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Transitioning from school holidays to school at home

Casey Skupin

We are living in a weird time, and while we are all facing the same storm of COVID-19, it is hitting us in different ways.

Some are loving this forced time at home, the chance to slow down and the extra family time. Others are pulling their hair out as they navigate full-time work, parenting and facilitating at-home learning – all at the same time.

You may find yourself constantly moving between these two extremes.

The State Government says school will be open this week for term 2, but if you are like me, you may be hesitant to send your child back.

As a teacher and a parent, I’ve put together a few pointers for you to consider as you transition from having the school holidays at home to having school at home.

1. Talk to your child

Before you begin at-home learning sit down with your child and have a chat about how learning at home is going to work for you. This will help you be on the same page. Students learn and behave better when they know what is expected of them. Go through your expectations of them, and how you are going to work through at-home learning together.

2. Organise a daily timetable

Come up with a daily or weekly timetable to help you spend an appropriate amount on each subject. A little bit of numeracy (mental maths and maths) and literacy (sight words/spelling, writing and reading) each day is essential for consistent and thorough learning. A timetable will help you and your child be clearly aware what they should be doing, and for how long. Talk about the timetables with your child before you begin the learning-at-home process, and perhaps at the start of each day.

→ Early Childhood Timetable

→ Lower Primary Timetable

→ Upper Primary Timetable

These timetables have been devised in accordance with the time recommended by the Curriculum Council to spend on each subject each week for each year level. This includes time for brain breaks your children can do between tasks to help them refocus.

3. Organise a learning space and routine

Set up a space for your child to work in. Make sure it has enough room for them to do their work, and keep it free of distractions such as screens, toys or phone. Pack away subject materials at the end of a task before commencing the next.

Try to stick to a consistent daily routine including:

  • A morning routine as if you were going to school. Get up at a similar time each day, have breakfast, brush teeth, get into school uniform (this may help focus the mind for the day).
  • Have meal and snack times at the same time each day.
  • Similar bedtime routine each day

4. Stay in contact with teachers as needed

Parents aren’t expected to do the same job as a professional teacher. Not everyone is a qualified teacher or has passion for educating children. Contact your child’s teacher to ask questions as needed, and don’t be afraid to ask others for help.

I’m happy to be contacted if people need support or advice,

5. Be positive and encouraging – to the students and yourself!

This is a tricky time for you as a parent and also for your child. We really are all in this together, so be encouraging to your child for their effort and work. Also take some encouragement yourself when you and your child accomplish something. Have a support network – your partner, peers, other parents, whoever you can – and share your day and activities with them.

6. Don’t let expectations get you down

Teachers are constantly assessing and adjusting how their lesson is going – every lesson, every day! And let me tell you – not every lesson goes to plan. Don’t be discouraged if something doesn’t work or if an activity doesn’t meet your expectations. Any progress or learning, however small, is a good thing.

7. Allow time for exercise and connection

Our culture has an unhealthy obsession with screens. For today’s youth this is dominated by computer games and smartphones. The World Health Organisation has added “gaming disorder” to a list of diseases. Limit the time your child spends on games as their addictive nature has the power to interfere with many areas of a person’s life.

Instead make use of non-schooling time by exercising (go for a walk, bike ride or do a small exercise routine, shoot a basketball, kick a footy) and by staying connected with other people. Make positive use of technologies and video call, email, WhatsApp, Zoom call, message or text someone you are separated from.

8. Learning can happen in a variety of ways

Your child’s learning doesn’t only happen in formal situations. You can make almost any activity educational with minimal effort. Depending on your child’s age, this can be as simple as counting, pointing out colours, shapes and letters, letting them help you cook and do household chores, or talking about weather and seasons. It has been found that children who are quicker at learning are those whose families and communities promote literacy, numeracy and social skills. So get your kids to read and do maths each day and stay connected.