Almost 18 months into the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the most challenging things about lockdowns for families is still home learning.
Remote learning, homeschooling, home learning – whatever term is used in your school or state, teaching children at home, particularly while juggling work, care and/or other responsibilities, is a huge ask.
If you have a child with a disability or learning difficulties, switching between school and home-based learning, changing routines and maintaining focus can be overwhelming.
We asked families who are homeschooling their children with learning difficulties what works for them. Today we share some of their valuable insights.
Reset your expectations.
Remote learning is not the same as learning at school. Most parents are not teachers. Learning away from the classroom can be particularly difficult for children who are not independent learners or who are hands on learners. Do what is physically, mentally and emotionally possible. Work when it suits you and the kids and fits in with the family.
Mental health comes first.
No school work is more important than the mental health of you and your child/ren. Consider the wellbeing of everyone in these times of change. Start the day with something you all enjoy. Take a break if lessons become too much. Consider adding mindfulness activities to your routine. Reach out for help if you need it. Check out Looking after your mental health is a priority for some tips.
Focus on the fundamentals.
It may sound a little old fashioned but some parents report great success by focusing only on the fundamentals – the “three Rs” of reading, writing and arithmetic (maths) rather than trying to do it all.
The what and the how.
A common challenge is teachers setting tasks without lessons that explain how to do the task. The child may not have the skills, tools or equipment to accomplish it. This can be extremely upsetting. Check in with your child regularly to ensure they are not feeling overwhelmed by the how.
Time to understand and respond.
Give your child time to process instructions and complete tasks. You may need to pause and replay recorded or video content and check for understanding before starting each task.
Use of technology
Think about how and when to use technology. Some children struggle with learning via Zoom or similar platforms. The technical aspects of managing sound and cameras can make the experience even more daunting. In some cases, audio only can be a better option. If your child is struggling with screen time, try printing materials so they can learn in a familiar way.
Establish a routine.
Some children with learning difficulties find changes in routine upsetting. If your child feels this way, they may need your help to establish new routines. Find a routine that works for your family circumstances. Not every day needs to look the same.
Mix it up.
School schedules and classrooms are set up to accommodate short attention spans, balancing lessons with movement and other activities, especially for primary school age kids. Use opportunities throughout your regular day to change learning styles – plant seedlings, fix a broken object or measure when baking.
Share the load.
Trying to juggle working from home and do home schooling? Don’t forget you need breaks too. Take advantage of technology and ask grandparents or other family members to read a story via Facetime. ABC TV Education is a great resource available live every day and on demand from iView.
Connect with the school.
If your child has dedicated support workers at school, talk to them about how they can stay involved in the learning process. Keep in touch with the child’s teacher and be sure to raise any concerns or questions. If your child is struggling, a conversation with the teacher or a support worker may be required to lighten the load or modify an assignment.
Remember, doing some work happily and positively is better than trying to do everything and having stressed or upset kids or parents. Whatever work you and your child can handle is the important thing for now.
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