Tips from the experienced home-schoolers as the COVID crisis rolls on

Alex Rea 17 April 2020 41
Group of home school students sitting on forest floor.

Homeschoolers meet up for a day at Monga National Park near Braidwood before the COVID-19 crisis. Photo: Judy Knowles.

School closures due to COVID-19 were met with mixed responses by parents who are now responsible for homeschooling their kids.

While the shock of that shift might be hard for many parents, others have rich experience to share, garnered from years of homeschooling.

According to the NSW Education Standards Authority, in 2018 there were 5429 students homeschooling in NSW, (an increase of more than 15 per cent on the previous year), of which 83 were 17-years-olds in their final year.

Braidwood homeschooling mother Judy Knowles says, “I’m hugely relieved that schools have been shut down and I know this will be difficult for many people, but this is the safest option in my opinion.”

With four kids aged 8, 13, 16 and 19, Judy adds, “I’ve been homeschooling for 11 years since my oldest was eight. It’s both challenging and rewarding.

“There are days I feel like the luckiest mum on the planet, and [other] times I think I’m crazy to be doing it this way. It is ultimately a lifestyle choice. We don’t have two incomes and have to live pretty simply.

“As far as what people are going to be dealing with now that schools are closed will depend on how each school approaches it. For most people, it will look more like distance ed, with schoolwork being sent home and online linkups with teachers.

Young child River Parsons planting seeds in pot.

Student River Parsons planting seedlings as part of homeschooling. Photo: Judy Knowles.

“The reality of homeschooling is you are on your own to set lesson plans and decide how, when and what will happen. You need to chase up all your own activities and resources, and many families belong to a local, state or national support group to help them with these aspects. Belonging to these groups also means you get discounts for many online education subscriptions.

“I guess my main advice for families at this time would be to look at this as an opportunity to spend time just hanging out as a family,” she adds.

“Many parents may feel pressured to make sure their children get through a certain amount of workload similar to what they would if they were at school. Under the circumstances, so many of us are under stress, including children. I would take a gentle approach and allow a least a couple of days of adjustment and processing for everyone.

“This is actually a great time for life lessons and for children to learn how we have to be adaptable and to understand that being adaptable is key to survival for any species on the planet.

“Learning happens all the time and in so many different and subtle ways. Be observant, be present and be honest about what you will achieve as the temporary teacher. Don’t be unrealistic and don’t add any more stress on yourself as a parent by expecting to suddenly fill the role of schoolteacher.”

Former homeschoolers Billie Dean and Andrew Einspruch also live outside Braidwood and enjoyed the experience with their daughter, Tamsin.

Tamsin Dean Einspruch, left, and Andrew Einspruch, right, smiling at camera.

Tamsin Dean Einspruch and Andrew Einspruch on their family animal sanctuary near Braidwood. Photo: Tamsin Dean Einspruch.

“We homeschooled right through and loved every minute of it,” says Billie. “It gives a family a chance to bond deeply and it can be a rich and rewarding experience. We’re currently in a time of crisis and it’s important that children feel heard, so instead of thinking it’s school as normal, let them be involved in everyday activities and problem-solving.

“Sometimes they can come up with a unique perspective and it gives them a sense of self-esteem to be heard. You may be pleasantly surprised! Every child is different in the way they learn. For example, some need movement, some need stories. Discovering what your children are really passionate about right now and helping them explore that gives a really strong foundation to the homeschooling experience.

“The other big thing for parents is to take the stress off themselves. Children are like sponges; they learn so much more than we think they do just by absorbing daily activities and following passions. You won’t fail them. Remember, humans have been on the planet for a very long time, but formal education in schools for only about 130 years.”

Billie’s closing advice for parents is simple.

“Make it fun and make this time about family bonding, memorable experiences, following passions and inviting them to help come up with creative and inventive ways through this current challenge. Enjoy!”

The NSW Department of Education also has online advice for parents and carers about learning from home.

NSW Department of Education remote learning guidelines list.

The NSW Department of Education remote learning guide for students and parents. Courtesy: NSW Department of Education.

There are plenty of online homeschooling groups. Try Facebook page School@Home due to Virus & School Closures In Australia.

Original Article published by Alex Rea on About Regional.

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41 Responses to Tips from the experienced home-schoolers as the COVID crisis rolls on
Charmaine Wild Charmaine Wild 6:16 pm 13 Apr 20

Kirsten Davis well said lovely 👍 😉

Kirsten Davis Kirsten Davis 3:32 pm 13 Apr 20

Just be thankful that the opportunity to learn is still available. Yes it’s an adjustment but it’s not forever. Just do your best and when it’s all over be thankful that the Teachers went to great lengths to make sure learning was still available. They’re working parents to, while some might expect Teachers to perform miracles well they already are because while they’re available for our children they’re not available for their own. I think that’s commendable. Just chill peeps this too shall pass 😊 before you all go attacking me 😜 I’m a working mother of 2 teenagers so yes I’m doing the juggle just like you I’m just looking at it from a different angle 😊

Kirstin Langton Kirstin Langton 8:28 am 13 Apr 20

We have found primary school age children don’t just require supervision to do their school work - they require active supervision. This is not possible while working full time.

    Kerry Howell Kerry Howell 4:32 pm 13 Apr 20

    Kirstin Langton same here! Definitely active supervision required. Just juggling their school schedule to you can give different levels of supervision at different times is so challenging.

Stephanie Akers-Barnes Stephanie Akers-Barnes 12:41 am 13 Apr 20

ACT public school parents are not being asked to home school. There is a difference between home schooling and distance education. Let your child's teacher teach your kids, all you have to do is supervise (and no longer be shocked about poor behaviour reports in the future).

    Sara Montagnese Sara Montagnese 9:43 am 13 Apr 20

    Stephanie Akers-Barnes - sorry but I disagree. This may work if you have older kids however with younger kids, this is not the case. They require active supervision. A zoom meeting held by the teacher for 30 mins - 1 hour per day is not ‘teaching the kids’, it is simply checking in on them and an

    opportunity for the kids to see the other kids. While teachers are providing the content, they are not teaching. As parents, it now falls to us to ‘teach’. We are the ones that have to help our children understand what they need to do and often, help them with the activities. Especially with children still learning to read and write. In class, the children are told what they need to do and the expected outcome with teachers clarifying questions and assisting through tout the day, this is not the case now. Trying to do this successfully while working full time during business hours (as my job requires) is not possible.

    Stephanie Akers-Barnes Stephanie Akers-Barnes 11:09 am 13 Apr 20

    Sara Montagnese we may need to agree to disagree. I am doing both: I am a teacher and a parent of a primary school student (and a high school student). I'm supervising and I'm teaching. You should not need to teach at all. That is the job of your teacher. If you have concerns or find you are teaching you need to contact your child's teacher and if you get nothing there you need to contact the principal of your child's school. This is not home schooling. The curriculum and delivery is decided for you. You should just be supervising. I wish you luck.

    Sara Montagnese Sara Montagnese 11:25 am 13 Apr 20

    Stephanie Akers-Barnes - all good, thanks for replying. I have found most parents say the same as I do, the supervision (or teaching) required to assist our kids is not sustainable for parents working full time from home. I have provided this feedback to the teachers last term however don’t believe in anyway its their fault, it simply is what it is and we each have to do the best we can

    Jackie Fuller Jackie Fuller 12:00 pm 13 Apr 20

    Im definitely teaching my child! learning so far has been one big headache to me (mum)

    Stephanie Akers-Barnes Stephanie Akers-Barnes 2:13 pm 13 Apr 20

    Jackie Fuller You need to contact your child's teacher or Principal. Having said that as both a parent and a teacher can I recommend going easy on you both? It's a strange new world for everyone, and sometimes things need to be taken a little slower when we're experiencing trauma (and we all are right now). My experience as a Mum is to try and help my kid get the 'right' answer to something- forgetting that you need to "fail" at something in order to learn. Your kid is allowed to goof up an piece of work. That let's their teacher know where extra help may be needed or a whole class may not get a concept. Take it easy on yourself and your little ones. Everything will be ok.

Pauline Carder Pauline Carder 12:32 am 13 Apr 20

The teachers are still trying to come to terms with the new world. It’s a challenge for them too. Remember that.

Phil Hopkins Phil Hopkins 9:30 pm 12 Apr 20

School at Home Teacher available via Zoom. Just PM me for details

Roderick Saunders Roderick Saunders 7:36 pm 12 Apr 20

This is schooling at home, not home schooling. There's a difference.

Robyn Holder Robyn Holder 4:48 pm 12 Apr 20

Of course if the teachers keep posting on the parent page instead of the kid's that is a problem that should be addressed to the school or teacher. My grandson's teacher is doing that. He is 6 and quite capable of doing any Google classroom stuff himself including responding to the teacher but the responses are on the parent page. My daughter has a business to run.

    Jill Lee Bee Jill Lee Bee 5:52 pm 12 Apr 20

    Robyn Holder sounds like a conversation that needs to be had between teacher and parent

    Kate Smith Kate Smith 1:43 pm 13 Apr 20

    Robyn Holder or maybe sent to both so everyone knows what is going on.....and your daughter is not the only one in this position. Try a little give in this urgent and unusual circumstance.

    Not every child is as capable as your grandson either. Everyone is on a steep learning curve

Lin Van Oevelen Lin Van Oevelen 12:32 pm 12 Apr 20

Homeschooling parents don't tend to have full time jobs though.

    Jenni Zimoch Jenni Zimoch 1:02 pm 12 Apr 20

    Lin Van Oevelen that they're trying to do at home at the same time.

    Jenni Zimoch Jenni Zimoch 1:03 pm 12 Apr 20

    And homeschooling parents chose to do it.

    This has been forced on us.

    With good reason, but still forced with little warning.

    Zoë Clews Tibbitts Zoë Clews Tibbitts 1:21 pm 12 Apr 20

    Yet more frustrating advice that ignores the fact that most us are working.

    Judith Scerri Judith Scerri 1:33 pm 12 Apr 20

    Lin Van Oevelen Homeschooling is a full time job! And they still have their home duties like all other parents.

    Its probably best not to compare homeschooling and distant education at this time

    Lin Van Oevelen Lin Van Oevelen 3:46 pm 12 Apr 20

    KJ, my child is 15 and though I'm home, I'm currently so busy in my job - providing services to the community - that all I can manage is to yell at her from my desk when I get an email from a teacher about her missing a deadline. And i really, really appreciate teachers more than ever.

    My daughter will be fine. She's motivated and even if her marks drop temporarily, she'll get a crash course in taking responsibility.

    But if you've got young kids, like kindy or year 1, there's little hope that you'll be able to supervise them sufficiently to allow their hardworking teachers to shine right now.

    That is just the reality of this situation for lots of parents. We need to acknowledge it. No use putting blame anywhere else than on this bloody virus. Lots of parents are trusting our education system to deal with the fall out when the shutdown is over because it's the only hope they've got.

    Lin Van Oevelen Lin Van Oevelen 4:19 pm 12 Apr 20

    And I truly appreciate that, KJ. And so do all of the parents i know. What I've seen from my child's teachers is that most of them really care. And I've got to love anyone that takes that much of an interest in my chld's development and future.

    But supervising a 5yo compared to a 15yo is a world of difference.

    Sue White Sue White 4:24 pm 12 Apr 20

    KJ Enaj and when do they work? Asking as a sole parent mother of a kindergartener. As Lin Van Oevelen says - supervisiing a 5 yo is different to a 15yo. It’s impossible to get any work done. I love our school but I’m getting really sick of people thinking it’s realistic that parents of young children work and supervise their children (in an educational way or otherwise) or not.

    Sue White Sue White 4:25 pm 12 Apr 20

    KJ Enaj it’s not curriculum ideas that are the problem. It’s time.

    Sue White Sue White 4:26 pm 12 Apr 20

    KJ Enaj please see my comments. “Just supervise” is a full time job for kindergarteners.

    Kylie Tinnock Kylie Tinnock 4:37 pm 12 Apr 20

    KJ Enaj my kids teachers just up load into google classroom’s to do list and I’m expected to do the rest. Once a week they log on with their teacher and that’s it. I’m still working outside of the house and coming home to help the kids. So I would love to know what some teachers are doing now

    Richard Willcoxson Richard Willcoxson 4:42 pm 12 Apr 20

    Lin Van Oevelen you’ll find a lot of parents are trying to do their full time job from home as well as home schooling.

    Robyn Holder Robyn Holder 4:43 pm 12 Apr 20

    Kylie Tinnock how old are the kids?

    Robyn Holder Robyn Holder 4:44 pm 12 Apr 20

    Parents are not supposed to be home schooling just supervising.

    Kylie Tinnock Kylie Tinnock 4:44 pm 12 Apr 20

    Robyn Holder 13,11,10

    Belinda Hayes Belinda Hayes 4:58 pm 12 Apr 20

    just supervising is easy when you have children instead primary and high school. To say just supervise children in k-5 is ridiculous. Teachers are without a doubt busy trying to adjust to the new way, however they send through a number of emails and tasks and the rest is up to the parents. I really feel for those who are also trying to work from home as well

    Lin Van Oevelen Lin Van Oevelen 5:36 pm 12 Apr 20

    Sue, with all due respect, this isn't the teachers' fault either. I understand that lots of parents aren't able to provide the supervision their kids need to make the most of the online education program. I don't know what the solution is, but there isn't much more teachers or the education department can do in this situation.

    Kytie Mclign Kytie Mclign 5:52 pm 12 Apr 20

    Judith Scerri Are you kidding? Homeschooling might be a full-time job, but so is the usual full-time job that these parents are maintaining. (That makes TWO full-time jobs until the kids go back to their usual school, which is the actual point).

    Judith Scerri Judith Scerri 6:36 pm 12 Apr 20

    Kytie Mclign perhaps read some of the other comments on this thread and it might help you to better understand what is involved in homeschooling, and what can be invovled in distant education.

    Sue White Sue White 6:50 pm 12 Apr 20

    KJ Enaj I actually do respect them as my mother is a teacher. But I get very frustrated with people thinking it’s actually realistic to supervise Children’s education when they are also expected to work. It’s not a case of either respect teachers or support parents. It’s understand teachers work hard (they do - always, and anyone who says they don’t has no clue) and understand that parents are being put in an impossible situation that is not workable.

    Kir Rin Kir Rin 7:14 pm 12 Apr 20

    I’ve got two primary school age kids. I’m definitely not trying to come up with curriculum. However trying to do my full-time job (which currently is directly responding to Covid) while ‘supervising’ them is proving near impossible. They still need to support and guidance. Help finding the tasks and understanding them. Supervision to get them to finish them etc.

    when it’s school holidays I can work and ‘supervise’ as that’s just feeding them and making sure they don’t kill each other. But this is trying to balance their work and mine.

    Credit to the teacher setting this all up with little forewarning. Not taking away from what they’re doing for a moment. People need to recognise that this is just hard all round.

    Jodie McGuire Jodie McGuire 8:04 pm 12 Apr 20

    Lin Van Oevelen agree 100%. And parents will never have “Teacher Power” nor should we. It is very difficult when they are essentially learning in isolation, away from peers and the routine and conformity of school.

    Next Term I’m opting for my own child led unit of work for one of my 5 daughters...she is unique and is experiencing high levels of anxiety with the change and stress of our current times. Doesn’t help having Time constraints on handing pieces in where we would prefer to work on them

    To a deeper level over a longer period of time to enhance her learning.

    I’ve decided to “take a term” for most of my 5 daughters...I too am school staff so am also

    very busy supporting vulnerable high school students 1:1 via video conferences every day.

    My biggest goals for my 5 daughters -

    1. They Stay safe and know they are loved during this uncertain period.

    2. That the time I do have with them is full of fun, good conversation, baking, LEGO, walks in the hills, reading and love.

    3. That they actually want to go BACK to school in 3 months !!!!

    Kytie Mclign Kytie Mclign 8:32 pm 12 Apr 20

    Judith Scerri Actually, I have read the whole thread. You and a couple of other posters are stubbornly refusing to accept the otjer parents' view that there are two full-time jobs for parents while woeking feim.jome AND "supervising" their kids. If you think that is a case of them not understanding homeschooling or not appreciating the teachers, you should be able to reconsider your understanding and appreciation of their position.

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 9:50 am 13 Apr 20

    Judith Scerri Maybe "home duties like all other parents," but unlikely a full time job as well.

    Judith Scerri Judith Scerri 9:55 am 13 Apr 20

    Julie Macklin home duties as all of you parents are stating as A full time job, plus homeschooling, which is like a seperate full time job planning, teaching, supervising, assessing, organisation of extra curricular activity etc. There is no time for an extra full time job on the side, it would be impossible. Parents with children at home in this crisis are not in the same situation as homeschooling parents, Im not going to judge who has a more difficult situation- thats not the point. Im just sick of seeing parents complain about having to "home school" their children when they are absolutely not required to do this. There is a big difference with what parents are required to do now than that of homeschooling parents!

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