Registered Clinical Psychologist Photini Panayiotou, PhD
With current coronavirus safety measures closing schools indefinitely, parents are left with the Herculean task of homeschooling their children. Whilst private and public schools are legally obliged to provide equitable learning opportunities for all their students, schools may vary in the quantity and quality of the school work and activities they provide. If you’re one of the hundreds of parents who are now homeschooling your children, here are some guidelines to help you keep you them engaged in learning.
Set up designated areas for learning.
Have one or two designated areas in the house for learning. This could be the child’s bedroom, the kitchen table, your home office, the living room, a quiet patio etc. Have your child pack up any material they might need (e.g. textbooks, coloring pencils, scissors, pencil sharpener etc.) into a hamper or backpack so they can easily find them when they need them. Make sure the learning areas are hazard-free, and let your kid know that at the end of any learning activity they are responsible for tidying up the space.
Adapt to your child’s learning style.
Different students will learn best in different learning environments. Some children may prefer to work independently, whilst other may struggle and need more structure and guidance. Keep in mind that online learning could be challenging for your child, as it requires a number of self-regulated learning skills. If your child learns better in groups, try setting up a Skype or Zoom study session with one of their friends or a fellow classmate. If, instead, your child learns better when they work independently, provide them with a quiet space to do so.
Create a time-table
Set up a general daily routine for your child. Set out time for writing, literature, math and science, independent reading, and physical education. You can devise an hour-by-hour chart of learning activities to keep your child on track. For older children, you can consider letting them set up their own schedules. It’s ok to be flexible; you can let your child sleep in a bit later in the morning or spend more time in a learning activity them seem to enjoy. In order to keep your child engaged, make sure you alternate academic time with creative time.
Solve real-life science problems.
Our homes are filled with opportunities to practice science skills. You can do a lot of simple science experiments at home (e.g. make a sundial, try the potato power experiment, build a volcano with baking soda and vinegar, make dry ice bubbles, grow plants from pulses etc.). Moreover, you can help your children practice their math skills by giving them a budget and letting them figure out what you can buy from the supermarket. Likewise, you can devise simple math problems to let them calculate the quantity of ingredients (e.g. sugar, flour) they need to use when baking.
To ensure that your child keeps up with their literacy skills, make sure that they read (or are been read to) a minimum of 20 minutes a day. This does not necessarily include just academic texts, but rather any material your child might be interested in: comic books, novels, science-fiction books and sports, fashion or gardening magazines. You can do this activity anywhere in the house – sitting on a couch or the floor, standing up, or laying on the grass outside.
Most importantly, try to see this time together as an opportunity to inspire a love for learning!