The COVID-19 pandemic has thrust families into a new way of working and learning. From home.
Now it is back-to-school time, and it is far from the normal of years past.
Family functionality for schooling-at-home during the crisis was reactive.
Looking ahead to September, there is a need for more responsive and prepared planning to help learners be successful and safe during the upcoming school year.
So your child is learning from home?
We spoke with homeschooling expert and parent Louise House to get some insights on how to plan a family learning environment. Louise has had decades of experience in “home learning” and with her husband, Harold, operates The Learning House, a leading homeschool supply company. Their business assists homeschooling families across Canada with a rich and meaningful learning curriculum for all grade levels.
Regardless of the ages of students learning from home, there are developmental and social elements to consider. Add to that, if parents are still working from home while supporting their child learners, it can become stressful unless planned with the ages and stages in mind. Louise reinforces that every family member should support each other’s needs and that can begin with understanding some basic principles. Here are Louise’s top suggestions to help kids and parents keep organized and be successful.
School age children need:
Children benefit from a schedule. Allow them to help create the outline. This gets them to buy into what they need to accomplish in a day. If you have a very active child who finds sitting a challenge, they may need tasks broken up with breaks. Let them know a few planned stretches and breaks are part of their day, such as going outside or enjoying a nutritious snack (recess at home). No one wants to feel their work area is a prison. Children need breaks when they become stressed or anxious to refuel their mental energy.
Children are thirsty for knowledge and rich in potential. Allow them to research and discover through games, apps and online searches – how things work, why things are the way they are and what’s the connection to me. Give yourself, as parent, permission to take a break from your work to equip them with engaging learning activities that spark their interest. Homeschooling mom Louise reminds us that the possibility of learning happens in the daily tasks of life. Seizing them is crucial. There are amazing websites and online tools available to enhance learning in this way. But education is way more than books or what we see on the internet. Building hands-on projects and doing science experiments are something almost all children enjoy. Don’t be afraid to make a mess and do some learning.
Defined learning areas
Whether it is at the kitchen table or in a designated room, learning spaces should be where you try to keep distractions to a minimum. This year many families are choosing distance learning. Children may need to have their own learning spot so they can be involved online while another child is also learning elsewhere. Kids may need to have a learning station in their room, even if they are younger, with the tools to be successful such as a desk and their own computer or tablet. Creating other spaces for reading, art, and physical activity is equally important. Setting a schedule and predictable times to enjoy the various parts of their day is vital. One quiet and particular spot designed for learning will reinforce in the child’s mind that this is the time and place to work on home learning work. Creating other spaces for reading, art, and physical activity is equally important. Children may not always do well in a regular chair so consider a flexible rolling type of chair or a different seating apparatus.
High school teenagers need:
Privacy and trust
High schoolers will want to and need to spend more time in their room, so allowing this will go a long way towards positive interactions. Their workload is much higher than younger children and they need a space where they can focus on the task at hand. Building trust and some accountability for social media distractions and Netflix will avoid conflict if they are discussed and established at the outset.
A good chair and workspace
High schoolers spend a lot of time working and may choose to do it slouched on their beds unless they have a workspace that reflects them and their likes. Chiropractors and physiotherapists have been busy due to teenagers working on the coffee table or the couch. Respecting teenage years’ growth and hormones will go a long way to keeping them safe and productive.
Managing their time and space is a challenge for teenagers. Equipping them with tools, helping them develop habitual routines for cleaning their space, and keeping track of their time are all essential to their overall success.
Post-secondary students need:
A good workstation
Post-secondary students are transitioning to adulthood and require many of the same needs as adults working from home. An ergonomic chair, a functional desk and adequate lighting are essential for studying and online lectures. And, just like their parents, young adults spend long hours at their workstations and need the same ergonomic supports including back, neck, and wrist supports.
Being a post-secondary student is not like a 9 to 5 employee. Class times and study periods can be scheduled day or evening and at critical times during the semester, such as exams and assignment deadlines, working late into the night is a regular occurrence. The best thing a family can do is support with flexibility, recognize the stress points for the adult learner and provide the elements they need during crunch times to allow them to be successful.
Managing their online courses, due dates and other responsibilities is a common challenge for young adults. Organizational tools do not need to break the bank, but a few well-placed investments can go a long way towards reducing chaos in the home learning environment.
A good workstation
If you are a homeschooling parent, potentially also working from home, remember to think about your functional needs too! Homeschool or “work from home” moms and dads also need a specific workstation to help them organize all the juggling balls in the air. Homeschool parents now look after their children’s education, manage their homes and many also work from home. They need a place to put all the brain-dumping and baskets for all the categories they manage.
To support all the home learning and home working, the key to success is to make everyone feel they have the right space. But parents also want their home to look and feel like a cozy home, not just a learning environment or office space with workstations everywhere. There are excellent functional pieces that provide both practical help for the homeschooling parent and blend in with your taste and decor. Done intentionally, you can achieve the balance of having a cozy home that serves as a great learning environment for all members but doesn’t look or feel like you are in the office!
A pat on the back!
Regardless of how you choose or were mandated to learn from home this year, it is not easy to manage it all. Make sure you take time for self-care and get support from educators and friends to navigate homeschooling. Mom’s needs are often considered last but are essential when the family is learning from home together.
In the end, efforts you make will help the learning be successful as well as build a strong foundation of family while working or learning from home.
Louise and her husband Harold reside in scenic Goderich Ontario where they operate The Learning House, a homeschool supply company. They home-educated their four children from preschool through high school. Three of their children had learning struggles. Louise has been helping homeschool families for many years and she counts it a privilege to minister to homeschooling families through curriculum counselling, speaking, blogging,(From House to Home), and encouragement on a one-to-one basis.