Trying to effectively support the kids in homeschooling while working on your business or holding down a job can be a challenge, Cluey Chief Learning Officer, Dr. Selina Samuels, shares her advice for struggling parents.
If you’re wondering how much you need to monitor your kids’ homeschooling or how to juggle your work demands with your child’s needs, you’re not alone. Millions of parents around the nation are all in the same boat. While home learning can definitely be a challenge – and on occasion try your patience – it s possible to keep your kids motivated and get your work done too.
Try these tips for working from home while homeschooling your kids
Try working together
Many parents have been getting up at sparrow’s fart to get their work done in the wee hours of the morning so they can devote more working hours to helping their kids. While this can work in the short term, it’s likely not sustainable. Dr Samuels suggests adjacent workstations could be the answer.
“It’s very challenging to navigate your own work schedule without having to log on while everyone else is asleep. It’s a good idea for families to set up proximate workstations so that you can easily offer quick, “just in time” support without too much interruption to your own work. It’s also important that younger children are working in a public space so that you can glance across and see what they’re up to and what’s on their screen,” Samuels says.
High school kids come with different challenges
While kindergarten and primary school-aged kids may require a lot of our attention, homeschooling teenagers come with its own set of challenges. Samuels recommends for older students – particularly those who may be working on their own in their bedrooms – to establish specific points during the day to check-in.
“For example, you can sit down and have something for morning tea and look at what they’ve been doing in the morning, or perhaps ask them to teach you what they’ve been learning over afternoon tea.”
How to handle video calls
Many schools have introduced Zoom calls to support home learning and Samuels says it’s fine to let your children tackle these autonomously if they are able. You don’t need to monitor all their activity, all of the time.
“It’s better to think in terms of understanding and showing an interest in what they’re learning. That way your interaction with them feels less like surveillance and more like support and encouragement. This might be a good time to work alongside them so that you can maintain a level of involvement without appearing to be looking over their shoulder,” she says.
Keeping motivation up during homeschooling
While homeschooling might be putting pressure on you it’s also a challenge for their kids, particularly if they are getting little feedback. Teachers are under a lot of pressure during this time, so they might not be able to provide feedback to everything your kids are doing – but you can step into this breach to help maintain their motivation.
“No child will remain motivated if they’re sending work into a void or they feel that no one cares about what they’re doing. The best motivation is proper, useful feedback – feedback which is specific to a task, rather than related to the child, and focuses on process and application, rather than outcome,” says Samuels.
“For example, praise your child for the way they tackled a task or persevered with a difficult problem, not for the fact that they got the right answer.
Another way to motivate a reluctant learner is to use “first this, then that”. Establish that first we’re going to read the passage and answer the questions. Once that is done we will go outside and throw the ball for ten minutes. This isn’t bribery – it’s setting up expectations that will teach them to understand their responsibilities and how to set priorities.”
Putting some structure into the day
Samuels says structuring the day needs to be a collective family negotiation.
“I suggest that all members of the family input their meetings into a shared calendar (online or perhaps on a board or wall calendar with different coloured pens for each member of the family). Include your children’s scheduled school or tutoring lessons as their meetings. At least then you’re indicating the times when specific people should not be disturbed.
“If there’s more than one parent or adult at home, formally share the responsibility for being the key learning support person: one taking morning and the other afternoons perhaps, or each taking different days of the week.”
Even with the best strategies in place, some days are definitely more productive than others and Samuels says even without your regular commute, the working day may be longer and more complicated than usual.
“Try to use your child’s downtime – when they’re watching a movie or playing a game – as more productive time for you,” says Samuels.
The doctor also suggests if your’re struggling to prioritise certain learning.
“I recommend that parents prioritise the fundamental literacy and numeracy skills that are the foundations for all learning.
“You may find that the amount of time spent on schoolwork is not the same as the usual school day. You can cover more in less time and focus on specific areas of weakness and interest, rather than your children having to work at the same pace as the rest of their class.”
“Rather than thinking solely about how much time you spend on learning, I recommend that you set clear learning goals at the beginning of the day and then encourage reflection on these at the end of the day. Ask your child to explain what they’ve learnt so you can assess what needs to be done next and to promote a sense of metacognition (understanding their own learning).
Focusing on goals and learning, rather than time spent doing stuff, sets the right expectations and allows students to work at their own pace.”
Top 5 Homeschooling tips
Dr Samuels’ key advice is to do what you can and let go of the rest. Focus on core literacy and numeracy skills and don’t put too much pressure on yourself to emulate their school day.
Dr Samuels’ top five tips:
- Create as much structure as you can
- Maintain contact with your child’s teacher
- Set up proximate workstations so that you can easily offer quick, “just in time” support without too much interruption to your own work
- Seek out tutoring help when you need it
- Don’t put too much pressure on yourself
To learn more about Cluey Learning and sign up for online school tutoring support, head to clueylearning.com.au