The current coronavirus pandemic has drastically changed the face of society in a very short period of time. Many shocked and dazed single parents are not only had to adapt to being furloughed from their job but also having to get to grips with home educating their children since the government decided to close schools to slow the spread of the virus.
Combined with working from home, you can understand why single parents are reaching dizzy heights while trying to get a grip with multi-tasking at a level never experienced before!
As a single parent and home educator to my teenage son for over six years, the current situation has made me very sympathetic to a lot of my friends with children, especially those who are single parents, like myself.
I was lucky to have had the opportunity to think long and hard about taking my son out of school to home educate him with plenty of time to prepare and plan ahead. However, for many of my friends, they have not been so lucky and this change has suddenly been thrust upon them.
On a lighter note, one of my single-mum friends made me laugh out loud when she posted only after two days of homeschooling, she was placing one of her children in detention while the other one was at risk of being expelled from her kitchen-school!
She also asked whether it was acceptable for a homeschooling parent to drink on the job, even if they were only in the role temporarily.
Jokes aside, it did seem like she was feeling the pressure of trying to recreate a ‘school-at-home’ type of environment for her two kids. But as a seasoned home-educator, I know this is the last thing any parent should try to attempt.
My Home Education Tips For Single Parents
Don’t try to be a superhero!
If I can give just one piece of advice for all home educating single-parents out there at the moment, it would be – do not try to be a superhero. While you may be concerned about your children’s education when schools are closed, there is no need to swamp your kids time with school-like work.
Remember we are living through an unprecedented emergency affecting the whole world. This isn’t a time for home educating your children in a way similar to school. You are adjusting and so are your children.
As your children will be returning to school when lockdown has passed, right now what you are doing is simply distance learning, rather than following a set curriculum. There is no need to keep up with the rest of the class because everyone else is in the same boat.
There will also be a time of another re-adjustment for everyone including teachers when schools reopen. For now, the best thing you can do as a single parent is to focus on building your parent-child relationship.
Build a strong bond
Children who do well in school, and also outside of it, tend to come from very supportive home backgrounds with strong parental bonds. According to the report, a Review of Best Practice In Parental Engagement,
“Parental engagement in the form of ‘at home good parenting’ has a significant positive effect on children’s achievement and adjustment even after all other factors shaping attainment has been taken out of the equation. In the primary age range, the impact caused by different levels of parental involvement is much bigger than the differences associated with variations in schools.”
The takeaway phrase to focus on here is ‘at home good parenting’. Now is an opportunity to do more with your children, rather than trying to tell them what to do every day. Instead, listen to what they want to do – and join in with the fun!
Choose to be supportive of what your children want to do with their time right now, so if they want to spend their days playing in the garden digging in the dirt, watching TV or helping your bake biscuits in the kitchen, then let them follow their own lead.
There is nothing to stress over or feel guilty about. Rest assured, your kids are still learning, even though it’s not coming from the pages of a book.
Allow your children to teach themselves
While in lockdown, it is still possible to offer your children plenty of activities where they can continue to learn and develop new life skills building their confidence, mental health and wellbeing. This is especially important if you have children of different ages and abilities.
Take this opportunity to teach your children some essential life skills they cannot learn in school. Encourage their natural curiosity and they will grow their self-motivation, natural research skills, resilience and drive without even realising it.
At this time, I dare to say, you do not need to teach your children anything! All you need do is to model a sense of hope and positivity. This will help your children build the emotional resilience they need to continue enjoying learning new things.
Make mealtimes a home learning opportunity
With the current restrictions in place for going outdoors, shopping and rationing food items right now, you can use this opportunity to teach your children a life lesson in rationing, budgeting and cooking from scratch.
Lessons do not need to come from the pages of a book. Life lessons come from the practical steps of looking at your budget, making shopping lists and creating nutritious meals from the ingredients you can get hold of, or already have in your kitchen cupboards.
At the end of the day, your children will learn some valuable life skills but you will also have made dinner together that feeds both your minds and bodies. Don’t forget that doing practical things like this each day will be covering many of the bases covered in school:
- Budgeting, shopping and meal planning = maths
- Weighing out food ingredients and cooking = maths, chemistry, food and nutrition
- Sharing meals and talking together over dinner = physical health and personal wellbeing
- Washing up = health and hygiene
Sharing other practical skills with your children can also lead them to become more self-sufficient. Try to share hobbies such as kit-building, gardening, knitting, sewing and crocheting where they can make something to keep from their efforts.
Find engaging learning activities
It can’t be ignored, every school will be different in the type and scale of activities being sent for home education during COVID-19 lockdown. Every household will be different in their ability to complete work sent home by teachers working remotely. If your child is receiving work to complete, it would make sense to judge and prioritise the tasks your child can realistically achieve by themselves and what can be completed with you by their side.
Ask yourself what work will achieve meaningful outcomes? What work needs to be returned and marked by the teacher? What type of activities will benefit my child by having the chance to practice or develop those skills at home? For many single parents with young children, the answer may be to focus on literacy and numeracy.
You can also give yourself a much-needed break by letting your child enjoy the many free online learning resources that are available. Children will want to spend time online, so why not let them develop their digital skills with some fun and engaging digital learning activities?
Depending on the age of your children, you can look at online home education resources or websites offering free content during the lockdown. Many websites and companies are now sharing their resources, temporarily made free, in part, to assist with school closures. These include:
Brainpop: BrainPOP is a very popular site for home educators. The service supports core and supplemental subjects with engaging learning games, movies and animated content. Presented with great humour to make learning fun and exciting. Free access during school closures.
Audible: Offering a wide range of stories across six different languages available to stream and listen to for free for the duration of the lockdown.
Twinkl – This is a well-known resource for home educators across the country. The site is divided into primary and secondary school levels and the materials offered are in line with the current key-stage curriculum and special educational needs and disability (SEND). Access is free for the duration of the lockdown. Go to www.twinkl.co.uk/offer and enter the code: UKTWINKLHELPS.
Brave Writer: A great resource to keep your children entertained and encourage them to express themselves through writing, even if they are not a confident writer. Many of the activities here are aimed at helping children improve their creative writing skills and feel more confident about writing.
Kick-a-bout: 5-minute boredom busters for ages 3-5 (football themed).
WWT: The Wetlands Wildlife Trust offers children a wide range of wetland and nature-related habitats content to enjoy. Suitable for 5 to 11 years as well as older children aged 12 to 16.
BBC Bitesize: Offering UK school curriculum-based educational and homework help content for primary, secondary and post 16. It’s also helpful for home educated students as well as for those currently at home due to school closures.
By sensibly combining work sent from teachers, using free resources, with a few practical life-skills lessons, you and your children can grow closer to support and comfort each other at this time.
Remember this crisis will eventually be over and it would be nice to look back at the time spent indoors as time treasured together when you created many happy memories.