Homeschooling advice from The Prebendal School

| April 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected us all in so many ways, from the impact it has had on businesses to pressures of home schooling and wellbeing concerns. In order to help navigate some of these issues we have invited professionals from various sectors to provide their own expert advice and support, covering topics including finances, marketing, home schooling and mental health.

Read this wonderful blog from The Prebendal School about homeschooling and how the emphasis should be on self-care right now…

Remote Learning is one of those phrases that barely existed, certainly not in the context of children’s education, before this year. Never before has Social Media been so alive with waggish memes and quotes, such as “It takes a village to raise a child but a vineyard to homeschool one”, resounding with exasperated parents across the globe. 

Of course, the term ’homeschooling’ is a bit of a misnomer for most families at the moment. What parents are doing is supporting their children as they are taught remotely by teachers from their school, not providing the content themselves. A bit of an explanation here and there is needed but, on the whole, pupils should be getting on with tasks with minimal input from parents.

Is their education likely to be the same as they would have had at school? Well, no it isn’t, and it cannot be. Lessons in school involve a combination of group work, sometimes a session in the outdoor classroom, perhaps some time spent researching at a computer, or, for city centre schools like us, a quick walk around the Bishop’s Palace Gardens and a trip to Chichester Library. We’ve certainly missed our Assemblies in Chichester Cathedral, and our trips to Pallant House Gallery and The Novium. There are so many resources in our wonderful city of which none of us are able to take advantage at the moment.

The same content simply cannot be replicated remotely, so teachers everywhere have spent their holidays redesigning the curriculum and desperately looking for ways to make the learning as simple as possible for parents. Results are, naturally, mixed because this is a situation in which none of us have found ourselves before, and all schools are working hard to iron out any problems and make improvements. While scientists and medics are working hard to flatten their particular curve, educators are doing all we can to make sure ours remains on an upward trajectory.

These are challenging times for teachers. They are trying to provide content for parents who are tech-savvy, not tech-savvy, who are trying to work from home, and those who have been furloughed, are suffering from the stress of having lost their job, or are wondering how on Earth their business will survive.

Some parents have seemingly stockpiled reams of paper, yet others have none. Some do not have printers at all. Some would prefer it in pdf format please, others would like it in Word, and some would prefer that it is emailed directly to them rather than via the Virtual Learning Platform. There may be multiple children at home, one using MS Teams and the other Google Classrooms, and maybe there aren’t enough rooms in the house for everyone to be in their respective Zoom meetings that have miraculously all been scheduled for the same time.

Meanwhile, parents are trying to do their jobs from home as well as try to get little Freddie’s Maths (which they didn’t understand at all, by the way), hopelessly scrawled on the back of the only remaining fragment of paper in the house, uploaded so that it can be marked. Oh, and the internet has just gone down. Again.

The potential strain on both sides of the webcam is, understandably, immense. The mental, physical and emotional energy we are all expending is extraordinary.

Teachers’ overriding concern for pupils at the moment is that of their mental health. If one of their charges gets behind in one or two aspects of their academic work, that can easily be remedied later and is no cause for concern. If a child becomes anxious or starts losing their self-confidence, this can become a much more difficult problem to unpick later on. Please always put your child’s wellbeing first, and support them as positively as you can if they are struggling with work.

Our young people are being amazing at the moment. As well as missing their school chums and teachers (because we’re fun to be around too), some will be missing their extended family. Their routines have been disrupted and the structure to their day has disappeared. They can sense that their parents are stressed, worried, or perhaps scared. How can we counter these issues?

It’s an overused analogy, but certainly appropriate here: make sure you put your own oxygen mask on before helping those around you. If any parents are struggling with supporting their child, there is nothing wrong with taking some time out, putting them in front of the television for a few minutes and making yourself a cup of tea. By putting yourself first, you will be in far better shape to support your child who is most certainly feeling unsettled because their whole world has changed in an instant.

·      Put yourself first.

·      Put your child a very close second.

·      Do not worry if work is not completed.

·      If you are having a bad day, talk to someone.

·      Try to keep your child in some sort of routine, including regular exercise.

·      It’s fine to fail sometimes. All of us are doing a bit of that at the moment.

In all of this, please don’t forget your child’s phenomenal teacher. They are currently working hard as a Curriculum Developer, IT Support Technician for pupils, IT Support Technician for parents, Therapist (for pupils, parents and each other). When they aren’t doing any of those things, somehow they are also finding the time and energy to teach lessons and mark work. On top of that, they are trying to survive the impacts of a pandemic with their own families, or perhaps even without their own families. They need your flexibility, support and understanding just as much as you need theirs.

It certainly does take a village to raise a child, but it takes a pandemic to make us see what really is important for those marvellous, adaptable, precious children in our lives. You’re doing a great job; if anyone deserves to be “Star of the Week” in your house, it’s you.

Louise Salmond Smith

Head of The Prebendal School

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