In the world before coronavirus most children occasionally dreamed of school closing.
A teacher training day was such a treat, the occasional snow day drove them wild with excitement and homeschooling seemed like a luxury to most. Little did we know this would become our new reality. As families across the country do their best to adapt to life in lockdown, we ask headteacher, Jill Thompson, for her help to balance home and school life.
Q - Hi Jill, tell us a little about yourself.
A - I’ve been teaching for 15 years. I’m the headteacher at Kelvin Grove Primary in Bensham, Gateshead. I’m mam to George who is five and Lily who is eight.
Q - How have you been coping with life since the virus outbreak?
A - Wow, it’s been crazy! Trying to be a fun mum while running a school is certainly a challenge. Like everyone else though, I’m just doing my best to try to stay upbeat. Nobody knows how to do this, so we are all muddling through together. Things are obviously tough in many ways but there are always positives to take from any situation.
Q - Many parents will be worrying about homeschooling and whether they’re doing a good enough job. What advice would you give them?
A - The first thing I would stress is the importance of finding a balance and creating a happy home.
It’s not your job to do our job. All children will fall back a bit but it’s our role as teachers to get them back on track when we return to normality. Parents don’t need to shoulder that worry and they aren’t expected to try to cover the whole curriculum. It’s a worrying time, for children as well as adults, and now is not the right time for them to be grasping new concepts. It’s more about reinforcing things they already know and keeping them ticking over.
Q - What tips can you share to help parents get the best out of their children when it comes to
A - Settle down to academic work in the morning when they’re fresh. Get it out of the way and then do something less strenuous in the afternoon. If your child has an interest in something, be it dinosaurs, cars or blue whales, use that to your advantage – find facts, draw pictures, write stories.
Q - Is it important to have a timetable to follow?
A - It’s not essential but I find that having a loose structure helps me and the kids are really comforted by routine. Tell them what to expect and write it on a scrap of paper. Watch how it’s going and adapt if you need to cut it short. Don’t worry if sessions feel short. What takes an hour in a classroom can take 10 minutes at home because it’s a totally different set up. There’s absolutely no need for children to sit from 9am to 3pm.
Q - How much attention should parents pay to what other families are doing?
A - Absolutely none! The worst thing you can do is start going online and comparing what you’re doing to other people. This is not a time to judge anyone, because we’re all getting to grips with this as it unfolds. Plus, we all know people only show one side of the story on social media!
Q - What advice would you give to parents on the days they’re really struggling to get the kids to work?
A - If it becomes a battle, don’t do it. It’s okay to relax the rules. We’re all human. Your children are happy if you are happy, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you need to stick a film on for them so you can have a break. They need some escapism too.
Q - Finally, you mentioned taking the positives out of every situation. Brighten our day and tell us what we can feel grateful for!
A - This is an unprecedented situation, but think what our children will gain from this experience. We’ve an opportunity to teach them about resilience and how to work together. What kids want most from their parents is to spend time with you. We’ll never have this kind of time again with our children so we have to make the most of it. By enjoying doing simple things we usually can’t fit into our days, our children will be able to look back on this strange time with some happy memories.
Homeschooling - What I've learned
Karbon Homes Community Connector, Melanie Rees, shares her experience of life indoors with her three kids, aged two, eight and 12.
There’s quite a gap in the ages of my kids so I find it best to keep a bit of a routine – though I’m not overly strict. It goes something like this:
9am Joe Wicks workout on YouTube. Sometimes we do the Cosmic Kids yoga and relaxation sessions on YouTube, which is more aimed to the 4-10 age group and includes a story and yoga poses that the kids copy.
10am A little bit of school work for my eldest while the younger ones do something creative. For example, one day we made a rainbow to place in the window as part of the Stay Safe Indoors campaign and to cheer up our neighbours.
1pm Catch up with family by phone. The kids have really enjoyed drawing a picture or sending notes to people we know to brighten their day, or to elderly neighbours who are on their own. It’s obviously really important to follow the rules of social distancing with this one but the kids can always show their work on a video call if you can’t post messages.
2pm I spend a lot of time in the garden so I’m getting the kids to help plant and tidy things up. If it’s a rainy day a movie afternoon is always a winner. We throw all the cushions onto the floor and get some blankets, close the blinds and just snuggle in as a family. You can always then split into teams and make forts and bomb each other with cushions!
4pm The kids love helping to make dinner. Sometimes I ask them to research a recipe that we can make using whatever we have in the house and then help to make it. They especially like this if it involves making a cake.
If I’m stuck for ideas, I dip into a Facebook group called Family Lockdown Tips and there are some great, easy things to do.