Many parents are facing the prospect of homeschooling their children for the first time. Some schools have provided full online programs, while others are providing guidance and resources. With little time to prepare, it’s not always easy for parents to remain calm during COVID-19, even before you bring homeschooling into the equation. You might be trying to keep up with your normal day-to-day and never have imagined you’d be faced with homeschooling your children.
However, it doesn’t have to be so stressful. We’ve collated our top tips for homeschooling during COVID-19, with some creative ideas for keeping your children learning in some form or other.
9 tips for homeschooling during COVID-19
1. Use resources provided by your child’s school
Many schools have made educational resources available online during COVID-19. For some schools, this might involve online lessons with your child’s normal teacher. Other schools have uploaded resources you can work through at home in your own time.
School teachers are experts. Even though these are unusual circumstances for them too, they do know how children learn, as well as what’s appropriate for their age and attention span. So, make the most of what they’re offering, and remember that when your children do get back to school, they won’t be expected to have covered lots of additional material on their own.
If you want extra resources, check out what your own or another state government is collating, such as:
- Learning resources from across the nation (Government of Western Australia, Department of Education)
- Early Childhood - Learning from home (Victoria State Government Education and Training)
- Support learning from home (NSW Government)
- Learning Together at Home program (Government of South Australia, Department for Education)
- [email protected] (Queensland Government)
2. Figure out what technology you’ll need
Again, your first port of call should be your child’s school or your local government. They may have information about what kind of technology you’ll need set up at home. Perhaps they want to host lessons over Skype, Zoom or Microsoft Teams. They might ask that you have software such as Adobe Acrobat Reader or Adobe Flash downloaded.
Beyond what your child’s school asks you to do, think about the set up your children have in your home. Older children may need a mouse or keyboard to work comfortably. Younger children might benefit from some new learning apps that make school work feel like fun. You might see if your school can loan you an extra iPad or other equipment, with appropriate social distancing, of course!
3. Think about where your children learn
When lessons do have to come inside, give some thought to the best space for your children to learn. Creative activities like art or music making might work well in your child’s normal play area. However, if you’re hoping they’ll focus on spelling or maths from a textbook for a while, it might help them to concentrate if you’re able to set up a space away from their toys or other distractions.
This isn’t practical in every household, especially if you have adults trying to work from home too. But it’s something to think about if you can. If nothing else, you could have tidy up time during music or drama so that when it comes to calmer activities, the day’s earlier, more energetic activities are out of sight, out of mind.
4. Take all subjects outdoors
We all know how great it feels to let off steam outdoors. As parents, it’s sometimes even better knowing our children are burning some excess energy too. When it comes to running your own homeschooling lessons, let the great outdoors take some of the creative work off your hands by providing inspiration for all subjects.
- Art: Take crayons and get your children drawing the scenery.
- Maths: Count the types of trees you see and work out percentages.
- English: Write poems and stories inspired by what you see.
- Music: See what songs your children know about the things you see outside, have them make one up, or listen to the sounds you hear and see how you can recreate them at home.
- Drama: Challenge your children to improvise on a topic of your choice, with props like sticks, leaves or umbrellas.
5. Consider a daily homeschooling schedule
This is another tip that you have to make work for you - it might not be something you can stick to because of your own work commitments. However, think about whether your children (or you) would benefit from a schedule. It might help children who are feeling confused and uncertain know what to expect when they get up every day, You’ll be able to plan ahead if there’s a particular activity you think is extra important or that you really want to help your child with.
Your homeschooling schedule doesn’t have to be as strictly defined as a school timetable. You might just determine that you’ll do some maths on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. Or that you’ll end every day with an outdoor lesson, or a creative subject.
If you know you have a regular work meeting you have to dial into, you can schedule that time as free play and let your children know that they have to work hard until that time, then they can choose how to spend the next hour.
6. Tour international art galleries, museums and zoos online
Why not mix it up while you have the chance? Instead of memorising spellings all day, maybe now’s the time for your children to learn about famous works of art, or animals they’ve never seen before.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many famous institutions have opened their doors for free, offering online tours at any time of day.
Why not take your children to:
- Melbourne Zoos, Sydney’s Taronga Zoo or Zoos South Australia
- The Louvre, Paris
- Sistine Chapel, Italy
- The British Museum, London
- The Guggenheim Museum, Amsterdam
- The Great Wall of China (with The China Guide)
- Yosemite National Park and Yellowstone National Park
Who knows what interests you might spark.
7. Use free online books for reading and writing
Your children might not be practising their reading and writing with their teacher, or bringing home new books to read. But you can still keep feeding their imagination, even if you’re busy with other things, by taking advantage of some online options.
- Audible have made loads of their kids audio books available to stream anywhere, anytime.
- Michael Rosen is reading some of his stories, reenacting Shakespeare and talking about story planning on his YouTube channel.
- Oliver Jeffers is reading one of his stories every day during the week and talking about what went into creating them.
- Puffin Books have sorted their YouTube offerings into age groups and also have podcasts and creative videos too.
Celebrities such as Jennifer Garner, Tom Hardy and Amy Adams are getting in on the act and have recorded themselves reading popular stories. Even Frozen’s ‘Olaf’ is reading stories. It’s well worth checking to see if your child’s favourite author, celebrity or character is doing something online.
8. Look into alternative local childcare options
For some parents, it’s just not practical to be homeschooling their child every day. Those working in essential services might be away from home just as much as normal and can’t commit to a homeschooling schedule.
If you’re struggling to juggle your work commitments, and your school isn’t open, look for alternative options like out of school hours care providers. Every state, local area and organisation is different, but even if the school is otherwise closed, OSHC providers might still be operating during COVID-19. In many cases, they have a higher than normal staff to child ratio, so children are actually getting a great range of activities to keep them entertained.
9. Remember: You’re not a teacher
No matter what activities you choose for homeschooling your children during COVID-19, the most important thing to remember is that you’re not a teacher and no one expects you to be. You can’t replicate the lessons your children get in school.
What you can do, though, is keep your children safe, and keep their curiosity and creativity alive with new and different activities. It doesn’t matter if they don’t do normal school lessons, now’s the time to teach them about all sorts of new things, like the world outside your home, healthy baking recipes or maybe even a new language! There are plenty of online educational resources to help you, no matter what you decide to bring into the home classroom during COVID-19.
Extra support during COVID-19
Online and offline, there’s plenty of expert support to help you and your children get through the COVID-19 pandemic.
At Camp Australia, we’ve collaborated with Andrew Fuller, a leading clinical psychologist we work with to equip our educators with the right resources to ensure all children regardless of their needs are cared for and nurtured in an OSHC setting.
Unicef also have some suggestions:
- How to talk to your children about coronavirus (COVID-19)
- How teenagers can protect their mental health during coronavirus (COVID-19)
As does the Telethon Kids Institute in Perth:
Camp Australia OSHC services are still operating across Australia. Check our list of Camp Australia schools for locations we offer. All of operating services are practising appropriate social distancing measures and following hygiene recommendations.