As I write this about being relaxed while home learning, I am aware of the irony that yesterday I screamed at my 14-year-old daughter that she was ruining her education because she spent the day on TikTok and Snapchat. This was my anxiety, not hers. She’s fine.
Actually, when I think back, she’s baked cakes, helped decorate the lounge and did some very creative photography artwork. What she hasn’t done is maths, science and Spanish. I guess the reason for my writing this is to say, don’t stress too much about school work, it will come. And if it doesn’t, then it really isn’t the end of the world. Especially if you have a child with SEND, I believe keeping harmony in the house and looking after everyone’s mental health, is by far the most important thing to nurture rather than formal education at this time. For children and young people with SEND, it is the ultimate reasonable adjustment. So give yourself a break, you’re doing brilliantly.
That said, I know only too well that for some children, it is vitally important to keep a routine to enable harmony. Furthermore, you may be getting to the stage where two or three weeks was enough to bake and do the gardening and actually, everyone in the family could now do with a bit of formal learning! Here are some quick tips and links which may help but believe me, I am feeling victory if everyone is out of their pyjamas and showered before lunch, so I am by no means the goddess of home learning.
Have a loosely structured routine
I have ADHD and struggle far more at weekends and holidays as I need structure and meaning to my life. Whereas my partner is brilliant at finding his own entertainment and the meaning of life: hill forts, pillboxes, reading, boats and bikes. It wouldn’t be too over the top to say I married him because he makes me get out of bed in the morning and go on a bike ride!
What has worked for me however is keeping a loose routine for home learning. I do #PEwithJoe at 9am every weekday morning and then I teach a YouTube #SpellingwithJules at 11am every weekday morning. While I hope these spelling lessons are helpful, they’re as much for me as they are for my pupils.
Once I’ve completed these two things I am set up for the day. Add in a daily walk with the dog, cooking for the family and shopping, then I have a structured day which is as much as I can cope with and not too overwhelming. And that will be it for some children, they may feel that all the school emails, the home learning targets, the continuous flow of activities for various subjects, is just too much to cope with. This can then cause such an overload that they’ll switch off altogether and do nothing.
Remember all the work we do around transitions from primary to secondary? Yet we haven’t really concentrated on this for a pandemic going from learning at school to home. Many of our children struggle with home learning at the best of times, seeing school as school and home as home.
This is going to take a lot of transition work and social stories for many children. This will take time so don’t expect too much too soon. For some, it may be that creating a workstation which is the ‘Coronavirus lockdown school alternative’ is the answer. But for some children, they may need a week or two just staring at it and slowly becoming familiar with it. Perhaps putting a timetable up one day and placing a pen and paper there the next. If you haven’t joined Carol’s Club, it’s definitely worth it, there are lots of ideas and social stories there for families unexpectedly facing home learning.
Lynn McCann is also an excellent source of information and has written some good books and blog posts.
I remember this phrase but can’t pinpoint when and why I know it. I think it was something to do with #EdTech and learning. You get the point though? Getting children to eat vegetables by hiding them in something they like. Same with learning.
Cooking the dinner is 'Food Tech', drawing a picture of their special interest, 'Art'. Writing on the computer, 'English'. If nothing else, try to observe curiously what your child is doing, note their strengths and place learning on it. Even Snapchat and TikTok serve their purpose of social communication and dance. Lego is great for fine motor skills and anything outside is healthy activity. Start to see the positives and then see what you feel you could build in to your loose home learning day.
Building on those small targets, perhaps you could try things such as a ‘letter and sound a day’ (I do this in my spelling lessons or a word a day. Lift lessons are offering free home learning for science. A word a day on this might be achievable for many children (if they have internet access).
There are plenty more ideas, almost too many, including SNJ's own resources, so do what’s right for you and your family.
In the next post, I will assume you have achieved some form of home learning capacity and tell you some top tips for success. This will include some assistive technology for those with dyslexia and /or literacy difficulties.
- SNJ's latest Coronavirus & SEND information- often updated list of official info and helpful resources
- Coronavirus and SEND Law - from SEN lawyer, Hayley Mason, including free ebook
- SNJ Resources for distance learning, fund and emotional health - often updated
- Care in a time of Coronavirus: Using direct payments to pay family members for care -Steve Broach
- Steve Broach, Public Law Barrister on the Coronavirus Bill’s implications for disabled children
- The curious decision to keep disabled children at school despite the Coronavirus crisis -Tania Tirraoro
- Calming Coronavirus anxiety in children (and everyone else)- Angela Kelly
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- SEND with Daulby: Supporting Oral Language difficulties - May 12, 2020
- SEND with Daulby: Keeping it loose for home learning - April 8, 2020
- SEND with Daulby: Unseen teaching tweaks that make all the difference - January 28, 2020