New Lockdown, New Opportunities
So, we’re back in lockdown, and there’s no imminent signs of schools reopening soon. Fresh homeschooling tips – to keep young learners happy, motivated and progressing – are needed now more than ever. A new lockdown – looking firmly on the bright side – can mean new learning opportunities.
We all have something on our side, and that’s the fact that we’ve been here before. No doubt you’ve gained some of your own homeschooling tips through helping your kids learn during the last lockdown. You know the key pointers – keeping a good daily structure, setting up a special, seperate space for your child to work in – but now it’s time to make sure that things are kept fresh so your kids don’t slip into a slump.
We’re specialists in homeschooling, and we’ve gained a wealth of experience in how to keep things fresh when working and studying from home. In this post, we’ve boiled down our experience into ten fresh homeschooling tips for 2021 and the latest lockdown.
Shaking It Up
There are several reasons why now’s a good time to invest in some new homeschooling tips, tricks and techniques. First up, showing your kids that you, too, are still learning and adapting to these unusual times will prove to them you’re interested and that you care about their learning beyond the fact of posting them off to school. Leading by example, you can show them it’s possible for anyone to take any opportunity to learn in order to make things better and more exciting.
Keeping things fresh also keeps the process of learning alive for your kids. It sounds dumb, but we need to learn about how we learn, in order to make what we learn stick. Leaning too hard on a limited pool of methods, no matter how good, can put undue pressure on them and risk making them feel stale.
Finally, this time is, truly, incredibly valuable. The enforced shake-up the pandemic has given all of us offers the opportunity to re-think and re-work how we do a lot of things. Think of this lockdown as an opportunity to actually rewire and improve the way your child learns, as well as the way they think about learning and school in general. With these homeschooling tips, we hope to help you and your kids feel differently about learning altogether, so that it becomes a more enjoyable and productive process, ready to be developed whenever they do head back to school. So without further ado, let’s jump in.
1. Let their lessons take them outdoors
At least once a day, try and find a way to get a lesson going out of doors. Spot colours in different languages; practice creative writing, philosophy essays or newspaper articles about incidents you see occuring in the street; learn the science behind the flora and fauna around you. This is a great way to hook up their learning to real life. It gets darker earlier, so make sure to get outside at least once a day before the light goes.
2. Get others involved
Asking for a bit of help by enlisting a friend, loved-one or relative is a homeschooling tip people are often afraid to pick up, but that works wonders for helping school-time cross the border between work and life in a fun and exciting way. Got a relative who’s passionate about or expert on something in particular – would they care to do a guest lesson? Is there someone other than you who’d be happy to mark your child’s work? – this is great for incentivising your kids to be extra diligent. Is there someone who can help you with a Zoom-based murder-mystery or escape room-style lesson? Enlisting others keeps things fun and injects a bit of fresh energy into the learning dynamic.
3. Switch up your motivation skills
In Excellent Classroom Management, Carl Rinne highlights two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. Extrinsic motivation is stuff that comes ‘around’ or outside the learning, i.e. getting a good grade or getting a reward for doing well. Intrinsic motivation is that feeling of being excited by what you’re doing because you love the subject: you want to learn and find out more and spend time getting better because it makes you feel good. Rinne suggests we try and activate the intrinsic motivation in students by using a bit of extrinsic, but never too much. So try and gently help your child to acknowledge the satisfaction in, say, finishing a book, rather than only incentivising them by promising something at the end of it.
4. Re-appraise your praise
Following on from the above, when it’s time to dish out some praise, think about what you’re emphasising. Our kids take on board a lot from the way we praise them, so highlighting more sustainable and self-reliant aspects – such as by saying ‘you played so well in that game’, rather than just ‘you won’ – will stick in their heads and subtly shift the way they value themselves, as well as how and why they’re learning.
5. Help them to read freely (and everyday)
Encouraging reading – whether it’s their favourite novel series or some kind of non-fiction they’re interested in – is a simple but massively effective homeschooling tip. Crucially, let them read something they want to, something they enjoy naturally. You’ll be surprised how quickly kids can turn to books just as much as other devices when they’re allowed to pursue their own interests. Getting in at least a little bit of self-selected reading time everyday is important: it’s a contemplative, stimulating quiet time that leaves them relaxed and refreshed all at once.
6. Bring in passions unrelated to school work
We’ve taught lessons on ethics using The Avengers as analogies, and analysed popular song lyrics for rhyming structures (comparing them to Shakespeare’s sonnets). If there’s something that your kid is particularly passionate about, it’s often surprising how easy it can be to find a way to draw the academic out from the seemingly unrelated. Allowing your child’s natural passions to act as a lens onto the wider world is a top homeschooling tip – it’s something we all do as we get older, anyways!
7. Reverse the roles
If there’s any tension rising due to the amount of times it feels like you’re asking your child to learn something, ask them instead to put their own teachers hat on and plan their own short lesson on a subject of their choice, to then teach it back to you. This requires little preparation, helps them to use their creativity and is a great, fun way to bond whilst remote learning.
8. Unplug, switch off (to switch on)
A homeschooling tip that applies for all of us, really, but especially for kids who are now spending more time on their screens than ever. While apps and digital learning are great for some, most children will still be unused to the amount of screentime potentially available whilst learning from home. This can lead quickly to burn-out and low concentration spans. Our top tip: try and intersperse on-screen activities with off-screen ones, getting them toward an equal ratio. For every hour spent on the screen, spend a good half hour off it, even if that’s just catching up on some reading, or doing something creative, like drawing. If you sync up your screentime with theirs, you can do something together whilst you both take a break.
9. Constructive free-time online
Leading on from the above: when your kids are online, it’s also a homeschooling pro tip to encourage a bit of self-led internet time, following the same logic here as with the self-led reading time. Kids who’re permitted to use the internet freely if they’re following up on something they’re passionate about or interested in will quickly come to see the web as the rich encyclopedic resource it was designed to be, and not the distraction-based frenzy it can sometimes become. Learning this will give them healthy examples of internet use that will stick with them for the rest of their lives.
10. Write daily, or keep a journal
Our final top homeschooling tip is as timeless and universal as they get. Writing has forever been a great way to process things, settle the mind, and explain stuff to oneself. Choose a special notebook or journal with your child, and help them to get in the habit of writing something in it each day – you can ask to see each day’s efforts to begin with, in order to check, whilst promising that you won’t be reading it if they don’t want you to: it can be important for them to have their privacy in forming their own way of talking to themselves. Journaling is an awesome way to invigorate and distinguish the days during lockdown: you can even frame it as a lockdown-specific journal, to help your kids remember and process this unique time. Writing a little bit every day helps focus on each day’s differences, rather than their similarities, and makes the time fly.
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