With the announcement that schools will open just for children who cannot learn from home online, I’m hearing from mums who are overwhelmed at the thought of becoming their child’s teacher.
I understand the apprehension, but a little perspective might be helpful.
If you think about it, mothers already wear all kinds of hats. By some estimates, mums simultaneously hold between 40 and 50 different job titles from chef to cleaner to chauffeur, as well as crisis negotiator and relationship guru.
But for some reason, the role of “teacher” or “educator” has struck a chord of intimidation.
Of the prospect of teaching her kids at home, one young mum told me, “This will be a daunting task, almost too much to take on.”
Another emailed, “I’m concerned about not doing it well enough and putting my children’s academic future at risk.”
What’s behind this fear and uncertainty?
To be fair, I think it’s partly driven by a very healthy respect for our nation’s terrific schoolteachers. I used to be one of them, and I’ve seen their dedication and commitment firsthand.
Since leaving the classroom to start a family, I’ve homeschooled five children from kindergarten through to Year 8, then sent two to public high school and three to private high school.
I understand how overwhelming the teaching assignment may strike many parents. Unlike those who planned to homeschool, you haven’t been given the opportunity to research, organise and plan for the assignment.
Almost overnight, you’re being asked to figure it all out on the fly – a seemingly daunting task.
But I have some good news for you:
Ever since you’ve been a parent, you’ve been teaching – and ever since your kids have been in your care at home, they’ve been homeschooled.
I’m not trying to be cute or clever. It’s 100% true.
You can do this because you’ve already been doing it.
As you navigate these next weeks and months, here are a few points to remember:
First, take a big deep breath. Remember, in this temporary environment, you’re not the primary academic teacher. Think of yourself as a tutor for an extended homework time, an encourager and aid in your child’s new world of schoolwork at home.
Be sure to tap into the online stream of work coming from your local school. Let that be your guide for what needs to be accomplished in the days ahead. Your child’s school and teachers are there for you. I’m certain they’ll do whatever they can to help you, so be sure to reach out when you need their help.
Second, don’t think your home has to be transformed into a school building. It’s your home, a temporary place for conducting traditional schoolwork. It doesn’t need to be outfitted with white boards and other equipment.
At the same time, think about creating separate spaces for learning, while, to the extent possible, having the main living room and kitchen still open for family life, conversation, food and even fun.
I’ve found it helpful to designate quiet zones in the house. Our kids often used their individual bedrooms for work that required more concentration. And although separate areas are often necessary, I discovered it was best to keep all school material in one central location rather than all around the house.
Finally, since kids (and adults) thrive best with order and routine, we found morning time worked best for schooling. Remember that learning period will be longer than typical homework time, but not as long as a traditional school day since there are fewer students, less distractions and very different demands.
These first days and weeks will be challenging and may feel unusual and even inconvenient at times. But don’t worry – you’ll get into a groove! Together you’ll discover what works best for you and your family.
Most importantly, keep in mind that it’s your relationship with your kids that matters most. The greater good will be that you all “did hard” together – with lots of continuous communication and ongoing re‐evaluation of expectations.
Incidentally, my husband and I have long tried to encourage a “do-hard things” philosophy in our home. Don’t shy away from challenges. Instead, run toward them and embrace that which is difficult. Like a tree whose roots run deeper in search of water during a drought, you’ll be stronger for having endured the tough time.
So parents, be encouraged in knowing that you will indeed walk through this and come out stronger on the other side.