We are currently experiencing something completely unique and new to everyone it is hard to believe how much has happened in just a week. I know that schools closing has come as a surprise and shock to most people and this has lead to all sorts of questions about what to do next.
So here is my take on it and some tips to survive the next few weeks:
The children are going to be very confused as to why they can’t go to school. At first it will be like a holiday, but after a while they are going to be missing their friends, the routines of school and the shared opportunities they get such as after school clubs, choir etc. It is a good idea to talk to them regularly about what is happening and why they can’t go to school or see their friends as normal, also reassure them that although it seems like a long time, it won’t be this way forever and things will get back to normal.
Some good ways to keep their social interactions going even if you are in isolation are Skype playdates- children can see each other, chat and share toys, ideas and even play together. Talk to each other on the telephone, write text messages to each other (through parents phones) and while the post is still operating they could even send each other letters.
There is a lot of speculation about how people are going to work and home school their children at the same time. As someone with three young children, two of whom are pre schoolers I know that with the best will in the world there is no way I will be able to keep young ones occupied in order to teach a full day’s work with the school aged child. If you are trying to work as well then this would be extremely stressful and pretty much impossible.
We haven’t been told that we need to home school children. I see lots of people sharing sites that have planning and ideas for teaching children of different ages which is great if that is what you want to do, but not everyone is going to have the time, knowledge or inclination to do that.
Here are some practical ways to try and manage the situation:
If work has to be your priority then I would suggest breaking up the day into manageable chunks so that the children are given some time with adult interaction, but then they also have a period of time in the day where they are expected to be independent.
Children are usually more focused in the morning, agree on some activities you know they are able to do on their own such as arts and crafts, puzzles, water play, messy play and screen time. I find writing the time down helps. If you need an hour to work then write down the time you will stop and they can then match that to the clock time. (Even if they can’t tell the time they can match the numbers or the hands of the clock). Children can’t focus for a long period of time on the same activity, they need flexibility and change so setting up a few options for them is helpful.
Sticking things onto tape kept Megan & Charlie busy for a long time, they returned to it a number of times and then used the tape to make their own obstacle course!
They will have been given work from school to do. This will have been collated by teachers who have tried their best to cater for everyone in a very short amount of time. Do a bit each day, ideally at a similar time so that your day starts to represent the routines they have at school each day. I would suggest that a focussed activity should take no longer than 30 minutes for Reception and KS1 and 45 minutes for KS2.
Your routine has to work for you and nobody else. I know people are worried that there will soon be a flood of ‘home schooling’ perfect pictures on Facebook and Instagram. It is hard not to feel as though you aren’t doing what is right for your children if your day doesn’t look the same. Believe me there are times when I have posted an activity on my Facebook page or Instagram and it looks like we are having the best time and then two minutes later it has all gone to pot and everyone is in tears! No one is perfect and ultimately the main thing is that your child/ren are happy and have a good balance of activities throughout the day.
Get outdoors if you can. The weather is not great at the moment, but during a school day the children are outside at least two or three times a day. They need fresh air and to be able to run off their energy, even if it’s a quick walk around the block, playing in the garden or going on a bike ride.
Role Play outdoors!
There are some great options available for keeping children active during this period Joe Wicks is doing a P.E lesson everyday at 9am on his youtube channel (The body coach). Go Noodle is great for a brain break for yourselves and the children we love ‘Banana, Banana, Meatball’ and ‘Peanut butter in a a cup’.
Lastly don’t worry if you have some bad days, these are going to happen. Children are not always going to be co-operative, they will get tired and grumpy the same as we will. There is likely to be periods of isolation where someone in the house is ill, these days will be harder than others and everything will go to pot. That’s ok. Tomorrow is another day as they say. If all else fails, cuddle up read stories, bake, and play board games. There are also going to be some great times, we will be making memories with our children, spending more time as a family unit than ever before with lots of fun and laughter. When my children look back on this time in the future I want them to think of it as a happy time with lots of memories of us being together as a family.