- Tips and expert advice
How to survive lockdown with kids at home
In this guest blog we invited teacher and parent Laura Sutcliffe to share her tips and support for parents with kids at home during this lockdown.
We are here again in lockdown, and I'll be honest even as a teacher I didn't see it coming – and certainly not for this long. Firstly, whatever juggle you're now faced with, you can do it. So far everyone reading this has a 100% record of surviving lockdown and home learning.
Over on my Instagram account, I have had lots of questions from worried parents, unsure of how best to support their children, especially those that aren’t keen to engage with the learning the school has sent. The first thing I would say is to keep in contact with the school. If the learning they are sending seems way off beam, or your child is visibly struggling, do contact them for support and advice – that’s what they are there for. But showing your child an attitude of perseverance, of determination, of saying to them 'This is hard, yes, but we are going to have a go and do our best' is also really important. If it gets tough, have a break, do something else, get outside, but do try and go back to it and have the accountability that we have to give it a go.
Another popular question was around having much younger children at home. I can only imagine how tricky it is to support primary aged children whilst also looking after a toddler.
Remember that all children benefit from and learn through play, so try to combine the two when you can. Having something like playdough at the table or colouring for a toddler even for a short period of time, can keep them occupied for long enough to set up the older siblings and get them started. Remember, just do what you can – no teachers are expecting you to do it all, all of the time. A good balance of some maths, some writing and reading across the week will be fine.
There is no such thing as 'behind'. Children’s learning does not go backwards, they don’t un-learn things – no matter what social media or the press will have you believe. This was very evident in my own classroom after the first lockdown.
Teachers will worry about ensuring pupils are where they need to be when school returns to normal, and some goal posts may need to change, but this is not something to worry about amidst a global pandemic.
Here are my tips as a primary school teacher, mum of two kids (age 7 and 9), and from my experience from last time...
1. You don't need to do it all today. Or even this week. Take time to process and plan.
2. Your children do not need to be learning formally all day (certainly those of primary age). A couple of quality hours is better than a whole day's slog. At school we have more children so it's less intense and takes longer. Younger children probably have a maximum attention span of 20 minutes (though remember, all children are different). Break it up, tackle it in small chunks. Children below the age of 6 will spend much of their time in school in 'child-initiated learning' which is essentially structured play. This will help if you have much younger children at home too – more on that later.
3. Everything is learning. Cooking. Lego. The bath. Even watching TV. Board games especially are. Go with what your children are interested in. If they are interested in dinosaurs, try and write about dinosaurs. If they are finding the maths tricky, try to make it practical and give it a real-life context – such as counting real objects or money, or drawing a picture of the problem.
4. Make screen-time work to your advantage. Get your children to earn their screen-time time over the day for engaging in home learning, and also utilise screens for learning. Mine do learning apps like spelling shed while I answer emails or teach.
Remember that the BBC are putting on additional programmes in the morning for children – this may give you time to play with your toddler, or do your work, and then tackle the learning later.
5. Get outside as much as possible. It's amazing what even a walk round the block or run round the garden will do for your mood, even in drizzle. Wrap up and go, especially if it feels like you’re hitting a brick wall. Come back to the learning afterwards.
6. Just do what you can. Be guided by your child's school, but don’t worry if you don’t get it all done. Go with what your child can manage – the most important thing is not to give up.
Remember that this is not a short-term issue. Whatever you do needs to work for you and be sustainable over a few weeks, so don’t be afraid to mix it up a bit and not do what everyone else is doing.
Sending you all love for the next few weeks. Positive vibes and buckets of tea or coffee. And probably a chocolate biscuit or 7….
Read more in Laura's blog post written in the first lockdown.