Lockdown is upon us again. Schools are closed to all but keyworkers and the ‘vulnerable’.
Ordinarily, home educators don’t limit themselves to thinking ‘education happens in the home’. Lockdown, however, puts all parents in a similar position of having their movement outside the home and their social contacts limited. Add to this a need for many to work from home and the pressure on a home space and its occupants increases no matter how you educate.
We’ve put together some resources already so take a look at the discounts and free things available for all age groups, recommended to us by home educating parents over the years. There are also a few more Youtube channels recently shared here.
You can do it!
Everywhere you look there are clear signals that agencies of news, media, some charities and government are clear about one thing: parents are simply not good enough to educate their own children.
At Education Otherwise we know that this is not true. Let’s clear up a few things before we talk about some tips from home educators who have been learning from a home base for a lot longer than lockdown, and from those who have a foot in both the world of school and its demands as well.
The current trend is to call the time away from school and face to face teaching ‘learning loss’. As John Ewing, mathematician and president of Math for America, says in his article for Forbes,
Of course, the term “learning loss” comes from the language of test enthusiasts. For them, learning is a substance that’s poured into students over time. One measures the accumulated substance by the number of correct answers on a test (standardized, usually multiple-choice). By administering two comparable tests at different moments in time, one measures success or failure for learning. An increase in correct responses is gain; a decrease is loss.
It’s clear from this narrow narrative of learning that those who use these words are vested in the testing industry. They will view any drop in scores on those tests as a loss, a setback, or a failure, and believe it to be detrimental to the entire future of the individual experiencing it- and panic.
In reality, we all experience temporary or apparent ‘loss’ of knowledge, and we recover it with a little effort. What that blip can reveal is whether or not we actually understood the ideas in the first place.
There is no straight answer to that question, but in simple terms, learning is a change in brain architecture as a result of experience. When you and your child are experiencing something, you are learning by default. If we always anchor to that truth, and it works for other species as well, we can offer an even richer learning environment in our homes as we engage with a broader view of education. Win-win, not learning loss.
For a fascinating look into the world of neuroscience, you can make a start here with Professor Nancy Kanwisher and her team. See how we can map the brain, watch it in action, and how we can use this to move to a new level of understanding of how the amazing brain works. For children try this Youtube video, because it makes complete sense to know what tools are needed for intelligent and creative decisions, and it’s fun!
Top tips from home educators for lockdown learning
Get outside as much as you can!
Not only does the virus transmission pose much less threat outside, but many scientific studies extol the virtues of fresh air and walking in particular.
Hone your observation skills, the basis of good scientific study, using nature- there’s plenty of it. The RSPB runs a nature challenge scheme you can join in with easily, even if you have little current knowledge about the natural world. For younger children try some of these challenges . Older kids can do their own research, ask them to create some nature challenges for the rest of the family!
The garden is a major asset if you have one. From growing vegetables to being able to have five minutes in peace while chaos reigns indoors, it is no longer a thing of decorative value, it is space for educational activity and mindful meditation with a cup of something hot. Wrap up warm and use old blankets to keep your bottom warm from the seats or ground. Horticulture is a multibillion-pound industry, so don’t overlook its potential as a career path either and explore the options now.
Use others as a resource. While mixing is restricted, talking outside at a distance is permitted. Take advantage of the slower pace many people have now by taking time to talk to neighbours and family, and find out what their skills are- they may have extensive knowledge about the thing your kids really need to know about or want to do.
Value the skills others possess that are not focussed on academic achievement. Things like gardening wisdom are often passed on through discussions, and flower, fruit and vegetable growing in pots can be experienced even in a high rise building. Notice who grows things, who has artistic works they made in your neighbourhood, and pop a letter through the door offering a chat on video or a phone call- passing on the knowledge of our life’s passionate pursuits is an uplifting event and we need more of those.
Around the home, there are many items that have more than one use; the humble cooking pot is also an age-old drum, vessel of magical potion or scientific mixology, an obstacle in a game or course for moving objects, and a helmet for the Knight in shining armour. Don’t let the seemingly mundane stay that way, challenge your kids to come up with uses around the home. Pick an item and ask them to come up with four new uses for it, creative thinking and re using objects will be a key skill in the future of sustainable living.
Free online resources are available and many are of excellent quality, our list of resources recommended by parents contains just some of them.
Cheap resources can be bought at high street shops that specialise in the money saving stock for things like art, crafts, puzzles as well as those that provide affordable equipment for gardening, sports and play. Many have online stores that can still deliver, or click and collect. There are also Facebook sites that are dedicated to either selling or swapping educational materials. You could set one up with local people as a way to share resources or exchange what your kids have grown out of for something you feel they need now.
Don’t be afraid to change the layout of the home
A temporary furniture move might be just what you need. If you are used to being out all day then your home is likely set up to relax and watch TV in the evenings, with a place for learning a secondary consideration- and that is how the children have learned to use the space. Make rich learning environments the priority for now. Cover the TV with fabric, curtain or move it out to another room. Arrange sofas to divide the room, or create a ‘soft play’ for young ones to keep them out of older siblings activities for short periods of time. Changing the room around will help change how it gets used, and it costs nothing.
Big families and small spaces will work better if people move around the zones rather than trying to give everyone their own space- learning does not occur in isolation. Consider your needs: quiet zone for study and quiet activities like reading or drawing; messy and active zone for STEM and craft activities with the floor protected by cheap shower curtains- saves time on the clean up!; noise zone, where music, conversation, board games and laughter can happen- drop leaf tables are your best friend here; online classes zone if you have to attend school, and gaming or research when the classes are not on; play zone with lego, blocks, Meccano, games etc.
You don’t have to create each zone separately, you can timetable changes in focus if space is short. It won’t take long for children to learn that moving the sofa means changing the activities and everyone can help.
We are all feeling sadness at not being able to see people we want to be with. Take advantage of both modern methods such as video calling, phone calls and emails, but don’t forget old fashioned ways such as writing letters or sending postcards to keep families in touch. There’s something special about receiving a letter, including photographs and drawings, and writing a letter gives you time to think about what you want to say without the pressure of instant answers to questions. Even if the person only lives around the corner, see if you can play postie with your children and start a trend in the neighbourhood, young children especially like to post things.
There are so many potential creative projects that you could undertake it would be impossible to list them, but here are a few suggestions from our lovely parents. Start a Pinterest board now!
Make a film or documentary– Choose a topic of interest or related to any school lessons and use the visual medium and sound to create something unique.
Start new hobbies– knitting, crochet, sewing, music, mask making, clay modelling, stop animation, digital drawing, real world arts, gardening, yoga…
Join a challenge– look online for nature, physical, STEM, art challenges. If you can link them to a learning project then better still.
Play games– games that require strategy, numeracy, critical thinking, planning, negotiation, quiz based. Include traditional deck and new card games, games that young and old can play together, games that can stretch for days. Make your own games.
DIY projects together– plan, measure, cut, sand, paint, these are all skills for life and great opportunities to re-enforce reading of diagrams, words, measuring in different units of measure.
Above all the advice from seasoned home educators is to relax, take time to get to know how your children learn best, explore alternative ways of doing things and enjoy!