Globally, life has stalled and we’re learning how to adjust to a new (hopefully temporary) way of living. The change is visible, with shops, workplaces and schools all closed, and for families it means supporting children’s education has never been more challenging.
Education cannot be put on hold and we can be thankful for the internet and the incredible e-learning platforms available, which allow us to maintain some academic continuity during this difficult period. However, e-learning and home schooling isn’t easy and adapting to a whole new model of education can be confusing for everyone: parents, children, and teachers included. From a child’s perspective, they may struggle with significant adjustments to their routines that interfere with their sense of structure, predictability and security. In addition, they’re away from their friends, surrounded by distractions at home, and missing out on extra-curricular activities to relax.
So how can you as a parent help to make e-learning a success?
Without wanting to add to any pressure you’re already feeling, don’t underestimate the role you play in your child’s success. You provide the key ingredients to allow your child to flourish and have a positive impact on their performance.
Here are some tips:
Consider limiting your children’s mobile phone or gaming devices until their school work is done. Yes, we are learning from home but this is not a holiday. Try to keep the structure and rules of school present in the home environment.
Suitable work space
Children work best when they are in a quiet, comfortable and dedicated space for learning. Ideally this will be a different place to where they normally play games, watch television or sleep. Keep in mind that children will be in this space for a lot of hours each days so be careful to provide appropriate seating.
Monitor your children’s level of interest and engagement.
We all (adults included) zone out when we’ve been staring at a computer screen for extended periods of time – check if they are taking notes or if their eyes are following along with the screen. If not, allow them to take a break and then encourage and help them to re-engage. Remember that the ‘school day’ will be shorter at home – expecting six hours of solid school work in this current situation is impossible and unnecessary.
Remember to ask questions at the end of the lesson to make sure they have been engaging with the content. If there is an issue, please contact the teacher, their reasons for disengaging could have been simple, such as bad audio, poor connection or unhelpful camera angles – all these things can make a difference.
Ensure that your child is having time away from the screen and encourage them to get up and move a little – 30 second dance parties, a little walk around the garden, or an age-appropriate workout such as Joe Wicks PE class etc. This also includes planning family activities away from the screen – UNO or a cards tournament, charades or board games. Remember not all learning done in school is in workbooks and whiteboards, a lot of learning is done on the playground/common rooms too.
Children will be missing the interaction with their peers (just as we adults are also missing our friends and extended social circle). Encourage them to video call their friends outside of ‘school time’ to keep them from feeling socially isolated.
Remember that we are dealing with being alone – check in with other parents and share ideas of what they have found useful or effective. It is important that we all work together – family, friends, teachers, school to make learning effective.
Be kind to yourself
Above all, don’t forget that you are not superhuman! You will also be affected by the sudden change in circumstances. COVID 19 has thrown you a curve ball where now you are not just parents – you are parents trying to juggle your own job PLUS the role of a teacher.
Written by Kim Henderson, psychologist at the German Neuroscience Center. Kim is a UK trained psychologist, specialised in working with children and young adults. During her university education she volunteered as a psychologist for ChildLine and later went onto to work at Manchester Children’s Hospital in the Oncology department.