Sarah Zeqiri is a secondary English and Drama teacher and a teaching advisor for bubble. She has three children: 16 year old Ella, who’s been working hard for her GCSEs only to find out they’ve been cancelled, 10 year old Dexter, a Lego enthusiast who is autistic and has ADHD, and two-year-old Mabel, who is made of noise, Frozen songs and questions. Her husband Jamie is also trying to work from home.
We’ve all heard that the devil makes work for idle hands, but that’s especially true if they belong to a bored toddler or a kid with ADHD. This is true on the best of days but now many are wondering, ‘How on earth am I meant to deal with a house full of kids that I not only have to entertain, but educate?’ The majority of us never saw ourselves home schooling our kids, including the educators among us, but here we are.
Here are some tips to try and keep those mites managed and stop your wallpaper from being coloured in.
Set a schedule
I know, I know, but children are creatures of habit. At school and nursery, your children are used to a daily routine of activities, snacks, breaks and exercise. This doesn’t mean you’ll spend your day doing long division and Spanish verbs, but a mixture of academic and creative activities will keep their minds (and cheeky hands) busy and will help make sure they are tired out for bed time.
Here’s our schedule as an example but you should definitely make yours work for you.
Activities can be prepared in advance or you could let the kids choose from a selection of tasks each day. Giving options is a classic teaching (and parenting) trick: it allows the child to feel like they have some autonomy over their learning and they are more likely to engage.
To keep the schedule official you may want to set off timers or alarms for the start of each new session perhaps on a phone, Alexa or alarm clock. This has the added bonus of making the alarm the bad guy and any frustration is directed away from you.
Whatever you do, make it work for you and your family and don’t be scared to adapt it as you go. For example, you may want to add in time for any religious practice or medical routines.
Gather ideas: Join an online community
If you’re not used to providing the academic activities, reach out for ideas. Your school or nursery may have sent a list of topics and websites to use but there are some amazing Facebook groups cropping up all over the shop, both locally and nationally.
Teachers from all Key Stages, retired teachers, language experts, yoga instructors and musicians alike are offering resources, free video classes and live group sessions. Not only will this give you something to add to your daily schedule, but it will keep you connected to the outside world and far less isolated.
Here are a few other websites to look for Key Stage appropriate topics, activities and worksheets:
- The School Run
- Learning Through Play, an Early Years Foundation Stage Booklet
- Duolingo (languages resources)
- Khan Academy
Nutrition and Hygiene
When at home (or bored), children suddenly develop an appetite worthy of a bear preparing to hibernate and while this may be OK during the summer holidays, it is not ideal if you can’t get to the shops regularly or panic buyers have cleared out all the biscuits from your nearest Co-op.
To curb their snacking, make up a daily snack box for each kid in the house with a mixture of goodies. You could put in fresh fruit, a cereal bar, crisps, raisins or crackers but include the children in the decision making and use it as an opportunity to talk about nutrition. The deal is that this is all they get outside of meals for the day and once it’s gone, it’s gone.
Not only will this make sure your kids don’t end up just eating all of the beige food you own, it will avoid sugar rushes and crashes. Nobody wants to deal with a sugar-low tantrum whilst trying to do a conference call.
We also want to do our best to keep healthy whilst in isolation, so teach the kiddies about washing hands properly and keeping the home/teaching environment clean. Wash hands whilst reciting the alphabet or singing Frère Jacques and have the kids help wipe down worktops and door handles. This will help them become more aware of their own health and hygiene habits.
Exercise for the mind!
Kids are used to having time to blow off steam and run around. Activity that raises the heart rate is not only good for physical health but for mental health too as it releases endorphins, which make you feel happy. Kids are far more likely to be focussed on their academics if they’re had time to run around or wear off some of that bounciness.
This is all well and good if you have a garden with a trampoline and swing set, but I live in a first floor flat. We’re lucky to have a communal garden for a bit of scooter and Nerf gun time, but when it’s miserable (or busy with other people) it can be better to do something indoors. Try a star jump contest or look on YouTube for a workout you can all do together, such as Joe Wicks’ Kids Workout on The Body Coach TV or Cosmic Kids Yoga.
Lead by example
Let’s face it, this is going to be the trickiest one. Most of you will still be trying to work from home whilst juggling your littlies where your laptop (or just lap) will become the hottest toy on the scene. If you are working from home, you might want to make it clear to your boss that you have your kids with you and that they should lower their expectations of how much you can achieve in your working day. This will reduce work pressure and perhaps allow you to enjoy a bit of home time too.
There are many things that we all wish we had time for and now, due to social isolation, many of us will have time to do them. Did you ever want to learn a new skill? Perhaps a language, knitting or model making. Maybe you have a book you’ve been waiting to read for ages but just never got round to it, a puzzle you want to complete or Sudoku to master.
If your kids see you working on a new skill or activity, they will be inspired to keep learning too!
Just remember that you don’t have to do everything and that a day out to a secluded place (beach, woods or nature walk) are just as educational and beneficial as a worksheet on collective nouns, but hopefully these tips will help keep your kids’ minds from turning to mush – and you from you losing your sanity!