Dr Shaha leads our Child and Adolescent service and provides her advice on home school during these unique times.
This is not a blog aiming to reproduce a “classroom” setting in your home. You are parents not teachers; but as parents we have a unique skill set that we can dip into that can help our children thrive.
I’ve read many articles from teachers recently reassuring parents worried about their children missing on education. Reality is children can and do learn in many ways not just in the classroom. Priority right now is staying safe and well; education, although obviously important, is secondary to this.
Despite this, especially for older children, the need for maintaining certain regular boundaries until the return to school is key. For children with special educational needs, this can be more important.
These are some basic things that you are probably already doing which form an essential mechanism for supporting children.
Having a regular daily structure can be as simple as waking at a certain time, having meals at a certain time. Children do feel less anxious when their environment is more predictable.
This does not mean having a timetable. Put simply it can be activities you do as a family every day eg, going outside, eating meals together (how many people are finding they’re doing this much more nowadays).
Cherishing small things
As we don’t have the usual mad dashing around of the school run, after school activities etc we can take the opportunity of reconnecting with our children. How many times as a parent have you said….. ‘I can’t believe Alice is already 5/10/15 yrs and their life has just passed by in a flash.’
Mix it up
Children with ADHD typically struggle to concentrate/stay still for long periods. Break any tasks set into smaller tasks with regular breaks in between. These breaks do not need to be long – maybe 5 to 10 minutes to get a drink, stretch your legs, have a snack then return to the task in hand.
Think with your child some fun and or relaxing activities to do. If anxiety does become overwhelming these can come in handy. Examples may include listening to audiobooks, having a run outside.
A lot of my families are now saying as they’re supporting home schooling, they notice a lot more about what their child is good at and also where they struggle. This is another great opportunity to be involved in your child’s education. I advise parents to record any of their observations and pass onto teachers. Again some parents notice factors which help their children to learn or focus better eg access to a Laptop/iPad for written work cf pen & paper, having a piece of Blu-Tack to play with while reading a book.
I’d like to say again, as a parent you are not teachers. No one, especially teachers, expect you to replicate what’s goes on in school setting. Don’t worry too much about your child needing to learn new things every day. Children learn by repetition and if your child needs to revise a topic several times before moving on then this is ok.
Create a visual time-table and display it in your children’s room so that they know what to expect. Try not to be too rigid and remember to add some fun-based activities as well. You can slot some time for connecting with their classmates/friends virtually. Ask your children to contribute in drafting the time-table so they develop some ownership over their activities.
Choose a quiet and comfortable space in your home that can be the designated place for having their lessons. It will help the children to get into the right frame of mind for learning.
If there are any online classes , factor it into the home-education timetable. More importantly, having some sort of a time table will help parents to plan around their own work and household chores.
Stay connected with other parents to share tips and learning resources (and to offload your frustrations!)
Children may get anxious – let’s face it, even as adults right now many of us maybe struggling. As a Parent you’re uniquely equipped to support your child’s emotional development. Don’t underestimate the power of lots of hugs, spending time together, having fun, playing games or having a movie night.
We can teach our children lessons in the importance of communicating with others. We have all needed to adapt how we stay in touch with others. For me, as a Parent “virtually” seeing friends and family dispersed across the country more often than we would have has certainly been a highlight that I’ve cherished. Think about those things you’re doing more of now, that you’d like to continue with after lockdown.
Using your exercise time to explore new places local to you, that certainly in my case wouldn’t have been discovered otherwise. Some children with ADHD learn better when engaged in activity. How often when asking your child how their day was do you get “Fine” and that’s the end of the conversation? I’ve discovered my daughter now loves to chat when on walks and I’m learning so much about how she sees the world around her during these unscheduled bonding times.
Some parents may have the time, resources and preference for home-schooling their children. But for many families home-schooling may be an unexpected development that can potentially be stressful. Remember every dark cloud has a silver lining. Overall, this is a wonderful opportunity to spend more time with your children, to learn and have fun together.