COVID-19 and home learning
COVID-19 lockdowns might mean your child has periods of learning from home.
The tips below can help you and your child get the most out of home learning during lockdown.
Home learning isn’t the same as home-schooling. With home learning, classroom teachers prepare and provide learning activities for students just as they do when students are physically at school. With home-schooling, parents are registered as their child’s teacher and are responsible for setting all their child’s learning activities.
1. Stay connected with the school
When you stay connected with your child’s school, you’ll know what your child needs to do to keep up with their learning.
Most schools send out regular emails or other communications to keep parents informed about children’s learning, so it’s important to read these. It’s also OK to get in touch with your child’s classroom teacher if you’re not sure what your child should be doing or you have any concerns.
It’s good to check on how the school is organising home learning too. For example, you can check:
- which online platform the school is using
- what your child’s schedule is – for example, when they have online classes, or whether there’s any flexibility
- what resources the school is providing and how your child can get them – for example, whether you need to pick up resources from school
- how your child should complete learning tasks, submit work and get feedback
- what the teacher wants your child to do if they finish tasks early
- who can support your child if they have problems
- what adjustments the school can make if your child has an individual learning plan.
It’s important to be polite and understanding when you communicate with your child’s teacher or other school staff. Teachers and school staff are working from home too, and some might also be trying to support their own children’s learning.
2. Set up a daily home and learning routine
A routine makes it clear what your child needs to do, when and in what order. When children know what to expect, they’re more likely to feel calm, cooperative and secure. Routines help them build good habits too.
Your child’s routine could include:
- getting up at the same time each school day
- getting dressed and having breakfast before school starts
- attending online classes
- working on their lessons
- having recess and lunch breaks
- doing some physical activity
- video-calling friends or doing something social.
It’s important to keep learning periods short and manageable to match your child’s concentration span. And if there’s flexibility in your child’s schedule, try to match classes with your child’s energy levels. For example, your child could do maths or writing in the morning before they get too tired.
3. Help children follow their routine
If you involve your child in making their routine, it’s more likely they’ll follow it. Talking with your child about their needs and preferences is the best way to do this. Your child might also like to write out or draw the routine themselves. This means you can display the routine where everyone in the family can see it.
It’s good to think about how you can help your child follow the routine and do their learning independently. For example, you could set a timer to signal when your child needs to move on to the next learning activity or stop for a break. If your child is older, you can let them know when they can interrupt you if they need your help.
You could also think about who else can help your child during the day. For example, one of your child’s grandparents or a family friend could connect with your child online to discuss a lesson or listen to them read. Or you might take it in turns with other parents in your child’s class.
4. Set up a good workspace for children
If you have a child in the early years of school, they’ll probably work best in family areas like the kitchen or near where you’re working. This also makes it easier for you to supervise and help them.
If you have an older child, they’ll probably be spending more time doing schoolwork, so a workspace with more privacy and space could be good. It could be in a bedroom or in a family area.
A good workspace can help your child focus when they’re learning at home. A good workspace can also help your child with healthy posture and reduce your child’s risk of physical problems like neck, shoulder and eye pain.
If possible, a good workspace for learning is somewhere that:
- is quiet and ideally doesn’t have distractions like the TV or younger siblings playing
- has plenty of light
- isn’t hot, cold or stuffy – you might be able to leave the door or window open for more airflow
- has a desk or table where your child can sit to write or use a computer
- has space for books, pencils, pens, craft materials and a computer or tablet for online classes.
Schools can loan you devices like tablets and internet dongles if you don’t have these at home or you need extra because you have more than one child learning from home.
5. Tune in to children’s feelings
Children might have many and mixed feelings about home learning.
For example, your child might like learning at their own pace away from distractions. Or they might miss their friends, teacher, extracurricular activities and more. Their feelings, energy levels or motivation for home learning might also go up and down throughout the day or across the week.
The key thing is tuning in to your child regularly to see how they’re feeling. This shows your child that what they feel is important to you.
Here are some tips for tuning in to your child:
- Find a good time to talk regularly with your child. It might be when you’re going for a walk, having a cuddle in an armchair, or before you read a bedtime story.
- Ask open-ended questions like ‘What was good about today? What didn’t you enjoy today?’ You can also use prompts to encourage your child to share their feelings. For example, ‘It sounds like you felt frustrated when I had a meeting and couldn’t help you with your writing this morning’.
- Actively listen to your child’s response without interrupting.
- Pay attention to your child’s facial expressions and body language when they talk to you. This can help you understand what’s behind your child’s words.
- If you notice your child getting a bit agitated, restless or upset during the day, think about what their behaviour is telling you. For example, they might need a break, time outside to reset, something to eat, or physical activity to burn off some energy.
- If your child is feeling strong emotions, support your child while they calm down by being patient and calm yourself and staying close by.
- Let your child know that it’s OK if they’re finding things hard and encourage them to say something kind to themselves. For example, ‘I’m doing the best I can’ or ‘It’s OK if it’s taking a bit longer to do these maths problems. Things take a bit longer when you’re learning from home’.
Eating well, staying active, getting enough good sleep, staying connected to friends, and feeling safe and secure at home are all essential to your child’s health and wellbeing during lockdown. When your child is healthy and well, they’re more likely to concentrate well, have energy, behave well, regulate their emotions and learn.
6. Talk to the teacher about learning concerns
It’s important to get help from your child’s teacher if you’re concerned about how your child is going with home learning. For example, your child might be struggling with a topic or stressed about the amount of work they need to do. They might refuse to do their learning activities altogether.
The earlier you raise issues with your child’s teacher, the better. Your child’s teacher can help you find and use strategies to support your child’s learning. For example, together you and the teacher might be able to modify learning tasks for your child, change your child’s schedule to reduce stress, or introduce fun into learning tasks to improve your child’s motivation.
If you’re concerned about your child’s physical, mental and emotional health and wellbeing, you can talk with your GP. Your child can call Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800.
7. Make the most of everyday learning opportunities
If your child isn’t getting through their lessons or is struggling, it can help to remember that your child is also learning a lot as part of everyday life.
Here are some examples of this kind of learning:
- Keeping score in a soccer game or measuring out ingredients while cooking develops your child’s maths skills.
- Reading builds your child’s literacy and language skills – especially if you and your child read together.
- Watching and talking about documentaries together helps your child learn about topics that interest them, like nature, sport, art and more.
- Playing cubby houses or putting on puppet plays builds your child’s creativity, problem-solving, language and physical skills.
- Connecting with family and friends through video or phone calls builds your child’s communication skills.
- Saying ‘hello’, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to the people you meet when you go for a neighbourhood walk builds your child’s social skills and gives them practice in getting along with others.
8. Praise and encourage children’s efforts
Praise and encourage your child’s efforts and other positive behaviour as soon as you see it. This shows your child that you’ve noticed that they’re trying and you appreciate it. It can motivate your child to keep trying or to stick with a learning task.
Praise and encouragement work best when it’s specific. And it should focus on how your child worked on a task rather than on whether they finished it or got the right answer. For example, ‘I like the way that you tried to work out that maths question by yourself’ or ‘I noticed that you were really patient waiting for me to finish my phone call before asking me to help with this. That helps me out a lot. Thank you’.
You can also encourage your child to reward themselves for effort by doing something nice for themselves. For example, ‘You’re doing so well! Why don’t you finish that off and then go on the trampoline’ or, ‘You’ve worked really hard today. Do that last maths question and then watch something fun on TV’.
If your child needs extra motivation to do things like starting their learning on time, you could try a reward chart.
Some children might have additional challenges that can affect their ability to learn at home. Our article on COVID-19 and children with disability, autism or other conditions has suggestions for supporting your child with additional needs in this situation.
Looking after yourself when children are learning from home
Your wellbeing as a parent during lockdown is important. When you look after yourself and are kind to yourself, you’re better able to help your child cope and do well too. You’re also role-modelling a healthy and positive approach to the situation.