Organise Yourself, Organise Your Kids – self-isolation and homeschooling
This home schooling is no easy task! I thought I had a good idea of how to organize and manage things with homeschooling, but this morning reality kicked in ;p After Day 1, I think I kind of understand how we will be working and what type of work my children will be doing. Being able to start a system at home has definately helped to keep me feeling in control, at least for now!
Children can’t focus and work productively in chaos. And adults will quickly become frazzled and frustrated too. The key to staying somewhat sane during self-isolation and homeschooling is getting organized. Don’t worry if you don’t have a Pinterest-ready set-up – use what you have at home. Get your kids involved in setting up space/s so that they also feel they are a part of this new system.
As with all organizing, the same principles apply – have a plan, everything has a space, like items stay together. But to be a bit more specific:
- Assign specific work spaces so that children know what is expected when they are there. Not all children learn in the same way though – some learn better with movement and sensory input. All work doesn’t necessarily have to be at a table, you can be creative. Consider using a combination of ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ spaces: a table and chair, bean bags, an area where movement can be incorporated, outdoor play. See what your child responds best to (with focus and recall, not just enjoyment!).
- Space should be organized and uncluttered. I used storage bins for the books and flip files for the parent instructions (I let my boys make their labels for fun). School pencil cases were also sent home and so they are using their familiar school stationary which is stored with their books. As the “teacher” I find it is helping me to have my own container holding my flashcards, pens, stickers, whiteboard markers. Our usual home stationary is on hand nearby for creative work.
- Set a routine. Like during the school week, set breakfast time, even if it is later than usual. Set a new morning routine (breakfast at 8:00, change and brush teeth, make bed, quick run around, sit down for work by 9:00). Keep evening routines the same as their school week. Snacks and lunch can also be kept to the same times daily – they can be exactly what you would put in their lunchbox. Finish up the day at the same time too so that your kids (and you!) all know there is an end.
- Set a schedule. Break your work time into age appropriate timeframes (30 mins, 45 mins). Schedule in breaks where children can get up and go wild (that energy needs to go somewhere!!) and you can take a few minutes to take a break, make a cuppa and breathe. You can choose to set specific timeframes to specific subjects, perhaps in line with the school timetable. Let the kids set the kitchen timer to help keep time.
- Think smart. Our home has one laptop at home but both my boys have book work PLUS online work. They may be doing different content, but today I quickly learnt that I need to alternate which child is on the laptop. This affects each child’s subject order.
- Set some boundaries. My kids thought this was going to be holiday time. We drew up a contract together in order to make “schooltime rules” clear. Allowing children to participate in the contract is not only inclusive but it also provides the opportunity for them to vocalise their needs in a reasonable manner. We can revise it as a team in time.
- But be flexible. While boundaries, routines and schedules are important,so is knowing when you need to be flexible. Some days will be harder – take the break earlier, make the break longer, try again tomorrow.
- Tidy up after “school”. This is as important as the morning routine – it marks the end of the work day. Tidying also gives you time to think of what you will do differently the next day, and helps you start the next day on a positive, calm note. We do a bigger house tidy before the evening routine daily.
- Reward positive behaviour. Again, whatever rewards work for your children. We are trying weekly money tokens which can be saved for larger monthly rewards. My boys have already negotiated that they can opt for experience rewards instead.
And on a slightly different note:
- Let people help. Join support groups, call or facetime friends, let your kids do the same.
- Get out. It is possible to get out to the park, to play tennis, to walk around the block. Embrace this, safely.
There are bound to be hiccups over the first few days – for both you and for your children. The majority of us are not teachers; most mothers I know work full time – whether at an office or at home. Share these principles with your children’s carers, tutors, with your partner so that they can help. Use to these principles of organizing yourself and organizing your kids in ways that suit your family and space.
At the end of the day, you can only do your best.
I will update as the days go on!