We survived 14 weeks of home learning!
And if that isn’t worth shouting from the rooftops to celebrate then I don’t know what is.
I said “survived” but actually what I really mean is that we thrived.
Yes, my kids really thrived during home learning.
They didn’t question it for a moment, and were ready every morning to get started on their work.
A lot of this has to do with their teachers, of course, who carefully and thoughtfully provided the work every week and were on-hand to help us when needed; the school was amazingly supportive throughout.
But a lot of it also has to do with how we approached it as a family, with a heavy dollop of luck thrown in for good measure.
We have two primary school children, age 7 and 9, and here’s what we did to make their home learning so successful.
1. Created a workspace
As soon as lockdown and school closures were announced we set up two desks in our living room for the kids to work at.
We were lucky that we had two old kid-sized tables kicking about in the shed that we could re-purpose as school desks.
The kids were immediately excited about having their own special places to work at, and rather tellingly, the desks have remained in place even though school has now ended.
2. Made a schedule with the kids.
Right from the very first day of home learning we planned a daily schedule. We had school from 9 until 2, Monday to Friday, roughly mirroring their regular school schedule. Sometimes we worked a bit longer and sometimes a bit less, depending on how things were going.
That might sound like a lot of hours, but that included PE, breaks, lunch, reading time and art as well as everything else.
Using the materials that the school sent us, I made weekly menus of the work my kids had to complete, but I gave them control in choosing which work they did each day.
This avoided any arguing about what they had to do, because they had autonomy over it, and they could see what they needed to achieve by the end of the week.
3. I got furloughed.
We were lucky that I got furloughed, which meant I could give the kids my full attention and really focus on their home learning instead of trying to juggle my own work at the same time.
My wife has been working full-time from home ever since lockdown started, shutting herself in the dining room every day 9-5, leaving me to take care of the kids.
For the first two weeks of lockdown I was working from home too and trying to manage home learning and it just wasn’t productive. I was perched on the sofa with my laptop, and a child either side of me at their desks, all of us failing to work effectively.
So I was very thankful when my boss called to say “furlough starts Monday.”
I felt like I had won the lottery!
4. Used my teaching knowledge.
In the normal world I work as a teaching assistant in a college, and have a background in education so I know how to help and support children in their learning.
I just never expected to have to use those skills with my own children.
However, it has been a huge advantage to know how to motivate them, how to supplement lessons, and how to engage them in their work.
Without that knowledge this would have been a very different experience for us.
So yes home learning was a very positive experience for my family. The kids even told me they preferred it to going to school!
Having said that, I would not like to home school my kids all the time. They have missed the social side of school, and I am no substitute for their professional teachers.
I will look back, though, at this period of home learning with great fondness. It has been a unique time, and I got to spend a lot of unexpected quality time with my children.