Five ways to keep your kids learning, happy and healthy

Audience: Parents

Five tips on how to keep your children engaged, learning, healthy and happy while schools are closed.

!Important: Remember you can only do your best. Balance the pressures of learning with mental wellbeing, and have realistic expectations, you’re not a teacher and your home is not a school. 

1. Plan and prioritise: The core subjects

If you’re not a Teacher; have realistic goals as a parent, you’re unlikely to be able to deliver the whole curriculum! Concentrate on the core subjects – English and Maths. 

There are lots of resources out there to cover the rest of the curriculum in some way. The resource directory provides a bank of useful content. 

2. Opening your 'new school'

It's time for you to meet your new students.

Always start with why you’re doing something. It helps your child to understand the purpose of the task and enables them to understand what they’re being asked to do. 

Obviously each household's 'why' will be different: it could be "because when we go back to school, we need to be up to date with the learning," but just make sure you don't use "because I said so".

After starting with the ‘Why’ give your child an element of choice – this will really help to motivate them! You could start with, what’s the new school called and what’s its badge? Then, once they've done this, you can begin to have a discussion with them about what's going to be included in the curriculum. Spoiler alert: it's primarily Maths and English.

Include your children in the discussion around the different topics you cover and when you're going to do so.

Now you've managed to get your new class on board, it's time to set some school rules. This could include phone use, use of calculators, rules on talking over one another and reinforcing the "absolutely no children in the staff room" rule. Ever!

3. Establish routines

Both children and adults react well to a structure, especially in the morning. “Get out of those PJs and put on your new uniform”

Try to design the learning schedule together and if possible, allocate a specific work space for your new class - their new classroom. This way they can primarily associate this space with their learning, and will find it easier to switch off when in other areas of the house.

Try and maintain some links to their usual school experience, consider setting break times (encourage going outdoors where possible). You don't need to install a bell for this! Make sure you take into consideration any of your work commitments that may affect this if you aim to align your work with their learning time.

There will be ample opportunity in the evening for some downtime and having a clear routine will help to reinforce the value of learning time.

If you can co-ordinate this time with other 'schools' (families), the children could regain some of the social elements by communicating with others and having some virtual playtime.

4. Tips on teaching core subjects

When you were at school, who was your favourite teacher? Remember them? Even if you can't, this is your opportunity to be THAT teacher. Try to see it from your child's perspective: this will shape a lot of your decision making and allow you to optimise their learning experience.

Champion progress. Fortunately, your class is small. This is a great opportunity for your children to not have to compare themselves with their peers. Instead, they can focus on doing their best and beating their own scores.

A great way to monitor progress and understanding is by flipping the classroom dynamic. After you've covered a topic, swap over the student/teacher roles and get the children to teach you what they've learned. This is another opportunity to give them choice: they can plan their lesson and teach it however they want. Additionally, if they use a computer to plan their lesson, without knowing it you're forging cross-curricular links. Look at you go! 

A good teacher is reflective. Stubbornness is different to being firm. If things aren't working out, don't be harsh on yourself or your class. Try it and then feel free to tweak down the line if need be. Remember: there are no exams this year, so there's no need to 'teach for the test'. This is your opportunity to inspire your children and foster a love of learning.

5. Rest and self-care are important!

As you will find out, teaching can be a stressful job, and you're trying to do it in your home!. Staff and student well-being is now in your hands.

The school canteen needs to have brain healthy foods where possible, such as fruit and veg, lots of water and avoid sugar. Exercise is something we'd advise should place early in the school day to get your class energised, but not fatigued. 

A good teacher also leads by example, take time to relax, have a varied and balanced diet and do some physical exercise.

Journalling, meditation and breathing exercises can all help in reducing stress. 

These steps have really helped to maximise my teaching ability as a parent, they’ll also help you to stay positive when times are tough.

It's the dream job you never expected. Stay positive, don't be too harsh on yourself or your class, and remember... your best will be enough.