Dear Sarah: Bubble’s teaching advisor answers your homeschool questions

by | Parent Community

Since the start of lockdown, Bubble’s teaching advisor Sarah Zeqiri has been sharing her tips for making homeschooling work. It’s now possible to ask Sarah questions about any aspect of homeschooling through the Bubble app: just open live chat and start your message ‘Dear Sarah’.

Here are two of the questions she’s helped parents out with so far:

Dear Sarah, I’m having real trouble getting my 5 year old (year 1) to engage with doing any work, every task we sit down to complete she refuses to do, I’m getting so worried that by the time she goes back to school she will be really behind. My daughter is an end of August baby, and I get so concerned that the difference between her and her peers will be even greater. I’m not so concerned about the academic aspect, more about how that will impact her confidence. Also, in the present moment, our daily battle is becoming exhausting.

There are two things I want to talk to you about: expectations and progress.

I am terrible at running. This time last year, I decided to start running with my husband, who is already a good and well-practiced runner. My expectations of what I could achieve were high based upon how much he can do, and subsequently, I felt pretty rubbish because I couldn’t do anywhere near as much as I thought. But I got better. I went to the gym and I ran on the machines and one day I called him and said ‘I ran for 10 minutes straight without stopping!’ I meant that’s not great, but it was flipping good progress for me! A personal best.

As parents, we often have high expectations of our children and when they don’t meet all of those expectations, we worry about them being behind. Having a summer baby can heighten these concerns because we don’t want our younger children to struggle behind older classmates. But should we ever expect a child to be on the same academic level as children born almost an entire year earlier? Perhaps not. Which takes me on to my next point; progress.

As teachers, we like to see our students making continuous improvements. That never means that all the pupils in a class are working at the same level, it means that each child makes progress over the course of a month, term or year. Regardless of when they were born, what level they started at, we want to know that they are getting better and beating their personal best.

Your daughter’s refusal to work may be more out of frustration so take a break and don’t expect too much from her, maybe just one or two tasks a day, half an hour per task. Focus on her progress at home – talk about all the ways she is getting better without any comparison to children in her age group. Use rewards and make a fuss of work she has completed by putting on the fridge or FaceTime a relative to tell them all about it to build her confidence and make her more likely to want to keep learning.

Happy learners make great progress, regardless of where they are in the educational race, so celebrate your learning superstar!

Both my children (four and six) are being sent work from school and my husband and I are both working from home. Neither child can work unsupervised and it’s really hard to try to teach them different things simultaneously, especially as I don’t understand some of the teacher lingo myself and have to look a lot of it up! One child inevitably ends up sneaking off and finding a screen while the other is working, meaning they miss out on getting work done. Is there any point in trying to teach them at the same time?

Firstly, the work you children are being set shouldn’t mean that you have to provide constant supervision and it shouldn’t be causing you to have to research all the terminology first. It might be worth dropping the teachers an email and asking them to provide something different or at least make the tasks a little simpler.

Secondly, I do think it is best that your children work at the same time for the following reasons. 1) All sitting together without any screens or distractions makes for a good working environment. It mimics school and provides some kind of consistency. 2) It cuts down the amount of time you or your husband are spending on teaching time – particularly necessary if you are both trying to work from home. This shouldn’t be something that drags on throughout the entire day, otherwise, nobody will get anything done! 3) They will learn to be patient and take turns with your time. Usually, the ratio is 30 students to one teacher, and a teaching assistant if you’re lucky, so they should be used to waiting for help if they’ve been to school or preschool.

I would suggest that you set up a school workspace where work can be picked up and put down as need be; ours is the dining table. Set the times you can help with school work – perhaps you can do an hour in the morning and your husband can do an hour in the afternoon – but try to make it time that you can dedicate to the task at hand. Then follow these tips to keep them at the workstation!

Get sheets printed etc. before they ‘lesson’ time starts and make sure you understand what is expected before trying to explain it to your children.

Only give one instruction at a time. If you explain the entire thing to them in one go it will be overwhelming so do it in small chunks.

Once everyone knows what they both need to do first, set a timer and say they only have to work until the timer goes off. I always find that short timers work best for this, 5, 10 or 15 minutes at most. This is a psychological trick that makes them try harder for shorter periods of time and it’s the same reason many of us grown-ups work better to short deadlines.

Rinse and repeat until the half hour/one hour lesson is over.

Praise effort and attempts, even if the work was not ‘correct’ or it took a lot of cajoling.

Once you’re all into the swing of things, you might even be able to bring your work to the table too. Hurrah to productivity!