Teaching your child at home: Advice from the School of the Air

Teaching your child at home may be a challenge, especially if it’s not something you have done before. However, it’s a regular job for the parents of children attending the Broken Hill and Hay School of the Air in western NSW.

Here is some of their advice to get your temporary learning from home setup running as smoothly as possible.

Blue and white drawing depicting book and shoes
Image: Being organised is an important first step.

Organising your child’s day

  • You may find it helpful to list your child’s daily tasks on a whiteboard or something similar. They can cross each item off once it is completed and the list getting shorter could encourage them to continue.
  • Involve your child in deciding on their daily routine. It gives them a sense of ownership about their work and they will know what you expect of them every day.
  • Try not to assign more than an hour to any given subject - younger children, in particular, will struggle to concentrate for longer.
  • Be ready to change your plans based on how your child is feeling. They may find it difficult to concentrate on or engage in certain tasks on certain days. If you have a back-up plan, you can be flexible.
  • Find out from your child’s teacher what their learning priorities are, so you know which activities are “musts” for the day.
  • Factor in time for snacks. Your child will be able to concentrate better when they are well fed and well hydrated.
  • Also, allow time for breaks. If you child loses focus they can stop to play a short game, dance in front of the television, or even take a bit longer to run around the backyard if that is an option. This will allow you to take a breather as well.
  • If you have another adult in your home, such as a partner or grandparent, divide the teaching into shifts so that you can share the work between you.

“Let the kids have some control. Let them decide where the temporary school room/area will be. Let them decide how the timetable is going to be executed. [...]

If they want to do their spelling in shaving foam or the sandpit, then let them. Take a photo to send to the teacher.”

Joanna ‘Moore’ Gall, Parent

Blue and white line drawing of computer
Image: Help your child learn at home by making a comfortable space for them to study.

Setting up their learning environment

  • If you have access to a spare room, set it up as the “classroom” - and if not, designate a particular place in your home as the spot for your child to do their schoolwork. Especially encourage younger kids to get involved in setting up this space - if they “own” it, they will be more willing to spend time there learning.
  • Try to avoid having any devices like phones or iPads in your child’s learning area unless they have to use them for a school task.
  • Your child will be able to learn more easily if they are comfortable. You can help them by setting up their chair and desk at the right height for them to use.
  • If you have access to an outdoor area, such as a verandah or a trampoline in the backyard, you can designate that as the reading or creative writing area for your child.
  • Alternatively, make a comfortable reading nook inside your home, separate from your child’s regular learning area.
  • You may also find that setting up a “rest area” helps younger children. If they become frustrated or tired, they can go there to calm down or even have a short nap.

“If your child doesn’t get it, try a different approach, and remember they might get it tomorrow or in a week’s time. They’re not meant to understand it all at once.”

Clancy Griffiths, Parent

Blue and white drawing of teacher presenting class
Image: There's more to delivering classes than a whiteboard.

Delivering classes

  • Take advantage of your unconventional classroom setting and move your lessons away from the desk. Your child might find hands-on activities more engaging, and many everyday tasks - cooking, making a grocery list, gardening, or even cleaning - involve elements of maths and science.
  • Be as prepared as you can in the time that you have. If you can, make sure you know what you have planned for each lesson in advance rather than reading out instructions on the fly.
  • Try to give your child your full attention while delivering a class, rather than multitasking with chores or other work. They will be less likely to get distracted or frustrated waiting for your help.

"The classroom is not always the classroom. You can learn in your everyday environment - there’s always an opportunity to educate our young minds."

Kate Herring, Parent

Blue and white drawing of smiling face
Image: Keep things light - for you and your child.

Mood and behaviour

  • Children will pick up on your mood and attitude. While teaching and learning at home can be challenging, try to keep your classes as light and fun as possible. Your positivity will rub off on them, and if you are distracted they will be too.
  • Use rewards as a motivation tool if you think it will help.
  • Your child may struggle with the idea of you, their parent, also being their teacher. Talk to them about the situation and explain that it is only temporary. Soon, you will go back to being “just” their parent again.
  • Try to talk to your child in a way that you would like to be talked to. What would you have found engaging when you were their age?
  • Even under normal circumstances, home-schooling can pose difficulties. While it’s important for your child to do their school work, you can also cut them and yourself some slack when you’re both having a bad day.
  • Be realistic about what your child - and what you - can get done in a day. You might not be able to do as many chores as you’d like, and that is okay. This could be an opportunity to get your child involved in helping around the house.
  • Sleep is important. Let them sleep in if they need to.

“It is very rewarding when you see your kids achieve something they have been struggling with - and you helped them succeed.”

Break out quote: Joanna ‘Moore’ Gall.

This information comes courtesy of the parents and staff at the School of the Air Broken Hill and Hay.

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