As we have all come to realize pandemic homeschooling is not the same as homeschooling and it has not been easy for parents to adapt to pandemic homeschooling. It was fantastic having Mandy Danks and Melissa Price from Life Play Learn join me to talk about the differences between pandemic homeschooling and homeschooling. It was a real and raw discussion sharing our own personal struggles and tips for coping. With the third wave hitting us now and schools potentially closing again schooling our kids from home may be upon us again soon.
About Life Play Learn
Mandy Danks is a Montessori teacher by trade and she is an entrepreneur. She buys and sells businesses with her husband and when they see a niche they go for it. This is how Life Play Learn started, they saw everyone struggling during the pandemic and they starting reach out to people and suppliers to create a business that provides things that people can afford and cut through the nonsense of what they don’t need when it comes to educational toys for kids.
Melissa Price is also a teacher, but not Montessori teaching. She taught Grade 2 but she stopped teaching when her dad got cancer so she could look after him until he passed away. She met Mandy in a local moms group and they hit it off and launched Life Play Learn together.
The Differences Between Pandemic Schooling and Homeschooling
When the pandemic first hit parents, teachers and children were all thrown in the deep end with schools trying to send work out to kids, parents scrambling to try and get their kids into a routine and teachers trying to ensure that kids are keeping up with the school syllabus. It was nothing short of mayhem.
I personally found the first lockdown very trying. The work that was sent to us involved a lot of printing, cutting, sticking and preparation so it left me spending an hour or more preparing the school day just for my grade 1 child. On top of that the amount of work that was sent was a mountain. It took us hours to go through it all and the end result was melt downs all round in addition to me not being able to spend any time focusing on my work in order to earn an income.
Normal homeschooling is done very differently and incorporates real life learning rather than sitting with mountains of paperwork every day.
This year my daughter is in grade 4 and when the schools delayed opening she had to do online learning, which sounds fantastic but the reality was that my daughter was left sitting on her own in front of the phone trying to keep up with online lessons that were going according to the normal school timetable. Sitting in front of the phone on Microsoft Teams is not the same as being in a class room environment and her anxiety was sky high with multiple melt downs daily.
I know that I am not the only one with these struggles and I know that I have a lot of advantages over some parents in that I was already working from home for myself so I did not have to many any changes there like many parents had to. In addition to this my kids are in a very good school that has amazing resources.
How To Cope With Pandemic Homeschooling
It was fantastic doing this live video with Mandy and Melissa, to hear their struggles and their fantastic tips. It was also amazing to chat to other moms live and hear that we are all in this together. These are the things that I took away from the live video:
Take A Break and Reset
Pandemic homeschooling is not the same as schooling. There is a period of adjustment that takes place. In fact when parents start homeschooling they are told to take some time to unschool their children to prepared them for the homeschooling experience.
So when the schools close take a day or two off to play and relax before getting into your pandemic homeschooling mindset. This is going to be good for you and for your kids.
Do Your Best and Leave The Rest
It is not going to be smooth sailing all the way. Chances are high that you and your kids are not going to be able to keep up with everything all the time – accept this and prepare for it.
Know When To Take A Step Back
Recognise when it is time to stop the lesson. A child that is overwhelmed and mid melt down is not going to be taking anything in so trying to force it is not going to work well for anyone.
This has been an essential step for us personally. My daughter struggles with anxiety and when things get to9o overwhelming for her we stop and pick up again when she is able to.
The Importance Of Routine
The importance of a good routine cannot be stressed enough under these difficult circumstances and you will need to find a completely new routine when the kids are at home and having to complete school work. It may take some time to find a good routine that works well for everyone but it is well worth the effort.
Routine will help your children feel more secure knowing what is expected of them and knowing what happens at what time or in what order.
Get Creative and Incorporate Fun Into Learning
Let’s face it your kids are not going to be excited about sitting and doing school work at the table all day, so try and incorporate some fun and games when it comes to learning.
Here are some great suggestions from Mandy and Melissa that sound like great fun:
- Get your kids to do their written work using a whiteboard marker on the windows or chalk on the pavement – it is much more fun and it saves paper
- Do scavenger hunts with letters for example get your child to find you 5 things that start with the letter S
- Everyone dresses up on bin day and make a huge outing of taking out the rubbish. Let your kids dress you!
- Have a math treasure hunt with clues that involve working out sums
- Don’t be afraid to include some sweets and treats but make sure only to give that after a certain amount of work has been done – you don’t want your kids bouncing off the walls and then expect them to work quietly!
Go Easy Before Hard Things
If your child struggles with new concepts or you find it hard to motivate your child make sure to start the day off with something that your child can easily do so that your child feels a sense of achievement. Follow that with something new or a something that is a bit harder.
Switch back and forth between something easy and something hard so that your child gets that sense of accomplishment in between tackling trickier things.
Make Use Of Resources
There are some fantastic resources out there that you can make use of to make things easier for yourself and your child, as well as more fun. If you are struggling to explain something to your child so that he understands it see if you can find a Youtube video for your child to watch on the subject.
If you do an online search you can find plenty of free printables for the things mentioned earlier such as math treasure hunts and scavenger hunts.
The importance of reading cannot be emphasised enough, if there is only one thing you can get right during pandemic homeschooling with your kids make it reading. Read to your children and find things for them to read. A great free resource is Epic Reading – it is an app that you can download and you can access a lot for free.
Khan Academy is another fantastic resource that is free.
Make Sure To Exercise
At school your kids run around at break time, they have PE during school and after school they have sport. Make sure that your kids are still getting some movement in, especially if you have young boys.
Make sure to include exercise into your daily routine and the earlier you can fit it in the better. A child that has had some movement will be better able to sit and concentrate on school work.
Your kids are going to be losing out on all the social time they would have been getting in at school. Make sure to add into your daily routine some time for your kids to have a Zoom party with their friends or have a Whatsapp video call with a close friend.
You could even do a drive by wave with your child’s friend on the way to the grocery store, it will make all the difference to your child’s day to see his friends.
Focus On Positivity
It is so easy to get sucked into negativity with pandemic fatigue and being overwhelmed. Remove the negativity from the situation by focusing on the amazing things that you do have, write a daily gratitude list and weigh up the pros and cons to get a realistic view of how things are.
Yes things are hard when schools are closed and there is a harsh lockdown, but there are a lot of good things too such as:
- Increased family bonding time
- No driving up and down
- Not having to get up so early in the morning
- You can stay in your pj’s all day
Do Things As A Family Unit
During lockdown there is simply a lot more to do and get through in a day. Make sure that all the extra work does not fall on you as the mother. The best way to do this is to do things as a family, so get everyone involved with you when you do laundry, cook and clean. If you are all doing it together you can make it more of a game or a family activity than a chore that everyone has to do. This will take a lot of the strain off of you.
Five Minutes Special Time Per Child
It is going to be hard to get around to doing everything that needs to be done in a day, so it is all about prioritising. Very often we have unrealistic expectations of ourselves as parents and think we need to spend a lot of time with our kids. It is actually much more important to spend some uninterrupted time with our kids where we focus on them fully rather than spend a lot of time with them.
Try to take five minutes each day to sit and talk to your child or play with your child where your focus is 100% on your child.
Mothers are really feeling the brunt of this pandemic and there is nobody that can help you lighten the load. Making time for self-care should be your first priority. You may feel guilty about taking time for yourself when there is so much more to do, but the fact is that if you don’t look after yourself there is nobody else to look after you, or to look after your family if you burn out.
You need to look after yourself to ensure that you are strong enough to take on all the extra things that are coming your way with the third wave.
Have A Support Group
Make sure to get support from your friends and family, find someone that you can contact to have a vent and blow off some of your frustrations. Other moms will be feeling the same way and it will be good for you all to stick together and support each other through pandemic schooling.