Keeping sane at the school of mum and dad!

We have barely set foot in 2021 and the UK is back in lockdown again. Primary and secondary school pupils are mostly learning from home whilst the doors of early years settings are, at the time of writing, open to all…

All educational settings are having to cater for being open to some children whilst offering parents and carers ideas of things to do at home, and many early years educators will be juggling home-learning for their own children as well as looking after those they care for. This is not an easy task. In our household, we have 3 children and 3 timetables to follow as well as mine and my husband’s own working schedule to incorporate, not to mention working out how to share a limited number of devices between the family.

Parents and carers may ask our advice as early years educators about home learning and I wanted to write this article to offer a few ideas and give them some reassurance at this difficult time. I have deliberately not called it home-schooling because, despite my title, homes have not become schools. Teachers are still teaching their children and schools are very much open, with learning taking place either face to face or online. So we can reassure parents that they don’t have to try to teach and their relationship with their children is more important than whether or not they complete a certain home-learning task.

We also need to encourage parents not to worry about their child falling behind.  Although there is a disadvantage gap when looking at children’s attainment in academic subjects, worrying about the gap widening will not help matters. Instead, we can encourage parents to use this time as an opportunity for their child to grow in other areas. Parents can spend quality family time with their child, teach them skills that they might not learn or value at school, such as cooking a family recipe or pairing the socks!

Many children might be feeling anxious during the pandemic, so it is also important for parents to reassure their children that they are loved and help them to feel safe and secure, encouraging children to move and exercise every day. Spending time outdoors, if possible, is a great way of maintaining a positive sense of wellbeing. Exercising together as a family is even better, because then parents can act as a role model whilst also prioritising their own health and wellbeing.

Key messages to share with parents at this difficult time:
  • Your child needs to feel safe and loved
  • Although you have a lot to offer, you cannot replace their teachers, so don’t try to
  • Be empathetic, patient and kind
  • Focus on your child’s wellbeing and mental health
  • It is vital to maintain and restore a good relationship with your child.
Top 5 tips to help you remain sane:
  1. Go outside for a walk, cycle or other form of physical exercise once a day.
  2. If you are working online, take regular breaks from screens. Do not spend free time checking Facebook or Instagram – instead have a total IT break in your leisure time and go for a walk, read a book, cook, garden or listen to some music.
  3. Avoid checking the news too regularly – this can feed anxiety.
  4. Try mindfulness, meditation or yoga to help regain feelings of calm.
  5. Finish each day by being thankful – list at least three things you are grateful for.

Perhaps we can view the pandemic as an opportunity to foster dispositions and attitudes in our children, like being resilient and bouncing back after difficulties, having a growth mindset and ‘can do’ attitude and being creative and imaginative. These ideas link with the characteristics of effective learning within the EYFS and will help us to remain positive by focusing on the opportunities posed during these challenging circumstances.

About the author:

Tamsin Grimmer is an experienced early years consultant and trainer and parent who is passionate about young children’s learning and development. She believes that all children deserve practitioners who are inspiring, dynamic, reflective and committed to improving on their current best. Tamsin particularly enjoys planning and delivering training and supporting early years practitioners and teachers to improve outcomes for young children.

Tamsin has written three books – “Observing and Developing Schematic Behaviour in Young Children” , “School Readiness and the Characteristics of Effective Learning” and “Calling all Superheroes: Supporting and Developing Superhero Play in the Early Years” and is working on a fourth looking at “Developing a Loving Pedagogy in the Early Years”.

You can contact Tamsin via Twitter @tamsingrimmer, her Facebook pagewebsite or email info@tamsingrimmer.co.uk

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