Working at home with children is hard, I know because I took the decision to home educate my daughter when my business was in its infancy. There were no movement restrictions of course and I had the benefit of being able to take her out and about - on the other hand- there was no internet either!
In 1995, home education, like 'no reward, no punishment parenting', was considered ‘wacky and weird’! It was hard to find educational materials or support and research involved many trips to the library. I was grateful for the support of “Education Otherwise” who, 20 odd years on, still offer excellent advice and help.
At the moment, there is an overwhelming amount of educational aids and choices of courses out in the ether world. If I was home educating today, the on line 'noise', in terms of opinions of what parents should or should not be doing, would work me into a frenzy of anxiety about making sure I was ‘getting it right’ and ‘not letting my child down”.
I’m done with home education now – my youngest is 19 – so what do I have to share that might help today, in a Covid 19 world?
The end result is a confident, outgoing business woman, with a first class honours degree who is now a director of my company.
Her memories, like my own, are of a special bonding time and both of us look back on our two years of learning together with fondness. I’m not saying everything was perfect (which would have been hugely boring and offered no learning opportunities!) however we both grew as individuals and I learnt so much with her and from her.
Conversely, my own memories of being home educated, are of painful arguments and humiliation tactics. I was home educated for a year, aged 11, by my teacher mother, whilst travelling around Europe in a camper van. I know, first hand, that confined space and anxiety is not conducive to the brain absorbing information!
As an adult, I understand that it must be hard for a teacher to find their own child is unable to absorb the information they are delivering. Her frustration and annoyance was that I could not grasp maths concepts which she assured me "babies in an infant class would understand!” Her own memories are still of how ‘dense’ I was! I don’t doubt that my mother’s aim was to give me the best education possible and that her frustration was due to anxiety because back in 1970, home schooling was radical and, as a teacher, she felt obliged to succeed!
In these difficult times I really encourage you to think about what sort of memories you are making for both your child and yourself and consider what life lessons they are learning.
*Trust your child wants to learn. They may not want to do it in your particular way but, all humans want to learn and whether we realise it or not, we are learning something new all the time!
*Avoid getting ‘hung up’ about needing to have structure and a timetable. This works for some but not for others. My daughter liked structure and organisation (I’m rubbish at it) so devised a timetable for herself and co-opted me into it. My eldest son on the other hand, (5 at the time) preferred to ‘flit’ from whatever he was interested in.
*Try not to worry about the amount of time your child needs to be doing educational things. If you divide the number of children by the time available in each school lesson (say 30 children divided by 60 mins) you will get an idea of the amount of individual teacher time a child receives in a day.
*Make learning ‘child led’ as much as possible. Teachers are expected to do this for Early years, however my experience is that it works brilliantly for all ages. If a young person is interested in science then use that for every other subject. If your toddler loves tractors or Pepa Pig, use this to your advantage. Creatively work their key interest into art work, cooking, languages, science, counting, reading, building. Ask them for ideas if you can’t think of any. My daughter’s was ‘dolphins’ – we discovered loads about Dolphins!
*Practise the ‘positive angle’ and look for the learning by reframing ‘naughty’ as ‘curious’, ‘scientific discovery’ or ‘self development’. EG: A parent told me she was reaching the end of her tether because her two year old was throwing a ball repeatedly at a favourite lamp and frequently hitting it. For a two year old to have such accurate aim, repeatedly, is fantastic! The only bit of this scenario that needed to change was the target. The throwing and aiming suggests an Olympic champion in the making!
*Remember - children are NOT resilient. They deal with the situations they are put in because they have no other choice.