to 40 minutes. Allow your child to have generous breaks.”
Dan Morrow, CEO of Dartmoor multi-academy trust, recommends getting them outside. “Go for walks together, where the focus is on how they are feeling, not what they are doing.”
The longer it goes on, the less motivation my child has
“Be understanding that lots of children won’t be finding this period easy and they probably aren’t being difficult on purpose,” says Webber. To keep motivation up, “try to keep encouragement and incentivisation as your key strategies, rather than threats and punishments”. For example, rather than saying, “if you don’t get this done, I’m going to take your PlayStation away”, say: “let’s get this work done and then you’ll be able to go on your PlayStation for an hour”, he says. “The message is similar, but the tone is totally different. It’s less emotionally charged.”
Beavis says bad sleeping habits don’t help. “When we first went into a lockdown last March, students were regularly lying in until lunchtime. This affected their work. I gave up counting the number of emails I received from students at 2am or 3am asking me questions about the work. Get your child up each morning at a set time to allow them to prepare for school. Don’t let them sit in bed and log in to join a lesson while still half asleep.”
I don’t know anything about the bar method of maths – I’m a parent, not a teacher
If you are faced with a question you don’t understand and can’t explain to your child, then “just like teachers have had to do, be honest, and say: I don’t know, but we can work it out together”, says Tumi Olaoshun, history teacher at Sacred Heart language secondary school in Harrow. And remember that Google, YouTube and BBC Bitesize are your friends, she adds.
“Use the situation as an opportunity to ‘normalise’ struggle – show them it is OK to be stuck,” says Webber. “The challenge is how to get unstuck. Encourage them to show some resilience and initiative.”
Beavis agrees: “Avoid trying to pretend that you understand. A good response is: ‘what do you think the answer is?’. Help them to unpick the topic and tease out what they do know. Then work together to use the resources available to try to shed more light on the topic.”
I’m struggling to stay patient and we’re having arguments
Teachers recommend you look at the problem from the child’s perspective. “When we find something easy, it can be difficult to understand how anyone could possibly find it a challenge – that’s when impatience can quickly kick in,” says Beavis.
Bear in mind the work does not have to be perfect, says Webber. “It’s fine if there are mistakes. In fact, it’s better because then teachers can see where they need to help your child.”
Whatever you do, do not turn home learning into a battleground, he says. Instead of putting pressure on children, offer them support and encouragement, providing incentives, rewards and praise. “This should still involve you having clear expectations but that isn’t the same as applying pressure.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Learn to say ‘I don’t know’: teachers’ tips for parents weary of lockdown 2 schooling | Home schooling