After an extra week of school holidays for many students in Melbourne, the Victorian Government has confirmed it’s back to remote learning for prep to year 10 students in locked down parts of the state from July 20.
When schools across Australia first began moving to remote learning back in April, the ABC spoke to a number of education experts and parents about what worked (and what didn’t) for them.
So from ideas for play to structuring your day, here’s a survival guide to homeschooling… if you’re one of the parents who needs it again.
Check to see if you’re eligible for support
The Victorian Government will offer extra funding to eligible kindergarten services in locked-down areas to let them offer free kinder to children during term three.
Other resources available include video or phone counselling for secondary school students.
The Government has also partnered with organisations like the Melbourne Football Club and Smiling Mind to produce resources for students.
Explain the latest changes to your kids
Children — just like adults — will need to mentally adjust to being back under stage three restrictions. Not only will they not be able to play with their friends or see family for six weeks, but they may also be going back to remote learning.
University of Newcastle education lecturer David Roy said disruption to routine could make children anxious, and that could lead to more meltdowns and tantrums.
“This is normal and expected under these circumstances,” Dr Roy said.
In a letter to parents earlier this year, Sydney’s Canterbury Public School said it was important parents talk to their kids about what’s happening because understanding can reduce anxiety.
“Help your child to think about how they have coped with difficult situations in the past and reassure them that they will cope with this situation too. Remind them that the isolation won’t last for long.”
Dr Roy also recommends being as playful as possible.
“Kids need that. That’s one of the reasons we have recess and lunchtime. We’ve got to have kids … jumping around, exercising, burning off that energy,” he said.
Structure your day, but try to be flexible
One of the top tips from some parents who have home-schooled their children for years was to create some structure to the day.
Perth mother Cheryl Harris has home-schooled her three children for 12 years and suggests setting up a regular school-style structure: 9:00am to recess, to lunch, to 3:00pm and then screen time or free time.
But rather than trying to immediately set down that routine, Ms Harris said parents could be flexible.
She suggested hands-on activities such as getting the children involved in cooking lunch for everyone.
“Cook dinner together, play Play-Doh, Pictionary, learn to braid, [and] look at character traits like flexibility — a good one for right now,” she said.
Tips on how to homeschool:
- Communicate with your school and with other home tutors
- Don’t give up, even if you’ve had a bad day, shut the door, start fresh again tomorrow
- Take schoolwork outside or to another room in the house to mix things up
Rebecca English, a lecturer at the QUT School of Teacher Education and Leadership, recommends setting gentle limits around playing games or chatting online to friends until the day’s curriculum work was done.
“Get the work done in the morning and negotiate with the child on what they want to start with and what they want to do next,” she said.
Get the creativity flowing
The advice from play specialist Cat Sewell was not to worry about coming up with endless ideas, keep it as simple as possible, and let children (the experts) take the lead.
“Children are so geared for play. They’re wired for play, and they’re wired for imagination. So, I think the first thing is for us not to stress,” she said.
“Play lets off a lot of steam … The way [kids] are going to be processing the changes and stress that they’re picking up at the moment is through play. So it’s absolutely crucial they’re able to do that at home or wherever they are.”
Here are Ms Sewell’s top tips and ideas for playtime:
- Sit back, don’t take over. For example, rather than inviting children to use old boxes to make a rocket, give them an idea or prompt and let them come up with their own plan
- Ask open-ended questions. This could include questions such as: ‘I wonder what we could do with this?’, ‘I wonder what this could be?’, ‘I like what you’ve done there. Can you tell me about it?
- Use open-ended materials to create with. Cardboard boxes, fabric and recycling can be used in many different ways
- Set up an obstacle course
- Make a fort or build a cubby house
- Remember that it’s OK to let kids play on their own
Many parents have gone through it … and made it out the other side
Remember that remote learning wasn’t smooth sailing for everyone the first time around.
Here’s what parents said about how their children fared:
Kids don’t stay focused from home with distractions of all kinds. Dogs, pets, people visiting, slow laptops, bad teaching formats and software not working well. — Michael F
My daughter complained that learning from home was too self-directed and she missed the guidance available in school. — Clare G
The kids really, really struggled with the lack of social contact as well as the physical and mental impact of remote learning. It took about three weeks just to find a rhythm, and without a parent available nearly full time to assist, I’m not sure how they would have coped. — James B
The kids loved homeschooling — but there was very little learning happening!! — Kelly D
They loved being at home but missed friends … and Mum’s tougher than teachers. — Leisa B
We’ve had a mixed bag of an experience, mostly good and only a couple of times I wanted to hand in my resignation!!! — Lauren D
Having the kids home all day was so good for our relationship, very enjoyable! But the schoolwork, not so much. It was hard to follow and difficult to keep the children focused when the younger ones were having so much fun doing other activities. — Luke D
My son loved the online learning! He managed his time effectively and found the learning was more efficient with less disruption from behaviour etc. — Natalie K
I loved online learning. It was a fantastic insight into my son’s learning habits and strengths and weaknesses. It was really interesting to listen to the teachers and other students. It was like going back to school myself. — Wayne G