So this new way of life where my kids are spending more of their time at home means that we are all spending a lot of time together. With nowhere else to go and not much else to look forward to, helping the kids stay in touch with basic concepts and the fundamentals of learning was an easy byproduct.
It did however come with its own set of challenges. Now that I look back they seem obvious but it wasn’t so simple when we started. I’m going to list here the top 10 mistakes I made or lessons I learned when we started learning at home.
- I’m not a trained educator – no matter what worksheet I follow or curriculum I pick, I’d forgotten that I’m not an educator and not trained to be one. I’m a parent so my approach to learning should be something that I’m comfortable with. With trial and error we arrived at a blended play, music, dance approach. This comes naturally to me so that means I’m not sitting and telling them what to do, instead we move around, figure things out and just have fun doing.
- My home is not a classroom – a classroom setup allows for peer learning for children to learn from one another as much as from the teacher. It has desks, chairs, and specific places to house everything. While we’ve always had a ‘play shelf’ concept at home, from a learning standpoint we needed more free flow because I don’t have a dedicated learning space. Our approach needed to take into account space in our home so I restricted supplies to one shelf and created floor space in one room. Here we could get our hands dirty and store half-done projects we wanted to pick up later.
- There is little peer learning in the home setup – if you have multiple children, you have a basic peer group which is more sibling than peer but it still helps. The regular peer interactions in a classroom will not be available at home which means as parents we have to be present a little more than normal. It will help to set our expectations right on that front.
- Free movement – one of the biggest advantages of this learning being more home than school is free movement. Kids learn best when they move, when they work with their hands, explore and discover. So the home environment affords free movement and kids love it. I’ve slowly learnt to embrace this.
- The need to eat – always plan snacks for your learning session. 10 minutes into our sessions my kids will always gravitate to the snack. This is normal given that they are at home with fewer distractions so the closest time off is food. It’s perfectly fine because once they are content they will focus.
- Set your learning time realistically – home learning cannot be expected to cover 3-4 hours like in school. I have always planned <1.5 hours for the 3 yo and not more than 2 hours for the 7 yo. We have shorter sessions during the day as required if there is interest.
- If following a school curriculum try to go easy on yourself – if you are learning at home it’s harder to complete the whole curriculum so prioritise. Focus on the basics and fundamentals.
- Accepting that the home learning pace will be slower than school – this is a big one because we tend to judge ourselves on this. The learning pace will be slower than school when learning at home and that’s alright. You may decide to play a game, watch a movie that explains the concept or just read a few extra books. It’s all good, especially because it means the children will remember it well and longer.
- The flexibility of home – you will find your kids take it easy, relax and generally be more ‘chilled out’ and that’s the most fun part of learning at home. Let them enjoy the flexibility of being home. I have observed very deep learning at home simply because if something is of interest we spend more time on it. Use any and all resources you have at home. Blocks for counting and shapes, car toys for tracing and patterns, buttons, beads, colours for art and expression.
- Cut yourself some slack – things will seem like they are not moving and that’s ok. We decided not to make it 5 days and took 4 days instead which leaves me some time on the 5th day to catch up on things like prep for the next week etc. Some weeks I’ve ticked all boxes and others are less productive but that’s ok. We are all still happy and in harmony as a family and not as ‘teacher – student’ so that’s what mattered to me.
All of these are things I’ve learnt from our own mistakes and listing them has brought me some clarity as we take this learning approach to the next level.
My next post will focus on how we planned to begin this learning journey and then we’ll share the resources we are using to get started.