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How to homeschool while working from home

So what to do?
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How to homeschool while working from home

How to homeschool while working from home

8 May 2020

Working from home is one thing. Home schooling children is another. But trying to do both at the same time can have you practically tearing your hair out. So what to do?

Getting on with your normal work while stuck at home has many of us on a steep learning curve with the technical challenges of online presentation, delivery and the needs of collaborative engagement. Running into mysterious obstacles when things don’t work as they’re supposed to, realising you must have made some mistake but you don’t know what – there’s endless knots you can tie yourself in, with badly frazzled nerves as you try to cope with mounting frustrations.

But this is nothing compared to the challenges of having your children at home at the same time, especially if they’re putting up a robust resistance against knuckling down and getting on with their schoolwork.

It’s all very well for those parents blessed with children who are self-starters, who have good habits of self-discipline and application, are competent with online learning practicalities, and eager to get on with it. Alas, these parents are in a minority, and the great majority have to deal with children who are already experts in procrastination and devising every possible reason why they can’t get on with it right now.

So for this reason, it’s timely to hear from parents who’ve made a success of home schooling and ended up with children who shine on an academic level while developing other interests as well.

And here’s where there’s some good news: it’s not as hard as you might think, according to those who’ve succeeded.

What interests your child?

The first piece of advice from parents who’ve successfully home-schooled their offspring is to follow the children’s lead. Though the school will have provided a curriculum and set activities, remember there’s so much to learn, and a great deal of it isn’t on the curriculum, so find out what interests the child and let that be your starting point.

This is better than waging a constant battle, because if they’re not motivated to attend to any of the work the school has set, no amount of coaxing, nagging or threatening is going to motivate them – instead, the main effect will be to ratchet up tension and mutual irritation.

Whether your child wants to learn to cook something, or investigate insects in the garden, or explore deep-sea marine life, whatever sparks their interest is potentially a place to start engaging with their learning. And there’s so much on the internet that whatever the subject, you can find resources to help develop their interest and broaden their knowledge.

For example, Khan Academy. This is a non-profit educational organisation that provides a set of free online tools to help educate students. The organisation produces short lessons in the form of videos. Its website also includes supplementary practice exercises and materials for educators.

If the children don’t have any ideas about what interests them, give them a few options: you can do this, or that, or the other.

Aim for three hours home-schooling, not six

Secondly, recognise that even though normal school hours are 9am to 3pm, when they’re at school, children don’t spend all that time solidly learning. A lot of the time is spent with the teacher organising the class, or waiting for a turn, or just sitting there while something else is happening. So for most people who home-school their children, the maximum sit-down time to spend actually concentrating on learning something is often only about three hours in total.

This is good news for parents who have their own work to keep up with as well: you don’t need to spend the whole day in constant supervision of a child’s learning.

Find a time that suits your child, when they want attention or they’re more likely to be receptive, and try to get them engaged with something at that time.

Remember, kids can catch up later

Thirdly, know that even if your child isn’t learning anything for the time being, kids can catch up. It’s not uncommon for children to miss out on large chunks of schooling for one reason or another, and then catch up later.

Above all, try not to get too stressed out about it. The mental health of the family is more important than what does or doesn’t happen with the child’s schoolwork on any particular day.

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