Amanda Abel, paediatric psychologist
So, Day 1 of ‘homeschool’ or ‘remote learning’ is happening right now. I can’t lie, it has been a challenge so far at my house. And we are only a few hours in…For many parents, the anxiety surrounding not actually knowing what we are doing in advance, not knowing the expectations, and having to manage an academic curriculum along with our other responsibilities (i.e. work; other children etc.) is not making this process easy. But no one said it would be easy, did they? I know how important it is that we all stay home to stay safe, so I’m determined to make this home schooling business work for both my daughter and me!
I read a helpful article in the paper about it and have a few take home messages along with my recommendations which I hope will help those of you sharing this crazy journey with me…
Firstly, they (the educative powers that be?!) have said that the school day isn’t something that can be replicated at home, and parents shouldn’t try to replicate it. My take on this – lets not set ourselves up for failure. Flexibility is going to be required – if we want to start earlier, cram it in to a specific time frame, take more frequent breaks, reward our child for persistence with breaks etc. then that’s what we will do!
Secondly, it was noted that the official schoolwork day (at home) will involve far fewer hours (than at school). My take on this: What we DON’T need to do is start at 9 and finish at 3.20 and fill those hours with torture for the mere sake of it! What we need to remember is that things take A LOT longer in a classroom. Teachers have 20-odd students and their individual needs to be addressing, which means there are a lot of periods of ‘downtime’ and waiting and breaks. Have you ever been parent helper? I have, and I can vouch for this! So – what might take a few hours at school, could potentially be smashed out at home in 30 minutes in an interruption free environment…
Another point was the importance of not ‘stopping’ learning altogether so that students don’t fall behind in foundation areas – things like maths and reading. This makes sense and it also lends itself to us ensuring our kids try to keep up with these important areas in our own way. Being gentle with ourselves and our kids is going to be essential.
To quote the article: “It’s not about parents becoming teachers. We’re asking them to help with setting up a space – for younger children that should be somewhere near an adult because of cybersecurity – and we’re asking them to ask about the work that children are doing. Say, ‘What have you done there? Explain that to me. What did other people do? What did your teacher say?’ – the kind of stuff you would say after school. My take on this – not sure if this is how it is actually going to play out for many of us, but it’s good to know the expectation.
Fundamentally, I believe we need to keep the home schooling experience in perspective. As the article said, If some gaps in learning do occur, teachers and schools will identify them and make up for it and, “in the grand scheme of 13 years’ education, it is not going to be the end of the world”.
My personal biggest concern is the impact this is going to have on YOUR mental health as a parent – and that of your kids as well. My tips around this are:
- Preserve your sanity – don’t set yourself up for failure, just stay afloat and if you don’t get through all the learning tasks, that’s fine and probably expected.
- Set realistic expectations for yourself AND your child
- Be flexible – yes I know I’m always banging on about being consistent, but now I want you to bend that a bit. What works today may not work tomorrow with your kids, and that’s okay. It’s normal. But keep trying different things and don’t beat yourself up or feel like you’ve failed if things aren’t going according to plan.
- Let balls drop – now is the time to practice being okay with things being less than perfect…in all domains of your life.
- Put some structure in place – for your sanity and that of your kids. Structure your ‘school day’ as broadly as you need to – this is the one thing to try to stick to so make it doable. It might be breakfast – play – learning time – break – learning time – break – learning time – finish. You can then be as flexible as you like with what slots in to each of those breaks and learning times.
- Expect behaviours – we are doing things differently. Our kids sniff this stuff out like there’s no tomorrow and they will try to push the boundaries. And we will probably cave because, lets face it, we are juggling about 10 balls in the air at the moment and sometimes saying yes to playing Minecraft when you’re supposed to be naming percussion instruments (which mind you, your mum who studied music at a tertiary level -yes that’s me, can’t even name!) is just going to have to happen sometimes.
Lets just try to get through this, remembering that it will pass. There might be some positives for some, but I know for many of the families I work with this period of homeschooling is going to be incredibly hard. Please reach out for help guys.
Wishing you all luck and please let me know how you go!
Amanda Abel is a paediatric psychologist, mum, and founder of Northern Centre for Child Development (NCCD) and Hawthorn Centre for Child Development (HCCD) – multidisciplinary paediatric practices in Melbourne. Working directly and indirectly with hundreds of clients each year, Amanda’s mission is for every child to achieve their best outcomes by equipping families and educators with the tools they need to help kids thrive.
Amanda is media trained, appearing on Channel 7 and 9 News and regularly features in print media. As a contributor to Finch Publishing’s “Working Mums” book, Amanda shared her insights about juggling a business and parenting.
Amanda draws on her own experiences of being a parent along with her extensive training and well-honed skill set to get families thriving. Having worked with families for almost two decades, as a psychologist for the past 11 years in a variety of settings, and a valued board member of the Autism Behavioural Intervention Association, Amanda loves building the confidence of the adults in the lives of children so that they can connect meaningfully, help them reach their full potential, and live a life that reflects their values.
Amanda frequently presents at both academic and parenting events, most recently at the 7th Learning Differences Convention in Melbourne and Sydney in 2019 as well as many other events hosted by PR companies in Melbourne.
Have you seen our founder Amanda Abel’s new online school for parents? It’s called The Psychology Room and her first course has been lauched – The Good Night Toolbox – with tools for parents to help their child get to sleep at night. Check it out here!