Listen: Collett Smart on the best tips for creating learning spaces for children
By Collett SmartWednesday 8 Apr 2020Mental Fitness With Psychologist Collett Smart
Like many of you, I am navigating having children at home doing schooling online. Some have said this is not home schooling; that a better term is ‘crisis schooling’.
I am actually a teacher, as well as a psychologist, and let me reassure you, being home all day like this is not our normal!
Children are grieving right now. Honour that grief process. Expect them to act out. Expect them to not want to get out of bed. Expect them to not have words to express their inner turmoil. Give yourself a lot of grace! Some of you have lost jobs or your spouses have lost jobs. Those who are working might be afraid of going out.
So, here I have gathered all the best tips I could find for you.
1 – Make A Defined Learning Space
First, set up a learning space — separate from chill space or leisure. Not on beds!
2 – Allow The Kids a Short School Day
Are you surprised at how fast things get done? Don’t artificially create work to do school for six hours a day. The bulk of the day’s lessons could be done within 2.5 hours.
The Former chairman of the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) said: “It isn’t appropriate to be structured in concentrated and engaged learning all day [while at home]…That isn’t actually what happens at school. Kids don’t remain in this focused state for long periods.”
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I know from my teaching, a chunk of the lesson includes getting Joe to take out his pencil, Sera to turn to page 6, Mel to stop nudging Ben, or Liam to come back to his seat o do his writing for the sixth time. There’s line up times and assemblies and break times and all sorts of other great socialising. That’s just not part of an at-home or online learning day.
3 – Keep it Simple
Those who are time-poor should stick to the basics, and take advantage of the mornings, when children are most alert. (This is reinforced by Primary Principals Association president, Phil Seymour).
Focus on maths, reading and some writing.
4 – Find Creative Ways to Teach
A friend developed a ‘Super Toilet’ paper comic — her kids are writing adventures to contribute each day. My son loves writing, so I am approaching his teacher to ask if he can develop his own short book or story series, rather than do the topics set for him each week.
Listen to audio books also. This counts as literacy. There is a lot of learning that does not end in a worksheet.
“Children can develop their broader knowledge by watching historical movies, or discussing an idea over dinner, or listening to podcasts,” the NESA former chairman said.
“It still counts as learning, just as it does at school.”
5 – Find Things Your Kids Enjoy
Ask your kids what they are interested in and then learn about that and then go and do some fun things! They’re great opportunity for unstructured open play. Let kids find things to do.
6 – Teach Them Practical Skills
Teach practical skills like building a fire, changing a light bulb or changing a tyre. Get the kids to read a recipe and cook once a week. I’ve seen on Facebook, parents camping in tents in backyards with kids, and children learning decking skills. Delivering a parcel of food to a neighbour’s doorstep will teach them empathy and emotional intelligence.
7 – Go Easy on Yourself And Your Kids
Equally, maybe your best today will be to cuddle up with the kids and just be together. The simple fact that your child feels safe today might be the emotional learning they need for the day.
8 – List The Things Your Child Accomplishes and Learns
Be REAL with yourself about what’s actually happening. Journal or mentally list all the things your child accomplished that day. To remind yourself that they are learning.
9 – Remember That We Learn From All of Life
Our lives will never be the same after this. One thing I can promise you, is that your child will learn something and new things during this time. We learn from all of life. You’ve got this, parents!
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