Home-schooling - some advice from a teacher
Perform teacher and mum of two, Hannah Conway, tells us how she's coping with lockdown and home-schooling her children.
Let’s face it, many of us are at home with absolutely no clue how to home-school. We are not all born teachers. In fact, some of us haven’t been in any form of education for a decade or more! It feels like there is a lot of pressure to make sure our child’s education doesn’t suffer.
These are uncertain times for everyone and these are pressures that we have never been exposed to before. We are parents thrust into a role we didn’t choose and that terrifies us. Teaching. Not just teaching other children, who we'd have more patience with, but
our own children who naturally, at times, bring out the worst in us.
So what’s the best plan of action?
Well there’s no right answer. We are all different. Our children are all different!
Let me tell you about how I’ve been attempting to cope in the hope of inspiring or helping one of the many parents going prematurely bald from stress. It’s important for you to know that I am no expert and some days I am stressed, tired, unmotivated and losing my marbles!
I have two children, a 10 year old boy and an 8 year old girl. My son has ASD and ADHD which has made things slightly trickier at home. He still accesses mainstream school but struggles with completing the school day. Not all children find our educational system accessible. He is a kinaesthetic learner through and through; he learns by doing, not reading or listening.
Focus on what you know and work to your strengths
My husband and I have been focusing on what we know, working with our strengths. What is the point of struggling to teach a subject, getting stressed and passing that stress onto your child? It’s completely counter-productive.
I am a huge theatre geek, I graduated with a First Class degree in Drama. There are many arguments that the arts aren’t essential in education but working for Perform For Schools for years has added to my passion for arts in education. It’s wonderful to hear feedback from teachers about how shy children have joined in, how children with learning difficulties have come out of their shell and how much joy my activities have brought to the class etc.
So using this as a basis, I am using my creative brain to engage my children. Sometimes it feels as though they are not learning but I've realised that every activity for them is a learning curve. Kids are sponges!
Here are some of the things I have been using to keep my two (and myself) sane during lockdown:
1) Activities around David Attenborough’s Planet Earth.
We are trained to believe that the TV is a ‘babysitter’ for the children, too much screen time is bad for them. The key to this activity is to make sure they consolidate what they have learned. We have made fact files of places such as the rainforest. We looked at the four levels of the Rainforest and decided where the animals in the programme live. I got the children to draw pictures of the animals and mind-mapped the facts we learnt around the picture.
2) Reading a short story together
Not only does this engage them in literature but it is such a lovely activity to share together. Sometimes I finish the story half way through and ask the children to come up with alternative endings to share. They can draw pictures, write the rest of the story or act it out.
3) Introducing them to Shakespeare
I bought the children’s Shakespeare collection by Tony Ross. It is a fabulous way to get them enthusiastic about the story lines and themes. Each story has the scope to develop an after-activity! For example, with The Tempest we conducted a floating exercise to see what would survive a storm.
4) Learning about tools and jobs around the home
My husband works in the building trade. One day he got out tools from his toolkit and explained to the children what uses they have around the house. He then tested them to bring him the tools he needed for each exercise, e.g. changing a light switch. They also loved hammering nails into wood and chiseling shapes out of it.
Use your skills and take the lead from your child's hobbies
These are activities you can take, adapt or be inspired by. Theatre or building may not be your thing, and that’s fine, but think about how you can use your skills to test your children. If you love baking, why not use maths for them to work out what amount of ingredients they need? If you love cycling, why not make a birds eye view of your cycle route - how long is it in miles / kilometres, what’s the difference?
How about taking the lead from your children’s hobbies? My son is obsessed with Hot Wheels cars. The ASD trait means he has collected hundreds and knows exactly when he received each of them. We made a tally chart of colours and turned it into a Bar Graph.
My daughter loves LOL dolls, which we grouped into different countries. We learnt how each country would say hello to each other. I now hear her playing using a whole different vocabulary!
Home-schooling is not about becoming your child’s teacher. We are not trained to do this as effectively as the amazing people in our schools. Our task is to continue our children’s love for learning and to share our passions with them.
Let’s use this time to create lasting, positive memories. To inspire our children to enjoy learning in a different environment.
Hannah is an actor, director, theatre-maker and Perform Producer. She runs Perform at Home sessions on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays.