Thinking about how to homeschool? We hold the key to it ourselves through showing our children how we work from home.
By The Parent Collaborative co-founder and contributor to our Positive Doodle Diary, Bella Barron
If you’re familiar with our Positive Doodle Diary, you’ll already know Reb and Bella, co-founders of the parenting consultancy The Parent Collaborative. They contributed a chapter focused on resilience, giving guidance to parents on how to foster strength and independence in their children. With the start of 2021 finding many of us back in the role of homeschooling, we asked Bella to give us her thoughts on how to homeschool our children through modelling behaviour - a method that can bring huge benefits to us adults too. She also had a fab discussion with Ali on the subject on our Positive Doodle Diary Instagram account. You can watch the video here.
So, you’re back to homeschooling again, juggling work and life, but you still haven’t acquired your PGCE in the interim… how is that going to work? Our first tip is to take a step back and breathe. Yes, you’ve heard it a million times before, but the value of a single breath can’t be underestimated. Now take a step back and re-read the first sentence. No one expects you to become a teacher overnight. You’ve already got numerous skills and becoming a teacher wasn’t part of the equation. Give yourself a break and credit for how far you’ve already come!
One of the first steps in building resilience is acceptance. Accepting the situation for what it is and then conserving what is working, before committing to adding one more thing to your family’s toolbox of resources. And finally, enlisting help when you need it – that’s what school is there for. They are the educational experts, your job is to facilitate the process. Easier said than done we hear you cry. But let’s go one step at a time, starting by taking that step back.
What helps your children to learn?
As you well know, very young children learn by watching people like hawks. They constantly absorb information from those around them, as well as from their environment. Then, between the ages of 7-9 years old, they tend to look to specific role models with an even more powerful lens.
So what are you showing them in the way you’re behaving, coping, working? If you have a space at home that has now become your office, how is it set up? What do you need to do your work – the tools, the headspace, calm, music, snacks? Chances are whatever you need, they too will need BUT as Montessorians, we would ask that you let them be involved in the design and layout of their own ‘workstation’ because whilst they are all your children, as you well know, they are all different. Audio learners will happily listen to music while working, they recall facts when they hear songs they’ve heard when working, whereas the visual learners prefer mind maps and images.
At The Parent Collaborative, Reb and I talk a lot about modelling behaviours, from dealing with arguments, to showing kindness. As you finish another week of home-schooling, think back to some of the ways in which you coped with your own work tasks. How did you talk about them at the end of the day? What did you say to the family? How did they go? Were some easier to do than others? Were there some tasks you wanted to do, and others that were bottom of your list? Your child’s school timetable will have been similar. There will have been some lessons that they couldn’t wait to start, whilst there will have been others that they found hard and were started with a sense of dread.
If you’re aware of what your children liked and what they dreaded, it’ll make it much easier to help support them. Can you have a chat at the end of each week and see what went well and what was hard for them? If you know they’ve got a favourite lesson coming up, you know they will be more absorbed and engaged in it, so that’s an opportunity for you to have some time to work on some of your tasks. Whereas, if they’re about to face a lesson that is really going to challenge them, you’ll need to have factored in a few minutes to help them get into the right mindset for learning.
Observation is key
If you are supporting your child on a particular lesson, can you sit back and really watch what is happening and notice how they are going about the task? We KNOW this is going to be hard, believe us when we say that newly qualified Montessori staff find it the hardest part of the training! You want to help; you want to take control (especially when everything else is out of your control) because that’s what helping is all about isn’t it? BUT, if we were to tell you that often it is us, the adults, who get in the way of our child’s learning by making assumptions about what help is needed, would that make it easier to take a step back?
Be a help not a hindrance. The Montessori method is based on 50 years of child observation so it’s no surprise that children love the lessons, and it works! If you can try and really observe your child learning, you will gain so much more from the experience. And, we guarantee it will be a far more relaxing and mutually beneficial experience!
Fun and self-care
Finally, make sure you factor in some time to have fun. You ALL need it. Teachers have a staff room so why not do as a friend of ours did (who’s not a teacher) and create your own staffroom? It will give you somewhere to have a cuppa and a bit of much-needed headspace whilst your crew are on their break! We know of lots of ‘staffrooms’ that are currently in the family bathroom!
Then, at the end of the day let them have time to chill out and do what they’d usually do after school. It will give you time to catch up on some emails before you all finish your day.
Top tips to get the most out of homeschooling
So, in summary, here are a few tips to help you get the most out of the experience and retain some sanity into the bargain:
Set the scene
Look at your own workspace, and theirs, and then make time to create a space that works for each of you.
Show them how it’s done
Show them how you tackle the difficult stuff. Let them see you getting enjoyment from your successes and remember to take time off and head to your own ‘staffroom’ for a break. You deserve it and they too need constant breaks!
Take a step back and really watch your child learning
Let them do it in their time/their way. It’s just like when you visit an art gallery, children will go about lessons in their own way, let them rush ahead if they like, let them make mistakes, it’s how they learn. Take a step back and really watch them. If you let them be, they will soon settle into a gentle rhythm giving you some headspace for your own work.
Factor in the fun
A few years ago lots of schools would start the day with an exercise class outside. A short walk before you all sit down at your desks does wonders for getting into the right frame of mind for a concentrated spell in front of a screen. And remember if you need a break, chances are they do too!
We know homeschooling isn't easy, no one is saying it is. You can believe us when we say it’s a whole lot easier to teach a class of 30 either on or offline than it is to teach two of your own children! We’re with you, you’ve got this, remember to give yourselves LOTS of credit for getting through each day.