Working with families with children with SEN has put extra demand on teachers to be all-encompassing, as well as their families who now find they have to juggle their already demanding work and lives with their children stuck at home during another COVID-19 lockdown.
I have put together some tips for teachers and parents to ‘Keep sane and carry on!’ These are shared in two parts; read on for tips 10 to 21 – the previous tips 1 to 9 are published in an earlier blog article.
10. Active breaks
Make sure your child gets active and stays active. If it’s breaktime, ensure they have a drink and snack – whatever they would normally do at school. Give them their free time to play with each other, or chose what they would like to do for 15 minutes. Keep them off the screens – remember it’s a school day and they are already getting extra screen time.
Try to vary what they do each break so it’s not the same old – but try to include activity. If you can get them outside for ten minutes, great. If not, put on a Joe Wicks’ Workout. Try also YouTube Shake Breaks and Brain Breaks that you can sing along and dance to. Workout with your kids – you too need the exercise!
11. Family activities
Get your children and yourselves out as much as possible:
- Online workouts
- Local park
- Wildlife park
- Basketball courts
There’s so much you can do easily at home or locally. Check out what is available on your doorstep and what you can travel to according to Lockdown rules for your area and Tier.
At home you could install a basketball or netball hoop, buy table tennis nets for your dining table or invest in a folding up table (& outdoor). Play with your child. Get on your bikes, follow cycle routes. Get your wellies on and walk through the mud and puddles in wilder parks. Follow different footpaths, enjoy nature, explore your vicinity – even if it’s looking at houses, trees or birds, these are all mindful activities.
12. How can I get my child ready for working online?
Set up the day, the expectations, the structure, the location. Have they somewhere suitable to work, free of distractions but where you can keep an eye on them? Perhaps the family sit together at the table to work?
For live or recorded sessions, and watching video clips or videos, ensure each child has their own ear phones; that they know how to log on and access their lessons or learning packs, how to download them, and how to upload any work. This will alleviate pressure on you. Chances are, they will be ready to start ‘school’ before you are!
13. My IT skills are not great
If you are not sure about accessing online learning yourself – ask the teacher or school to talk you through it or send instructions. Some schools will give you a personal tutorial and offer support to parents. Set up sessions with your child until you are confident they are working responsibly. Ensure they can close down and log out properly, and shut down the device so it can do its updates.
Often children will remember more than you and can help you or become your teacher! There are many free online IT courses, that even your children can do, for example, Touch-typing – an essential life skills for everyone!
14. How can I get my child to work to time?
If your child takes too long on tasks, ask the teacher to set time limits on work (something that seems to be overlooked). Work with your child to agree what time they think tasks will take, establish how they will tackle the tasks and use timers! Your child can then set the time for each task which may help them focus better. Also, they are more in control. Use a kitchen timer, your phone or buy an egg timer. This should help your child with planning their time, learning to use it effectively and taking responsibility.
With teens, planning their work and answers is essential for exams. I find they love mantras such as, ‘Fail to plan, then you plan to fail!’ They get it. It hits home, but improving work speed takes practice.
15. Show an interest in whatever your child does
Even if you are not, or, have better things to do! Children understand you have many pressures but show an interest in what they are learning and what they need to do. Acknowledge their efforts and good work, even if you don’t understand it – especially science or maths. Ask questions, get them to explain it and link it to life outside. Teaching others is good practice for them to understand their subject better and achieve more at school.
16. How can I get my child enthused about their school work?
Work with your child, as it’s important you are aware of what they are doing. Ask questions, get them to explain things to you. Help and encourage them to find out more and develop an interest in something they enjoy – set a project – there’s so much online they can investigate or order some books. Although you want to switch off at the end of the day or whilst relaxing, discussing their work can be topics of discussion later or on walks. It will help with better parent-child dialogues too.
Set targets with rewards. Not achieving the target, earns no reward, so a child will soon learn if they, for example, want screen time, they need to complete specific targets or tasks.
Acknowledge if something is challenging for your child. Remember how you tackled it back in the day? Teach your child how to approach a challenge and get it or make it a win!
17. Do I need to ensure my child completes their school work?
It depends on the school and what have they said to you? Did they send you letters? The school needs to know what and how the child is doing. I would advise that you or your child uploads their work by the deadlines, or request an extension if it is feasible.
Unfortunately, some teachers are very strict and will not accept this. In all honesty – are you submitting your work to the teacher or your child’s work? If the teacher thinks your child can do it, then they will move on. If they know the child cannot do the work, or there’s too much work being given by teachers, then the school can address it. You may need to communicate with the relevant teachers first, before communicating with department heads or the school head.
18. Use your support bubble: who is in your support bubble?
Could they help you out and supervise your child whilst you work? Consider a family member or friend moving in to help out with the children and routines, meals and walks. Even if this is Monday to Friday. Or a neighbour you can partner up with for activities and downtime?
19. Live and work holistically
No matter how stressful life is at the moment, try to consider your family’s wider needs, beyond the school and work schedule. Everyone needs their own time and space, time with their parent, downtime, healthy eating and exercise and FUN! Rotate spaces and get outside!
Enjoy your children and value this time together. Share with them the frustrations – maybe they can come up with solutions? How can everyone in the family do nice things for each other? Have family circle time and show each other appreciation. Have a day off and make weekends a treat. It’s a long staycation!
20. Parents may need tutors too!
Tutors are not always for children. We can offer support coaching for adults too. Sometimes a couple of sessions make all the difference to help you help your child. Many parents feel they cannot help their child with their work and need guidance. We can take you through the curriculum, identify where your child is, what you, we and your school can do to help your child. We can help you understand the exam board requirements and study skills your child needs to develop. We can also teach you these skills they need to practice or if you are considering taking a course. Sessions can be in person, by phone, online and based around your schedule. Please talk to your tutor first. Or speak to Joanna who can find someone to work with you. Ask and we will answer! Those who don’t ask don’t get (the help they need)!
21. You are doing great!
You also need to recognise that you are out of your comfort zone too with work, managing other children, household duties and now homeschooling!
Remember that you are not expected to be a teacher – that’s the teacher’s and the tutor’s job to help enhance your child learning! But you do need to be present as much as possible to help your child not run the risk of falling behind at school. So give it your best shot, but be kind to yourself if the timetable doesn’t work, or your child resists one day. Your child is also going through lockdown. They are missing their friends and their structured life.
As mentioned in point 19, you need to do family stuff as well and incorporate fun activities into their lives so it’s not all work, work, work. Being present for your child and wanting them to succeed will help you both during homeschooling more than you think! You’re doing great!