For many of us, the words ‘home schooling’, ‘virtual classroom’, ‘Microsoft teams’, and ‘at home learning’ are part of our everyday vocabulary. With the current pandemic, our children have been asked to spend more time at home than in the classroom. This blog will provide some suggestions on how you can help your child enjoy at home learning!
Before we dive in, I want to emphasise how this following list includes suggestions that might solve a few niggles that you and your child have with at home learning. This is by no means, a must list. Filter out what suits you and your family and give that part a go.
Hearing your feedback, one of the main concerns is how much time we are asking children to sit (still as a statue) in front of a screen. For some children this is an entire school day.
These long hours of sitting down, no doubt, have implications on our children as they are used to running and squirming and moving their body. So how can we support them?
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My child can’t sit still for that long:
This is feedback I sometimes get from parents who are concerned that a 1-hour tuition session would be too long for their child. To this I can always empathise.
As a fellow ‘active body’ I too can barely sit still for an hour! When I was teaching I loved that my job had me roaming around the classroom and barely sitting at a desk.
My students also had freedom of choosing where they wanted to sit (bean bags, on the floor with a writing mat, etc.) Which helped them with their wiggles.
So how can we help children (and adults) who can’t sit still for long periods?
In the classroom, there are a variety of ways we can support our active students. One of my favourites, I believe we could bring into the homes.
When I had a child who needed to move and squirm, we would put a resistance band around the legs of the chair. That way, the child could kick and bounce their legs on the band without distracting or disturbing any one else.
And yes! After a few days, the novelty wears off and it becomes much less of a show.
Another option is to have a ball they can roll under their feet.
While this may not be suitable for all children, I have seen it work wonders within a busy classroom. So as long as the foundation is laid and children feel proud to have this responsibility, they often do quite well.
How to introduce a sitting strategy to your child:
The key here is to help your child enjoy at home learning. So make it very clear what they can and cannot do with that ball:
“Sarahlynn, how are you finding being at the desk for home school all day?”
“Yes I can see that it would be difficult to sit still for that long. What part of you feels like it needs to wriggle the most?”
“Yes! Your legs are still growing, so it makes sense they would want to move around. What if we found a solution that could help you without it being distracting?”
I’ve been thinking of two options:
- A resistant bad that you can move with with your feet
- A ball that you can move with with your feet.
Which would you prefer to try?
Excellent! We will try this for this coming week. But let’s think of some dos and don’ts so you don’t lose the privilege.
- You must stay seated
- You can roll your feet over the ball to keep your feet busy
- You must still participate and actively listen to instruction
Because this is new, I agree there can be three warnings. By the third warning though, this will happen….
My child isn’t going outside
A big rule within the Hodder household is time outside.
Whether it’s a walk in the morning before the workday begins, drinking my tea outside in the garden midday, or a walk around the block after dinner (yes, even in the dark, misty evening).
Being outside is mandatory for us. Why?
- Going outdoors helps regulate our sleep cycle. The natural light helps our body to release certain hormones that can help us sleep and wake up feeling refreshed.
- The light is a natural mood enhancer 🙂
- Being outdoors helps our brain to feel free and problem solving and confidence soar outside!
- The fresh air is great to increase blood circulation which helps our brain to function at its highest.
- Having barefoot on the grass is a form of ‘grounding’. This helps our body’s electrical currents to realign and helps us to feel centred and concentrated
- Being outside usually means movement!
- It gives our eyes a break from a screen… very important!
I can go on, but I’m sure you can see the benefits of being outside are plenty.
Therefore it’s important that you take ownership of this within your own household.
If your child starts at 9:15am, encourage a walk around the garden – or heck a couple of running laps! If you’re in a space with no garden, get them to sit infant of a window and play I spy so they’re looking far into the distance.
If your child gets a lunch break, encourage them to do the same and go outside or be near a window.
And same thing once they finish.
It sounds silly, but if they were at school, they would be shooed outside a minimum of 3 times a day. So uphold the same expectations and your child will begin to enjoy at home learning much more!
My child just wants to sit on the couch all day
Another great way to help your child enjoy at home learning is having a designated workspace for your child to work independently. If this is not possible, we need to find small things we can do to keep their growing bodies in mind.
Be okay with them changing sitting spaces.
For instruction, my students are always expected to be sitting at their desk. This was true in the classroom and remains true now for our tuition sessions.
For application and discovery moments of our sessions, I am less rigid with where they need to be and whether they need to be sitting at all.
Some students will prefer to do part of an English class curled up in a bean bag chair or on the couch, while some prefer to do part of a Maths lesson sitting on the floor.
As long as there’s a sense of responsibility bestowed upon the child to choose appropriately and still work effectively, most will appreciate the change of scenery.
A second benefit to the freedom to move about is we are being kinder to their spine.
Be Kind to Your Spine
A child (or adult) curled up on a sofa for 8 hours will find they have a sore back, tight shoulders, tight hip flexors, and are likely going to develop headaches and pains. This is not ideal for any body.
On the other hand, sitting at a desk for 8 hours with limited movement might cause brain fog as our body works hard to pump blood from our toes back up to our brain. It could also result in poor posture if one is not careful to be sitting tall the entire time.
Therefore, another suggestion is to teach children about their spine and encourage a strong posture.
A great tool for this is a pilates balance cushion. I don’t actually know what they are called but they are linked below. These are great for children to sit on at the table as it helps them to practise using their core to stabilise and it’s a bit of movement for them!
My child can’t seem to concentrate for that long
Concentration is a big thing we all seem to be battling with at the moment.
My guess is that if your child has an outlet to move, is getting fresh air, and has some freedom in choosing where they sit for parts of their sessions, then they will be more engaged. Instead of being a passive member of their online school day, they will be an active member who has responsibilities and freedoms.
Here’s one of our favourite blogs from our Charity of the Term, Young Minds UK, that emphasizes the power of going outdoors and participating in daily movement.
However, if the above still doesn’t seem to help then here are a few tips for supporting concentration:
Environment plays a big role in how we feel. Therefore these tips might do the trick:
- A blank wall in the room so they can visualise and problem solve
- A tidy space that has their stationary available so there’s a sense of ownership and pride
- Some greenery as it helps to increase oxygen flow in a space and green soothes the mind
- A smell can sometimes elicit different moods. Therefore a citrus smell can help boost the brain’s energy
Another thing to keep in mind is how organised they feel with their work.
As a teacher, part of your role is to teach organisation and setting standards for neatness and presentation.
As a tutor, I often do this by asking to ‘be nosy and see your book’.
As an online teacher though, there might not be the same opportunity to provide this kind of support.
Therefore, students will need some of that help from you at home.
Top tip to support your child with home learning
Lastly, is getting them off the screens during evenings and weekends. I appreciate that this is sometimes challenging as screens had long before lockdown become a staple within the family household. But now that they spend all day on them, it’s important we encourage them to find other ways to entertain themselves before bed.
Wow! Looks like I had more to say on how to help your child enjoy at home learning than I anticipated! Well done you if you made it to the end. I truly hope that these tips and ideas have offered some form of a relief and hope. The idea of sharing these thoughts were to provide solutions, not create more problems.
If, after reading this blog, you want to discuss your child’s individual case and want some feedback on how we can support them during this time, please feel free to connect with us. The Bettering Youth team is built upon classroom teachers who believe in blending mental wellbeing in what we do.