Online learning is back, which means it’s time to get into a routine with the kids that balances learning and plenty of downtime to keep everyone sane. Here are some great online learning tips from our North Shore Mums community to help you through.
Many of us are still scarred from homeschooling last year, when the Covid-19 pandemic first hit. Whilst some mums loved the experience of teaching their children at home, the majority of us found it incredibly stressful. Particularly if we were juggling work or a business too.
We never thought we’d be in this situation again, but here we are. It’s back to school tomorrow, but not like normal. The mad rush to get the kids up, dressed, fed and out the door has been replaced with virtual classrooms and online learning activities. It’s a huge adjustment for the whole family.
Whether this is your first experience with online learning, or you’re heading back into the thick of it, we’ve collated some of the best tips for coping with online learning at home – from the collective wisdom of other North Shore Mums. If you’ve got any other tips, feel free to share them at the bottom of the article. We all need all the help and support we can get!
1. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself or the kids
We’re all in the same situation. If you can’t get through the daily tasks or your child simply refuses to do any school work, don’t be too harsh on yourself. It’s only a week (at this stage, but will likely extend!), and in the scheme of things, your child will catch up when face to face learning returns.
No-one expects you to turn into a teacher overnight, or to drop all your other commitments completely. At the same time, no-one expects your child to learn the same way at home that they would at school.
Take it easy on both of you and just do what you can.
- “As long as they are healthy and happy we are doing a good job” – Renee
- “Look after their mental and physical health, the rest will work itself out.” – Kaysha
- “In Kindy there is still a lot of play and a lot of learning happens during play. Ask them to build you a house/tree/spaceship from lego, to draw their best friend/favourite day out/best ever meal, to build the tallest tower from blocks or boxes from the pantry then count them. Read them stories, let them help cook dinner and go for a good walk (if it’s raining splash in the puddles!).” – Helen
- “It is important for young students to feel relaxed with little pressure so that home learning is an enjoyable experience. Lots of breaks and not too much pressure on academic learning. Parents are not expected to take on a teacher role.” – Wendy
2. Keep it short and sweet
While kids might be at school for a good six hours, they definitely aren’t learning the entire time they are there. They are playing with their friends, enjoying recess and lunch time, doing sport, art, music and doing other group activities to break the day up. Learning at home should be short and sweet, mixed in with exercise and other activities (such as Zoom calls with friends), to keep their mental health in check.
- “I’m a primary teacher and I remember calculating exactly how much time kids do focused learning at school & worked out it’s 4 out of 6 hours a day. Usually broken up as 1.5 hrs literacy, 1 hour maths & 1.5 hours of other subjects. However when working one-on-one you can do the same work in half the time (for most kids). So aiming for two solid hours of work a day out of them is good. 45 mins literacy, 30 min maths & 45 mins for other subjects. My kids would work 8:30-10:30 or 9-11am and have the rest of the day for relaxing, playing & exercising.” – Lara
- “For the younger ones remember during a school day they usually only sit at activities for short times, so keep it short and sweet and encourage imagination play, problem solving play, solo play- all skills that kids don’t always develop when they are programmed all the time… take the pressure off yourself and if all you do is read each day, your child will be ok – all the Sydney kids are in the same boat…” – Emma
- “For those stressing about home-schooling… Remember time at school is often about 2 hours of academic work, then art and sport and music and reading and recess and lunch. Don’t try to enforce 6 hours. Aim for some work in the am then something active or craft etc. And even school watches TV on wet days!” – Leesa
- “Lower your expectations & don’t put any pressure on yourself or your children to get through all the work. Some days are better than others, some children cope better than others. Ultimately maintaining good health & wellbeing is the main priority & any schooling on top of that is a bonus. On days that are tough, read together & then find something else to do. Be grateful for our excellent health & education systems that will get us through this.” – Suzanne
Getting into a routine is the best way to help your kids know what to expect each day – and you too! Everyone’s routine will look different and fit around your schedules. You might find it helps to have lunch packed in lunchboxes (just like school), with set meal times during the day. You might do the bulk of your learning in the morning and spend the afternoon outdoors. You might set aside an hour free time in the middle of the day for your kids to do anything they like. It’s about what works for you and your family.
- “Keep the routine similar to when they go to school. My daughter follows the same schedule she had in class (I asked her teacher for a timetable). I set alarms for her breaks so she knows it’s break time and it means going out on the backyard. No tv school time. I added a chrome plug in so I can block non school related websites with a password. Sometimes we will have a challenge for the day if she finishes all her school work early she can choose her activities for the rest of the day.”
- “I had to control myself from answering the school work with her. I had to remind myself that if she was in school, she wouldn’t have me to help her. But she can ask me for help only if she needs to or do not understand the instructions given working from home, we do it in a separate room (if possible), I respect my child’s learning space the way i would want a quiet space for work (it’s more for my sanity). Lastly, before submitting her school work double check and I do a summary with her to check what she understood and I can explain if there are things that I noticed wasn’t done right. And yes I agree with lowering expectations not just for your child but from yourself too.” – Kat
- “We both work full time, but what really helped was to ensure that the whole family had recess and lunch at the same time as the kids. We book the time slots out in our diaries so we don’t have any meetings at recess and lunch. We eat together and we go outside and play together too so we all get a run around. Good luck everyone; it’s tough.” – Jacinta
- “Routine, routine, routine! Dress in uniform, pack lunchbox, go outside for breaktimes if possible. Have a clear delineation between work time and home time.” – Sarah
- “Routine, routine, routine but my kids are twins 10. 10 am start for homeschooling together at the dining table, breakfast, teeth and free time before that. Break for lunch, finish about 2-3, exercise together, chores, then free time again. Reading for 30 minutes in the evening.” – Donna
4. Make the most of the mornings
Think about how we all feel when it reaches the end of a long day? Tired? Snappy? Strung out? Kids are no different. Make the most of your mornings and see if you can get the bulk of their schoolwork done at the beginning of the day, when they’re feeling fresh and alert (and you are too). It will take the pressure off the rest of the day as well.
- “Try and get majority of work done in the morning when young minds are more fresh and alert.” – Juliet
- “My daughter (8 last year) would complete her work by 11am each day… She would complete a couple chores, help me make lunch, play games inside and out on her own until 2.30pm when she had to catch up with her class. Her group of friends are on video call with each other everyday and interacting through video games too (the current new way of play). Good luck mums (and dads). Don’t be too hard on yourselves.” – Gita
- “What worked best for my early riser (who was in year 1) was knocking out one of the tough things straight after breakfast , usually before 9am and then picking and choosing other things from the week according to mood, assistance required and ability for me to help (depending on my workload).” – Zanny
5. Be prepared
It helps to be prepared and take a look at what’s in store for the day before you set them to work. This way, if they have any questions, you’re in a place to explain what they need to do, without the frustrations of trying to read through and understand everything while they’re sitting there impatiently waiting to get started. It sets you up with a calm learning environment. If you need a little more time, set your child a short activity while you get your head around it.
- “Try to go through the work that has been set for your child before they start to do it, so that you know what they need to do and can explain if necessary.” – Juliet
- “Print the school time table and passwords to apps and put it on the wall in front of the desk they sit to learn. Have a Whatsapp group with other parents to ask questions and help others. Also keep an eye on personal emails in case the teacher needs to contact you. Be amazed at how much they will learn and grow in independence and just be kind to all including yourself. Routine worked well for us too and go to bed early, it’s exhausting!”- Marina
6. Separate school work from home life
When you’re working from home, learning from home, and living at home, the lines get pretty blurry about when the work starts and stops. Let’s face it, the last thing you want is the home overtaken by school work and books, as a constant reminder for kids throughout the day. If you can, set up a separate study area for them (even just on one end of the kitchen table), that they can pack away when done – out of site, out of mind.
- “Try and set up a separate area/table for school work, so that everything can be kept organised. We used a trestle table and baskets to keep worksheets/devices/pencil cases in and made a point of only using the area for school work.” – Juliet
7. Keep it fun
The situation may not be ideal, but doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun with it. Whether you set up a reward chart for the kids, bribe them with a bushwalk, set up your own school bell to keep the day flowing, put on some dress ups, or anything else that puts a smile on your kids’ face. Learning doesn’t have to be boring!
- Try to have a bit of fun- like ring a bell or have an alarm for break times; have your own reward or sticker system to keep motivation going. – Juliet
8. Keep active & exercise
There is so much that can be said about the benefit of a little fresh air and running around outside. Physical activity does so much more than just keeping your kids fit, it can also help them concentrate better and improves their mental wellbeing, which is so important during this time. Encourage them to run around in your back garden and jump on the trampoline. Go for a walk around the block. Head to the local park and kick a ball. Discover a local bushwalking trail. Getting outside in the sunshine is great for your body, mind and soul!
- “We try to do a daily bushwalk. Luckily we have lots of beautiful walks in my neighbourhood, so it’s easy to get out and about when the sun is shining!” – Alison
- “We’ve set up an obstacle course in our backyard that the kids absolutely love swinging around on” – Tiana
- “Just do the essentials….Maths and English. Then play board games, get them out in the garden. It’s no use having them stuck to a tablet 6 hours….they’ll zone out and not learn anyway.”- Celine
- “Think of your child’s mental health. If your child is in high school go for a walk after school time.”- Carolyn
If it’s too cold, wet or windy for outdoor exercise get moving with our pick of the Best Free Exercise Workouts for kids on YouTube. Or if you need a little help, there are lots of great workout videos for adults too.
9. Take other jobs off your plate… like dinner!
Now’s the chance to reassess everything else you have on your plate at the moment, and work out where you can get some much-needed help. For example, outsource dinner to free up a little more time in your day to help the kids with their learning. There are plenty of home delivery meal services right here on the North Shore, ready to provide you with fresh, healthy meals that are ready to go. Here are five home delivery meal services for you to check out.
10. Put a focus on health and wellbeing
Learning from home is a huge adjustment for kids, and their mental health and wellbeing needs to be a priority. Try and keep your kids as connected to their friends as possible, such as through Zoom sessions, and take time out each day to focus on something they love, whether it’s arts and crafts, board games, or playing outdoors.
- “Look after their mental and physical health, the rest will work itself out.” – Jacinta
- “Breathe and be kind to them and to yourself. It’s ok to not complete all the work the school gives them to do. The whole world is going through an unprecedented time so there’s no such thing as being “behind”. Good luck and keep smiling! Our children were born for times such as these.” – Lorraine
“As a nanny who home schooled kids throughout the Victorian lockdown last year I completely agree! We did 1/2 classes a day and then would spend time exercising and cooking. Your kids mental health always comes first.” – Winnie
- “Kids mental health is paramount , lots of praise, hugs and try and keep to a similar time schedule for the mornings. Another tip if you can -still make crunch n sip for your child to have as their morning break, morning tea at a similar time to their school day – and take each day as it comes.” – Jackie
If your mental health is suffering as a result of online learning and you are unable to cope, contact your school and ask if you can send them to school – even if it’s just for a couple of days a week. It is a personal decision, and only one that you can make. Assess the risks, and do what is best for your mental health and personal wellbeing.
“Schools will remain open for students who need them and no child will be turned away from school.” – Statement from Gladys Berejiklian and Brad Hazzard
There are many free support services available for help and advice. If you’re feeling anxious, stressed, overwhelmed or depressed, you’re not alone. There are many free support helplines and services that can help guide you through stressful, unsafe or uncertain times. If you need help, please don’t be afraid to use these free helplines.