How to cheat homeschooling during lockdown

Textbooks are piled high on the table, classroom apps are spinning in the background, and you are spinning in the foreground. Not all schools and all classes are likely to reopen soon, so it looks like everyone is going to have to put their teacher’s hat on.


Here are 10 tips on how to get an A for effort.

Lesson 1: you don’t need to replicate your child’s school day

There’s no assembly, no one is walking between classrooms or changing in and out of uniform for phys ed. Learning at home is different compared to a traditional school day, and that can work in your favour. Make sure your kids understand that there is work to be done and that if there are fewer interruptions, it’ll get done much faster.


Lesson 2: set up a designated learning space

Create an area in the house where your child can focus on schoolwork. There are no rules about what the space should look like as children have individual ways of learning. One child may want to sit facing a blank wall, another may prefer your Pilates ball to a chair. If possible, don’t let them work in their bedrooms, so that this space can remain an area they associate with relaxation. Make sure they have all the materials they will need, such as pens, pencils, exam pads and a calculator. And limit distractions. Turn off the TV and make sure electronics that are not essential for learning are parked in the charger.


Lesson 3: put a routine in place

It has become increasingly difficult to persuade children that this break from school is not an extended holiday. Create and enforce a timetable or daily routine so that they know where they need to be when and what they need to be doing. Break up sessions of learning into manageable chunks of 30 minutes and include time for breaks, encouraging them to go outside if they can.


Lesson 4: enforce boundaries between work and study

Even though it may feel that way, no one expects you to become a full-time teacher overnight. Many of us are juggling work with homeschooling responsibilities for the first time, and the only way not to let the 2 infringe on each other is by setting clear boundaries. Share your work schedule with your children on a daily basis, and let them know that the time you have allocated for conference calls or deadlines is sacred and should be free of interruptions. By the same token, when you are helping them with projects, make sure they have your undivided attention.


Lesson 5: embrace technology

Remember, you have everything you need at your fingertips. Literally. The Internet offers a vast network of support for every academic subject imaginable, so if you don’t know the answer, look it up. If you’re a Vodacom customer, check out Vodacom e-school, a data-free resource for information from Grades 1 through 12. Take note of the programs and apps your children may need to access schoolwork and virtual lessons. If you don’t already have it, you can download Adobe Acrobat Reader here for free. They may also need Adobe Flashplayer to watch educational videos, and the whole family will need to come to grips with free teleconferencing tools such as Zoom and Google Hangouts, which teachers are increasingly using to share lessons.


Lesson 6: don’t rule out fun

The one advantage of homeschooling is that the rules can be relaxed a little. If your kids are starting to feel restricted, consider swapping out their schedule for a couple of days. If they were exercising in the afternoon, let them do a morning workout. If they have 40 maths questions to complete, offer them a small reward (a chocolate egg left over from your Easter stash, an extra 15 minutes on the Xbox) after every 10 they complete. Let them spray their hair pink or shave it into a mohawk (there’s certainly going to be plenty of time to grow it back). Consider running a tuck shop, and let them use Monopoly money to ‘buy’ snacks.


Lesson7: offer help, but don’t take over

We’re not all born teachers, and that’s totally okay! Your role should be more that of supervisor and facilitator. Be around to help, but don’t hover unnecessarily. If a child is struggling with a particular question or assignment, offer suggestions and work with them to find a solution.


Lesson 8: stay active

Both you and your kids will benefit from working exercise into your daily routine. If they participate in team sport at school, check if the coach has sent home an exercise schedule. Encourage them to follow the programme and join in yourself a few times a week. If you don’t have an outdoor space or a prescribed work-out schedule, don’t worry. There are plenty of online resources for exercises you can do indoors to get those endorphins pumping. Try PE with Joe on YouTube, hosted by UK fitness instructor Joe Wick, who streams daily 30-minute workouts aimed at kids. Or, if you’re a Virgin Active member, download the app on Google Play or on the Apple App Store and earn vitality points for every workout you complete.


Lesson 9: create opportunities to catch up with friends

One of the ways kids deal with academic challenges and emotional pressures is by offloading on their buddies. But social distancing can chip away at even the tightest of cemented friendships. Older kids who have phones can stay in touch, but it’s a good idea to structure ‘bonding’ time. It’s more important now than ever to chat to them about what they are feeling, who they are talking to and what they are sharing. For younger kids, this may be the first time they have to ‘virtually’ catch up with friends. Hook them up with a friend on Zoom, Houseparty or Hangouts, and encourage them to tell each other about their day, read something out loud or even spend a ‘school break’ together.


Lesson: be open to expanding the curriculum

This is a good time to embrace out-of-the-box thinking. Once the ‘school’ day is over, encourage your kids to search for other interesting and useful ways to educate themselves. If they’re keen on exploring a new creative interest (cross-stitching, photography, making home movies) or going down a rabbit hole of a subject they’re not taking at school, let them.  

Here are a couple of resources they (and you) will find useful and inspiring:

  • BrainPop has more than 1 000 short animated movies for all ages, as well as quizzes for maths, English, technology, health, arts and music
  • Curiosity Stream offers loads of documentaries for a monthly or an annual subscription rate
  • Tynker teaches coding for kids, everything they need to know write their own games and programs
  • Outschool is designed specially to help with homeschooling during COVID-19 lockdown and site offers more than 10 000 lessons by qualified teachers
  • Beast Academy teaches problem-solving skills through rigorous maths lessons with the help of engaging, comic-book style characters  
  • Khan Academy is a non-profit organisation that has online lessons for all ages from preschoolers to post-graduates
  • Creative Bug has instructional videos that will teach your child how to draw, paint, sew, knit, crochet, bake, and more
  • National Geographic Kids is packed with information, education and games galore
  • Audible has launched Audible Stories, which allows kids anywhere to access over 200 full-length audiobooks free for the duration of school closures.

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