School #FromHome: Bring the structure to your day
Whether you close school for a few weeks or a few months, you help your school-age children – and even your school-age children – fit into a new routine that includes learning at home. It goes without saying that this is an adjustment for everyone, while you and your children take over. As a parent you can feel responsible for a number of school tasks that go far beyond helping with homework for the afternoon. Considering what’s in store for us, we asked an old teacher to give us some concrete advice on how to structure school life at home.
You’re probably used to enrolling in your school’s homework and classification, but this may be a whole new area where you need to keep an eye out for regular emails from one or more staff members and trainers who are fixated on you to help them give your children a way to learn at home. We’re all a little overwhelmed.
SCHOOL BUILDING: REALWRESTLING
That’s all our parents told us. In our recent research, the aspect of this new landscape that they struggle with most is routine, which is not surprising. A school day is a constant for all of us. It starts and ends perfectly at a certain time every day. The bells that ring at the same time every day indicate the beginning, the end and all intermediate points, including lunch, as you may have guessed, at the same time every day.
So why can’t this structure just be moved home? It’s just a change of scenery, isn’t it? The school is a social, group-based process and is run by adults outside the parental home who set their expectations, from where they should be when the bell rings to pause and have lunch. The house is, well, a house with its own expectations, rules and freedoms, plus a refrigerator, TV and appliances nearby and no clocks except for the morning alarm. Is it wise to try to introduce the same structure in the home learning environment?
What if we saw this sudden change as an opportunity to do things differently? For most secondary school students, for example, school starts early, although research shows that later intake is more suitable for young people. If your child does not have a fixed schedule for school, you have the option to set a schedule that simply works best for your family. Pupils from the end of primary school to secondary school can help organise their own schedule (depending of course on other factors such as helping siblings or other family commitments).
Anyway, the key is to adjust the pace. A teenager going through a breakup with friends is likely to spend more time online or on a device to spend time and communicate with others. Their new rhythm can make the nights longer and force them to sleep later than normal. By putting a high school student to sleep and starting a school day at home late in the morning, you have some time to get to work and prepare for the day. When you share computers, printers or other devices to help a teenager sleep, it’s a little easier for you and others to share time together.
WHAT YOUR NEW SCHOOL DAY MIGHT LOOK LIKE
A school day for secondary or high school students can best last 10 to 14 hours with a 15-minute break and up to an hour before lunch. In summary: Teenagers love freedom and choice. By giving them as much control as possible over how their school day unfolds, you can help them get more involved and focus. For example, secondary school students only have five minutes to move from one classroom to another. Why don’t we offer 15 minutes between classes at home? Many public schools have a 30-minute lunch break. A home-cooked meal can take an hour or even longer. During a meal at home, the phones can be turned off and children have free time to eat, check their text messages or social networks, listen to podcasts or audio books while eating or just relax.
While most teenagers sleep later when the occasion arises, young children can get up early. Starting with the home roster for first year students, late morning computer time matches can be facilitated. There’s no perfect way to do it. It is best to start at the kitchen table at 8 a.m. and then, just like your children on a normal school day, go to school; however, it is best to let the older children sleep in and the younger ones enjoy a waffle and an audio book so you have time to drink coffee, catch up on e-mails and prepare for the day.
DRAWING UP A SCHEME THAT WORKS
Han Academy, an online education service known for its video lessons, has developed sample day structures in response to the school’s current closure for students in four age groups, from kindergarten to twelfth grade. The day program of the Khan Academy starts in all classes at 8 a.m., but older children can easily adjust the basics and start later in the morning.
In addition to the provisional timetable, there are references per age group to the video lessons in mathematics, which are known at the Khan Academy, and to other learning opportunities in almost all subjects. If your child’s school is still working on the details of their own school program, the full day of classes at the Khan Academy is already on the program. You may be surprised at the wide range of services and materials available to support families during the closure of the school.
For example, children in classes 3 to 5 start the day with short interactive math videos of about 30 minutes, followed by playtime, preferably in the open air. It is followed by a 30-minute lecture accompanied by a teacher, followed by a silent lecture. The rest of the day continues with small parts dedicated to writing, grammar, lunch and even computer programming. Everything you need to complete your training from the day you get home is available directly on the website or via links.
Another major source is Scholastic, an education and publishing company known for its handbook fairs. Like the Khan Academy, the newly created website Scholastic Learn From Home offers a day-by-day class structure of the school, where you can find lots of online books and additional videos for kindergarten through to group 9. For example, the material for a Grade 1 student focuses on five days with stories, each with its own theme: The study of animals, time, sounds and music, rural life and healthy bones. Every day is dedicated to audio and video reports, reading collections and additional video material for drawing and spelling – everything related to the topic of the day.
The Khan Academy and the scholastics are two authoritative sources. But there are others, and you may see a lot of resources on offer, especially if you search for them online. If you refer to these sources, don’t forget to examine them and make sure they have a good reputation. Also consider protecting your browser from malicious links or downloadable malware. It’s sad, but true: There are people who are willing to make use of families who are currently looking for online educational resources.
FLEXIBILITY IS IMPORTANT
Teachers are experts in determining the order, boundaries and expectations of work and behaviour at school. This is part of building up the culture of the class, and it starts with the beginning of the school year, on the first day. It is therefore not surprising that children find it harder to get used to the routine and concentrate on teaching at home. It’s not the easiest transfer of skills. For example, if you work from home in the adult world, you may not want to work as if you were working in an office. The same goes for children.
SO WHERE DO THEY START?
Here are some examples of what you can do:
- Check the emails and announcements from your child’s school. What are the non-negotiable topics, such as online sessions and their agenda? Write it down.
- Establish the timetable as mentioned above, at least as a starting point. You can set it up and adapt it to your needs, taking into account what works for you and your family as a whole when you’re used to the new routine.
- It can be difficult for younger children to concentrate on enrolling in kindergarten online, but seeing their classmates online can be socially important if there are few other options at the moment. If possible, try to help even the smallest of them perform their sessions. Or even give them a digital reading date.
- For older children, it is likely that online lessons are already needed. When you know your child best and ask for help, you can flexibly organise a daily routine that optimises your personal planning, preferences and family commitments.
- Working together. In many houses, family members can use a common system to ensure that everyone can work and learn at school. It is time to set a timetable and ensure that these shared devices can be shared safely.
We hope that we have provided you with useful tools to help you structure your school day or complement an existing structure and that you see opportunities to benefit from a change in routine. There is no doubt that we are all adapting to the changes caused by the closure of schools, but the situation is different in every family. Sometimes things can go wrong as planned, and that’s normal. It’s all about flexibility and compromise now, and it’s worth adding a little finesse if you can find something to suit your home.
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