We’re social distancing or isolating, we’re worried about our families and our communities…and now we have to be teachers too! Here are some ramblings, musings and top tips from me. I am a science teacher (primary and secondary), a mum (2 boys: Year 7 and Year 8) and had a rather wonky educational journey myself.
What is education anyway?
Probably easier to ask what is not education. What activities could you possibly do in your house that don’t involve your child learning something new, practising a skill, discovering, exploring or creating? I can’t think of any! Yes, even the PlayStation. Although I’m refusing to believe my boys claims that Fortnite is so educational that they don’t need to do anything else. Helping with cooking, laundry, gardening are all learning. Are you working from home? Do your kids actually know what your job is? Now’s the time to find out! My kids are going to be practising their classification skills by doing my filing this afternoon 🙂 Yes, children need to learn to read, write and add up. So we can do a bit of that but it doesn’t need to take all day.
What if they get ‘behind’?
In ‘normal’ life, families move house and children change schools all the time. Different schools use different schemes of work, teach the curriculum in a different order, use different resources and even have different exams. Children coming into a new school may re-learn things they’ve already done or miss out things completely. They adapt, it works and they’re OK.
Home education is a valid and increasingly popular choice. I’ve worked with many home ed families over the last couple of years and I’ve learned so much from them! There are as many reasons for choosing home education as there are home educating families. For some, it is a short term plan, for some it grows into much more. I’m sure that there will be many families who will fall in love with the freedom of home education during the school closure and will continue when this is all over. And many children who have chosen home ed, then move into school and they adapt, it works and they’re OK.
Through my teaching career I’ve worked with so many children who have English as an additional language. Some in the very early stages of learning. They spend some time picking up the language while not taking in much of the subjects being taught. They have some catching up to do but they often get the best results in English in the end! They adapt, it works and they’re OK.
My own education was a bit wonky as my parents were slightly nomadic artists (being a scientist is my rebellion!). I didn’t start Reception until mid-May as we were living in a caravan in France. I attended two different primary schools due to a house move. When I say different schools, I mean DIFFERENT schools! The first was a small church school which focussed entirely on the Bible, old-fashioned handwriting and the three Rs. The second was a whole new world…we did creative things, science, DT, projects and learned handwriting that people could actually read. I was so behind on all of these things but way ahead on the ‘boring academic’ stuff. We moved to Spain when I was just starting Year 9 and then had a couple of years off before starting Year 10 a year late. I never did Year 9 at all but I’ve got a degree now so I think it’s fine. I adapted, it worked and I’m OK.
These are all examples of children having to adapt and catch up when they enter a new class. Our children will not be doing that. They will not be the one child trying to play catch up. All of the children who are currently at home and go back to school whenever they reopen will have learned different things. The teachers will adapt, it will work and they’ll be OK.
I don’t have time to be a teacher!
Many of us are now trying to juggle work, doing shopping for self-isolating relatives and neighbours, doing all the usual household stuff and then having to add teacher, school cook, children’s entertainer, school nurse and teaching assistant into the mix. Possibly for more than one child of different ages. Sounds impossible! But really it’s not. Firstly, don’t panic. That’s very important. You’ve got this. Secondly, you don’t need to be ‘teaching’ from 9-3 every day. Teachers don’t do that. By the time you take out registration, assemblies, break, lunch, tidy up time and the amazing amount of time you have to allow for small people to get coats on, it’s about 3-3.5 hours a day. And it’s not all writing and maths! A chunk of that is PE, art, DT, project work, ICT, science, history and geography. You can still do all of these things but they don’t need to involve sitting at the table and being ‘taught’. Also don’t forget that a normal maths or English lesson usually consists of the teacher doing ‘standing at the front teaching’ for about 5 minutes. The rest of the lesson is devoted to children working independently, practising their skills and being supported and guided by the teacher. In an hour, with a class of 30, a bit of simple maths shows that each child gets an average of 2 minutes direct support from the teacher. Just imagine how much you can get done in a hour of focussed work together.
Top tips to get prepared
- Don’t panic. I know I’ve mentioned this already but seriously, don’t.
- Let the school take the strain. Right across the country, teachers are working their socks off to provide activities that your child can do at home. Don’t re-invent the wheel. Wait and see what they come up with first. Then use it if works for your family, adapt or look for other ideas if not.
- Be a hoarder! No, not toilet rolls and beans. Keep interesting bits of recycling, you never know what engineering project might come out of that. In 7 years running science camps, we have discovered that the most popular activities are often not the ones that involve the very expensive rocket launcher or the ones that use resources that I was still laminating and cutting out at 3am…it’s the ones that involve a big box of junk and a challenge!
- Don’t declutter just yet. It’s very tempting to use this time to have a good clear out but don’t jump too soon. Old toys that are no longer played with might just get a new lease of life now the children have more time. Old clothes can be a textiles project. Many things might be repurposed in ways that won’t imagine but our children probably will!
- Google is your friend! Even specialist teachers are not afraid to look up answers to student’s questions, we are all still learning. You do not need an encyclopaedic knowledge of every subject to help your child learn. We live in a time when all the information in the world is at our fingertips, don’t be afraid to use it.
- There are so many resources out there to help home learning. Don’t try to do them all at once! Keep an eye on the Fab Science website, Facebook page and Facebook group. I’ll be sharing lots of ideas, resources and experiments and in the group you can share your own too.
Most importantly…enjoy it!
When have we ever had such an opportunity to learn new things with our children? To allow them the space and time to follow their own interests? This is an uncertain time but also one full of amazing possibilities.