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Hermitage Primary School teacher's words of encouragement for parents of young children 'home schooling'

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'You probably aren’t a teacher and there is no expectation for you to become one, give yourself a break'

FOR many parents, 'home schooling' started on Monday and for parents of primary school pupils this may be a particularly daunting prospect, thinking that the responsibility of supporting their children's education is firmly on their shoulders.

Parents feel that they have a duty to carry on their child’s schooling in the conventional sense and have created timetables, found lesson plans and are already to start at 9am each morning - but how many will still be going strong by lunchtime?

How did you fare on the first day?

Hermitage Primary School teacher Ingrid Gardner has told us what teachers would like to see parents doing, now the schools have closed for an indefinite period of time. This is not official guidance from the local authority, but as a practitioner she wants to reassure parents and help to allay any worries they may have.

"The internet has been flooded with lesson plans, free downloads, suggested websites and online learning platforms and that isn't particularly helpful as it can be overwhelming.

"You probably aren’t a teacher and there is no expectation for you to become one, give yourself a break.

"It isn’t a competition to see how much progress your children can make or who can do this best. You need to put your children’s happiness and mental health at the forefront of whatever you do over the coming months.

"Your children have had their worlds turned upside down and what they need now is to know that you are going to be there to protect, look after and love them, not to put them through hours of worksheets and online learning while you try and do your job at the same time - that will only lead to stress for everyone involved."

Mrs Gardner said that parents should not look to social media to compare what they are doing for their child and then feel bad that they are not doing enough.

"You know your child best and how they learn and as parents are totally suited to the role of an educator – you have been one since the day they were born."

But she also wanted to reassure parents that teachers want children back in the classroom after all this is over who still want to learn.

"Teachers don't need your children to have made expected or accelerated progress, they see that as very much their job, to fill gaps in learning and tailor their curriculum to fit the pupils in their classes when they get back to school - that curriculum is bound to look different after an extended period of time out of school, but that is what we as professionals are there to sort out."

During the time when children are at home, schools will be providing guidance and suggestions of what you could do with your child from week to week, but they cannot enforce this, so the advice is to use this time wisely and make it work for you and your family.

"Ask yourself ‘What do I want my child to remember when all of this is over?’ Do I want them to remember sitting for hours on end completing tasks on their own at a desk? Or would I rather it be that we got to spend time with mum and dad and play games, draw, cook and play in the garden?'"

Mrs Gardner added, "Children learn when they want to, not when they are made to and this can be achieved in a variety of ways.

"Teachers don't want parents to stick their children in front of the television all day, but neither do they want parents to beat themselves up if they are not providing six hours of schooling each day."

The key elements she advises parents to remember are:

  • Talk to your children - they may have huge worries and concerns over what is happening in the world and discussing this together will help them make sense of this in their own way. Ask them what they would like to learn – it may surprise you, but you can be sure it will not be completing a workbook
  • Read and enjoy books together - This will support spelling and may even inspire writing opportunities. But if it doesn’t, don’t worry, they will be getting something from it. Talk about what they read and help them understand that reading isn’t something that they HAVE to do but something they might WANT to do.
  • Walks may not be possible now, but make use of what space you have, take photographs, paint and draw and make mud pies. If you have a garden, get them to help sow some seeds or plant something.
  • Help with cooking and pet care - plenty of maths and science opportunities there.
  • Set aside, if possible, time to talk about what they’d like to do the following day to build on what they’ve done today.
  • Keep to a broad routine if you can, but that doesn’t mean hours at a desk - children like to know what’s happening that day so it helps to outline your plan for it in the morning.

"Time is precious and because of COVID-19, we have been given the gift of time and being together. It will not always be easy, but when you look back on this and it is all a distant memory you will be glad that you have some happy memories."

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