In home learning hell? Some helpful tips to avoid burnout
After a week of home learning, are you already feeling the pressure of juggling your child's homeschool along with all of your other roles?
In my role as a primary school teacher, parent and counsellor, not only do I empathise with the strain that is being felt across the nation, I am aware of how easy it is to focus so much on an ever-increasing workload at the expense of our own mental health.
This can leave us feeling hopelessly frazzled and pretty desperate. If you continue to work like this for the next six weeks, the only thing that is guaranteed is that you will be holding a one-way ticket to 'Burnouts Ville'. Nobody wants that!
If this sounds familiar, here are a few ways to approach homeschooling without compromising you or your family's mental health.
Learning takes many forms - enjoy it!
Alongside the curriculum that is provided by your school, there are a variety of ways your child can learn when the pressures of sharing a laptop and downloading work on a frequently-crashing learning platform get too much.
There are excellent documentaries, podcasts, virtual tours of museums and online activities which will complement the work provided by your school. But learning doesn't always have to be about the curriculum.
Children can learn so much by helping out at home. Cooking, gardening and DIY are all fantastic learning opportunities for children, all of which are much more difficult to replicate in a classroom setting.
Not only will your child be learning life skills but they will be contributing to the household tasks, giving them a sense of pride and responsibility. Children love to feel useful and are always offering to take on responsibilities in the classroom. This is the perfect opportunity for them to feel empowered at home, too.
Use this time to allow your child to develop their own interests. They may love to draw, take photographs, write epic novels or build and construct amazing things. The chance to get their head stuck into a long-term project that can be done independently will likely benefit them therapeutically also.
Children are more independent than they'd like you to believe
A lot of the children at my school have already learned to upload their own work and access technology far more effortlessly than I was able to do. Encouraging children to 'have a go' and troubleshoot their own problems before stepping in, not only saves you time but helps them learn to overcome the fear of failure and build resilience.
I know it might feel like a headache at first but giving them the space to persevere will reap its rewards in the long term.
Sometimes it's hard to let children 'get on with things', as we feel that we should be helping them as much as we can. But 'help' can sometimes be sitting back and supporting a process, especially when there is problem-solving to be done. This is an essential life skill for any child.
Drop your standards
Teachers aren't expecting perfection from either you or your child. Inevitably, the independent work produced by your child may not be quite as accurate as it would be if you were sat beside them. However, they will feel more ownership over their piece of work when it is finished.
Children are left to work independently at schools too and sometimes that freedom can really foster creativity. They are so much more creative than adults by nature.
When your child's work is complete, use this opportunity instead to sit with your child and celebrate all that has been achieved. You can then work together on a small number of corrections or improvements.
Don't overload them, though. One small area of improvement done well will have a greater impact than many corrections, which could leave your child feeling disheartened. Their work isn't perfect in class either; learning is a process and children all go at their own individual pace.
Stop before you feel overloaded
Regular breaks are important for the whole family. Get outside and move your bodies. It will invigorate the mind as well as the body. While you're out and about, the conversations that you have together are all examples of excellent learning too.
Children are inquisitive so, if they are particularly interested in a topic, then run with it. Allow your child to explore it further through art, research or play. Let them immerse themselves in their own interests, as they are likely to feel more motivated when in control of their own learning.
The curriculum skills can be adapted to different contexts and that's more than OK! Please share this work with your teachers too as we would love to see it. It's another example of fabulous home learning and deserves to be celebrated.
Children respond well to boundaries and knowing what is expected of them. Working as a partnership to set small goals, build in breaks and share expectations will help get them motivated.
Separating work into chunks will also stop everything feeling too over-facing. Agree on time limits for tasks and rewards for their successful completion together. That way your child will feel they have some control over their day.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy
Opportunities to relax and play are important for good learning. Give children plenty of time to relax, watch TV, play online games, if that's what they like to do. Screens don’t have to be a bad thing and, from experience, TV doesn't make your eyes go square - despite my dad telling me that it would.
Your teachers will be happy to recommend websites or programmes which will give children the opportunity to learn while they play, if you are worried about the time your child is spending on Mario Kart!
Teachers are humans too
It's easy to think of us as dispensers of judgement and criticism, particularly if that was your educational experience, but we are probably more approachable that you think. Many of us are parents ourselves and are facing exactly the same challenges that you are. We empathise, I promise! Get in touch and we will do all we can to help.
You can only do so much and it's important to make the learning work for you and your family situation. Give your child a little more responsibility and take the opportunity to work together as a team. We don't expect you to replace us and I promise that you’ll all be happier for it.
Counselling can help
If you do feel that things are getting too difficult to manage, counselling can provide you with a safe space to offload your worries and concerns, manage your expectations and make positive change to your life.
Please get in touch if you feel I can help you.