“Help! I’m homeschooling” 5 tips to support parents during Covid-19

|7 min read

Covid-19 may be strong, but primary teachers are stronger. Learn how you can support parents and caregivers with these five key tips.

Last week announced the closing of schools in the UK due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Children have been sent home with parents and caregivers, while teachers everywhere are wondering how they’ll support their learners out of school.

As you transition to school from home, collaborating with parents will be essential to your learners’ success. Here are five tips to help support them in these unprecedented times.

1. Stay connected with parents and learners

With so much software at our fingertips, we’re more connected than ever. But what does school from home communication actually look like?

Here are some considerations for staying connected:

Choose how you’ll communicate (and stay consistent)

Parent–teacher communication will be different in every school, but the important thing is that it stays consistent. Some schools will try to keep to their schedules and encourage teachers to deliver online lessons using software like Zoom. Others might store work in a Google Doc and send daily work home by emailing parents with the link. Even ensuring you’re available during working hours to answer emails or speak to a caregiver over video.

Implement safeguarding measures

This brings up another important topic: safeguarding measures. Teachers may want to consider whether or not to appear on camera. If you decide to go down this route, you can create short videos or ‘mini-lessons’ using hands and voices to demonstrate problem solving.

Gather resources to support parents

In the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing resources for parents and finding new ways to support you. Stay in the loop by joining the MNP community over on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Parents who are looking for expert tips can follow experienced home educators on Instagram like spud_and_pudding and pass_me_the_playdough who have been sharing homeschool support content long before Covid-19 reared its head.

And hey, this could be the perfect time to share your favourite class apps with your learners’ parents.

2. Let parents know it’s okay to keep things simple

Things are bound to change and evolve in the coming weeks, so for now, keep things simple. Of course, every school will have their own plan for navigating these unchartered waters but here are a few ideas that may help:

Assign work that builds on prior learning

There’s no getting around it, this won’t be your average school day. Revisiting prior concepts to consolidate learning is not only more achievable in a situation like this, it also gives your learners the chance to apply their knowledge and solidify their understanding.

Encourage parents to talk about learning

If your learners have been taught maths for mastery, they’ve picked up a few useful skills along the way. Asking children about their learning is a fantastic way to develop a deep understanding of school topics.

Even if parents don’t have all the answers, you can encourage them to introduce questioning into their new home routines. Questioning is a deep learning strategy that helps children explain their thinking and develop their conceptual understanding on a topic.

Here are a few of our favourite open-ended questions:

“Is it possible?…”
“How do you know?…”
“Is that the only way?…”
“Can you imagine?…”
“Are you sure?…”

Adapt maths lessons for home

The beauty of maths is that it’s everywhere! Instead of assigning learners hours of work, ask parents about what they do at home on a regular weekend. Chances are they’ll be able to add a maths element to their usual routine. At-home maths class can look like a baking lesson, a laundry-folding activity, or a game like Snakes and Ladders.

3. Look for independent activities

For lots of parents right now, school from home is clashing with work from home. So how can you balance work and school while keeping your sanity intact?

It’s a good idea to look for activities with lots of independent learning time. Not only will children learn new skills, they’ll give parents and caregivers extra time to focus on work.

Here are some suggestions we can offer:

Use journaling as a chance to reflect

Encourage children to spend lots of time writing in their journal. Maths journal entries follow a simple format. The date and title are at the top of the page, followed by a problem to solve, and space for a child to respond underneath. Point out some things parents can look for like different ways of solving a problem or different representations of the methods.

Think of it as your opportunity to involve caregivers in their child’s learning and educate them on all of the different types of journals.

Parents should feel comfortable with letting children go beyond journaling and exercising their creativity. Ask them to write their first novel, tell a story through drawing, or create their own maths textbook! A blank piece of paper and a pencil can spark endless ideas.

Ask parents to record themselves reading aloud

With only so many hours in the day, figuring out how to continue working and how to keep younger children engaged is no easy feat. Encouraging parents and caregivers to record their child’s favourite storybook can help them feel connected at times when they might be on their own. Hearing a familiar and loving voice can also reduce a child’s anxiety at a time like this.

Share interesting activities

Speaking of anxiety… There are other ways to help children keep calm and carry on. We love this free Cosmic Yoga video series. From high-energy yoga classes to guided relaxation, their videos are designed for children aged 3 and up. Skype a Scientist is another handy resource that connects children and families with real scientists for an informative Q&A virtual session.

Monterey Bay Aquarium is providing a live-feed of sea otters, penguins, jellyfish, sharks, and birds. With ten cameras to choose from, children can experience the wonder of the ocean no matter where they are.

4. Ask parents to take good care

Parents and caregivers are entering into brand new territory and it’s okay to acknowledge that routines will be disrupted, things might go a bit slower than usual, and new challenges will arise.

But one thing is clear: helping parents and caregivers prioritise their health will benefit everyone over the next couple of weeks.

Here’s how to do it:

Stick to a consistent daily routine

Last week your learners’ parents had a work life and a home life. This week the lines have blurred. But there are ways to manage this change and support parents and caregivers. One of these ways is building daily routines.

Encourage your parents to print out a free daily planner. This plan can include a morning routine, lessons, chores, as well as physical activities. The plan can stop at the time parents or caregivers would usually get home, leaving time to switch off and enjoy some free time.

Encourage parents to get outdoors

While the World Health Organisation (WHO) is asking people to maintain social distancing and hand-washing measures, experts advise getting out for a walk or for some fresh air once or twice a day. Even short walks have been scientifically proven to boost your mood.

Look for ways to minimize stress

According to psychiatrist Judson A. Brewer, anxiety happens when our prefrontal cortexes don’t have enough information to predict the future accurately. Without accurate information, our brains go into overdrive, and we start relying on our senses of fear and dread.

But there are ways to ‘hack’ the emotions you may be feeling. Once you’re aware of your negative habits, you can actively shift to a more positive one.

For example, if you’re a person who touches their face in times of anxiety, Brewer advises taking a big breath in, and asking yourself when you last washed your hands? This helps our brains shift to what we do best: think. “Oh, I just washed my hands ten minutes ago.”

Pausing, even for a moment, gives our prefrontal cortex a chance to put things in perspective and think about any next moves.

5. Take it one step at a time

Our last piece of advice is to take it day by day. With non-stop Covid-19 coverage at every turn, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

Always remember what brought you to teaching. You’re a passionate educator who’s looking out for your learners’ best interests. And in uncertain times like these, you make all the difference.