In a series of four blogs, Educational Psychologist Dr Dan O’Hare talks to us about promoting children’s wellbeing during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Dan is currently joint chair-elect of the Division of Educational and Child Psychology (part of the British Psychological Society) and runs edpsy.org.uk, a space for Educational Psychologists to share information across boundaries to develop and improve the lives of children and young people.
In the third of his blogs, he covers learning in lockdown.
It’s not an accident that I haven’t titled this section of blog ‘Home schooling’.
It’s not practical or realistic to attempt to recreate school at home, and many children will just not be up for that anyway – school is school and home is home, right?
Lots of schools have put a huge amount of effort in to producing learning or activity packs for children. One of the schools that I work with has made sure that these activity packs have been hand delivered to those families who might be struggling to leave the house due to shielding, or those families who do not have internet access, making online learning an impossibility.
Schools are fantastically placed within their local communities to be aware of the range of challenges that different families might be facing, and they’re also aware that it isn’t ‘business as usual’. The National Education Union has said that even in the longer term, learning at home will look very different to a whole day timetable of structured lessons.
A broad structure to the day is a good thing – everyone (children and adults) likes knowing what is going to happen.
Think about planning a day with your children, maybe making a list or a schedule together. It can be easier to plan when the important things will happen, like outside time, lunch time, snack time. It might then be a good idea to have a range of activities planned that children and young people can do throughout the day e.g. activities from school, a bit of online learning if that’s possible for you, a household chore (to spread the load).
I think it’s probably worth highlighting that schools aren’t closed. If you don’t have resources or are struggling with ideas, it’s absolutely fine to send an email to your school, or ask for a phonecall to have some creative thinking with a teacher. Your child’s teacher will probably enjoy the contact to and if your child or young person can talk to their teacher on the phone, it’s a great way of maintaining those really important relationships.
In terms of parent/carer wellbeing, parent WhatsApp groups along with Twitter or Instagram can be great tools for keeping in contact with other parents and fantastic sources of ideas for home learning. On the other hand, they can also lead to negative social comparisons and be a source of anxiety. It’s difficult to remember sometimes that you’re unlikely to see the reality of a stressful morning on Instagram. If you’ve managed to get everyone up and fed and that feels like a win, then it is!
Beyond more formal activities, learning can happen anytime and anywhere. Whether you’re baking, cooking, writing a shopping list, thinking about the weather, or just doing a simple family quiz, these are all excellent learning opportunities for children. Take the example of making pancakes…!
Now I appreciate that you may scoff at the idea that you’ve been able to get flour in the shops to even make pancakes, but the main point here is that learning opportunities are everywhere.
Read together, talk, write a story, paint, watch a film…it all counts!
Dr Dan O’Hare. Educational psychologist and lecturer at the University of Bristol, joint chair-elect of the Division of Educational and Child Psychology (part of the British Psychological Society).
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