The past few days I have spent a fair amount of time talking to various parents about issues they are having with school at home.
Problems with school at home
Primary school children having tantrums over work. Secondary school children being expected to spend 6 hrs a day in online lessons. Children not sleeping or eating well because they are stressed from school expectations. Parents unable to do their work because of the amount of school work being sent by schools. Parents unable to do their work because the school has sent nothing.
In all cases, the answer was to reduce the pressure.
Reduce the pressure on the child = reduced pressure on the parent = everyone is happier and mental health suffers less.
Schools are in the most impossible position right now. To be fair, they always are, but even more so now.
I’m not one to lightly defend the education system – it failed my older son, but what I can see is that “you can’t please all of the people all of the time”.
And this is particularly true right now.
Yes, we are all weathering the same storm, but we are all in unique circumstances so the impacts are very different from family to family.
What do parents need from school at home?
Some parents might want or need their children to be getting a full day’s timetable delivered online with extra work on top – pretty much a standard school day with homework.
Some might be trying to cope with an unsympathethic employer who is not flexible and doesn’t give two hoots that you now have children at home who need attention.
Some might be trying to keep their business afloat as well as do school at home,
It’s utterly overwhelming anyway – and then your school heaps on the pressure to complete this worksheet and that worksheet.
You just want to crawl into a dark hole and come out when its “all over”.
But that’s the thing. It’s really never going to be all over. The world from 2019 is a world that is gone forever. We are working in a world which feels all wrong. We are struggling, all of us, to make sense of the new order and we can’t get our heads around how things might be in the future.
There’s no “getting back to normal”.
But luckily, humans can adapt to new situations quite well. Once you have gone through the different stages – shock, denial, anger, blame, depression & anxiety, acceptance and problem solving.
But for now, we are, many of us, in angry mode or depression or some other place of low mood.
Having schools piling on the pressure is detrimental to everyone’s mental health.
So, just say “no”. It’s a simple little word that takes back control.
What’s your school going to do if you don’t turn in the worksheets? Sack your kid?
Right now the Government cannot afford to alienate the population, so it’s very unlikely they are going to issue fines etc.
So, if your child is kicking off about the work and not enjoying being at home as a result, take control.
Let your child lead
Let your child lead – they already know how they learn best. And they have already demonstrated that to you – so take advantage of it.
Observe your child at play – whether that’s with their toys, outside or online. How do they consume new information best?
Perhaps they like to watch videos and listen at the same time, or maybe they watch videos with the subtitles on. Perhaps they like podcasts or they simply prefer to learn by doing – by getting their hands dirty, so to speak. Maybe they like to learn through conversation.
Once you have that information – play to their strengths.
Use their preferred way of learning to help them engage with new learning. And reframe your mindset as to what learning really is.
So what is learning?
Learning is the acquisition of new skills, knowledge or behaviours previously unknown. There is learning in everything we do to some extent. Even when we perform a task that we have done many times before, we are, perhaps often subconsciously, making tiny adjustments to do it better than the last time – we are learning, we are adapting.
So, don’t think of that video game as being a waste of time – think of all the things your child is learning as they play. Perhaps it improves hand-eye coordination, or keyboard skills, perhaps even spelling. Maybe they need to collaborate with team members to defeat the enemy – that’s team working, team-building, negotiation, communication, influencing and leadership skills. Perhaps there’s a story behind the game that teaches them about a period of history or elements of science.
Many parents fail to see the massive value in video games and tear their hair out trying to take away the one thing that is helping the child to regulate their emotions at this difficult time.
Let your child draw, paint, read, make music, bake, sew or anything else they really enjoy. It will make them happy and right now, that’s the most important thing.
My plea, (as a mum who has experienced this when I removed my child from school) is don’t. Don’t take away the thing your child values most. It will not help. It will lead to even lower mood and affect your relationship adversely. I found this book useful.
Most kids are not spoilt by gaming. They really aren’t.
Sure getting them out for some exercise and Vit D is important, but please parents, don’t kill yourselves trying to force activities onto your children just because you think you should be “doing more” or your school is kicking off because little Johnnie hasn’t filled in his 2 times table worksheet.
Even the children who are in school are not following the curriculum at the moment. Most kids will need to catch up once schools eventually re-open. The DfE will have to figure out how to manage the disruption to this school year and next and further education colleges, universities and employers will have to take the circumstances into account.
There is no getting back to normal here – we have to move forward and it’s going to take time to unravel all the many implaications.
If school at home is painful, stressful or just downright dull, just STOP.
Do stuff you will enjoy. Make memories that you want to remember, not ones that make you sad.
Find the joy in just slowing down and being kind to yourself and your kid.
Now is the time when you can adopt a new way, if YOU choose.
You can be in control and you can make it work for your family. You are the expert in your child, so you choose.
If this resonates with you and you’d like to talk about how you are getting on, please do get in touch via my social media at www.facebook.com/letmewrite4u or comment below.
You can also read my other blog about home education here.