Carys Gwillym talks about getting the most from school closures……



Once again, the closure of schools across England was announced by Boris Johnson on the 5th January, sending many households and families into renewed panic. It was the last thing the population of England wanted to hear, many having struggled to home school their children throughout the first lockdown in March, and dreading having to relive this frustrating time.

The decision to close schools has caused much controversy – people concerned about the welfare of students’ education, and feeling that they are missing out on the vital experiences one can only get in a classroom. It can be a jarring transition for anyone, having to manage your entire workload from home. It’s even worse for children, who are so familiar with their school timetable and the routine it brings; who are so used to relying on their peers and teachers for emotional and educational support. So, when suddenly – pretty much overnight – your home becomes your school, and that structured timetable is no longer relevant, it will understandably cause a lot of anxiety for both the student, who is feeling lost, and the parent, who feels they are not equipped to give their child the help they require.

This doesn’t, however, mean that it is an impossible task to home educate. In fact, it can be a wonderful opportunity to familiarise yourself with what works best for you as an individual. In a classroom, you just have to go with the flow, and follow the lesson as provided. Whereas with independent home learning, you get a unique flexibility to really engage with the way you learn best, without the distraction of your fellow peers. Home learning does not have to be difficult. It can actually be a really wonderful way to blossom educationally, and improve your own confidence.

The biggest change that arrives with the closure of schools is the shifting of responsibility. Teachers are incredible. They are like academic superheroes, without the fuss, capes, and glorification. But no matter how wonderful your teacher might be, they do have limits, and this is an extremely trying change for them, as well. No singular teacher could possibly have the time, or resources, or energy, to manage each individual students’ learning remotely – let alone differentiated to the particular needs of each child. That is an impossible task. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day. So, as strange as it might sound, please don’t depend entirely on the support, and help provided by your teacher; you might be waiting a while.

This is a time where the parent, and the student themselves, are responsible for their own education. Please don’t wait until you’ve fallen behind to get the wheels turning. It is easiest to just find your own footing, and keep busy with your own learning – find a routine that suits you, plan ahead of time, and use positive enforcements. Treat your teacher’s help as the bonus.

I am speaking from experience. Whilst I have never been home educated under the circumstances of a school closure, I was home schooled for a year in KS3. I became my own teacher. I understand the frustrations of having to self-motivate; of feeling as though you are not properly equipped, and perhaps not confident enough to guide yourself through education alone. But, also in my experience, I would say that the pros outweigh the cons. There are no distractions of a busy classroom, and you have the freedom to learn how you choose and when you choose to do it. You can work at your own pace, and discover really refreshing learning techniques. Just seek out what method of learning works best for you.

Below are some of the main queries parents have about home schooling their child throughout the school closures, and some useful tips to buffer your concerns.

  • “How do I motivate my child?”

This is perhaps the biggest concern of all parents across the UK right now. You are not a trained teacher, and they are not in a school – so how are you supposed to motivate them to learn? It is actually much easier than you’d think, to create a flow from home.

The key is routine – especially while home life is chaotic with the entire family present and parents trying to work as well. Creating a timetable can be a really encouraging and motivating first step for everyone. It provides your child with the comfort of a routine, which they are so used to when attending school and gives parents time when they can work as well.

When you create your timetable, it is important to include regular breaks, so that your child knows exactly when they can stop and relax, to stop their lessons feeling like a never-ending task. Short stints and rewarded breaks make learning from home far less stressful, and much more approachable for your child. The booklet, Oaka Books Guide to Revision That Works, provides many other useful tips AND you can get your free download here.

  • “I don’t have the right resourses.”

There are many resources that are out there to help you and your child through this trying time. Oaka Books are a wonderful resource to have for learning from home. They are engaging, interactive, accessible, and affordable. Our range of booklets and learning resources are designed to make the student feel less intimidated by revision, and more willing to get stuck in with this refreshing approach to learning.

  • “My child is anxious about missing out and not being able to catch up again”.

It might sound crazy, needless to say obvious, but the best way to avoid this anxiety is to not let yourself fall behind in the first place. Keep going, keep trying, and try to find some enjoyment in your own education. Confidence really is key in learning. Make your lessons more manageable, by planning ahead and taking one step at a time. Each step, no matter how small, is one step closer to the finish line.

The closure of schools might be unprecedented, but it is also a unique opportunity for your child to discover their strengths, and focus on themselves and their own distinctive way of working. This experience could be the making of them as a student, and furthermore, as the saying goes – “from the ashes of disaster grow the roses of success.”

To get some more hints and tips on successful home schooling, take a look at the OFamily Learning Together Blog.

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