Many parents & carers across the U.K. have their children back at home again, learning remotely due to the latest national lockdown. Whilst some children are flourishing being at home, I think it is fair to say (based on the response to my question on social media) that many children are finding learning at home challenging and so are parents. Two weeks into remote learning and I think many parents are already feeling exhausted. This post aims to help parents realise they are doing brilliantly in such tough circumstances and are certainly not alone in their concerns. It will also end on a positive, collating a few suggestions of ways we, as parents, can help. If you’re looking for resources have a read of my post on best home schooling resources here, phonics here and maths here and watch my home learning videos here.
Parents are working so incredibly hard at the moment and are doing such a fantastic job at juggling their children’s school work and Microsoft Teams meetings in-between their own work and meetings, caring for younger children and managing all the other jobs needed to be done during the day (washing, food prep., cleaning etc.) I imagine future generations will look back on this generation of parents in absolute shock and awe of what we’ve managed to achieve!
The reasons children are finding learning at home challenging are very individual to each child, their learning needs, age and their home/school circumstances and it would be impossible to be able to cover them all in this post. However, one common theme is that many children are finding it hard to concentrate whilst learning at home. And this is no- one’s fault, home is (or should be) a child’s sanctuary, a place where they can switch off and relax. And we have now had to change this to a place where they are expected to work and relax.
What factors are affecting children’s concentration at home?
From listening to lots of parents, the main factors affecting their children’s concentration seem to be the following:
- Distractions at home: As I’ve said, home is where children are used to playing and relaxing and now we are asking them to work in this setting. It’s no wonder parents can’t see the same same levels of concentration at home as school, when there are so many more (unavoidable) distractions at home than in a classroom. For example a child’s toys/hobbies, pets, siblings and other family members. Supporting school work at home by parents may also be juggled in between the routine of younger siblings and babies, needing nap times, feeds and nappy changes, for example.
- Parents working- Another inevitable and unavoidable difficulty is that many parents are working, some from home, sharing time, demands, deadlines, wi-fi, computers and space. It’s also impossible for parents to be able to do their work fully whilst sitting with their children to help with school work. And for younger children and or children with additional needs who may need more input and support with work, this can prove even more of an impossible challenge.
- Change in routine– Many children thrive on routine and this huge change in their normal routine at school can affect a child’s concentration. Lots of parents have also commented that the change in routine is also affecting their motivation to do school work.
- Lack of interactivity– If a parent is able to sit and work with the child on some tasks 1:1, whilst this is brilliant it can also be much more intense that a lesson would be in school. Children are often used to being able to get help from friends, listen to class mates answering questions, hearing model answers and having more space and time to think.
- Missing friends– Children missing their peers will also be having an impact on their concentration. As parents, we aren’t the only ones longing for the return of ‘normality’ and seeing our friends. And I don’t think the affect of this on school work should be underestimated.
- Technology– Teachers are doing the most wonderful job and the way they have pivoted and stepped up to the challenge of providing remote learning for children at home, whilst teaching those in school, is amazing. But through no fault of anyones, having lessons online can pose challenges and barriers that we didn’t have before. Many children may be sharing technology at home (if they have it) with other family members and sharing wi-fi. Theres also the inevitable problems with logging on, downloading and uploading work, sorting out microphones/sound and navigating the new rules of remote learning (when should their mic be on/muted? are they allowed backgrounds? what time do they need to log on?) . For some children, seeing and hearing everyone on the screen can be very overwhelming and gives them too much sensory input.
Whilst I certainly don’t have all the answers (I wish I did!) here are some suggestions that might help:
- Perspective- In the depth of trying to stack the dishwasher, whilst answering a work call and logging your child onto remote learning, it can be difficult to see any positives about this situation. But you are doing a remarkable job in a really difficult situation at the moment and this shouldn’t be underestimated. Also try to remember that you are probably getting a lot more work out of your children than you realise. Sitting 1:1 with your child you will probably be covering a lot more in a shorter space of time, than they would have covered in a lesson in the same amount of time.
- Create a home learning ‘space’ – Now I’m not suggesting we can magic up a purpose built office for each child’s home learning (!) at all, but even in the smallest of spaces, if you can, try and create a specific ‘area’ where the child learns. My wonderful husband managed to build a desk for my eldest this weekend from some left over wood, for this exact reason! If they are lucky enough to have their own desk, then great, but if not- try designating part of the kitchen table to them. There are clever partitions you can buy (or even make), that help reduce distractions.
- Help Reduce Noise- Younger siblings playing, pets and parents on work calls can all be really distracting for children and make it difficult to concentrate on their work. As well as a designated space for them, try ear defenders or noise cancelling headphones, or music to help reduce the noise.
- Routine- Creating routine can be really helpful, this could be written as a timetable or visual aid to help them see when they are expected to do certain things throughout the day. Having set bedtimes and wake up times are also really useful.
- Movement Breaks- Whether its 10 minutes jumping on the trampoline, doing some Joe Wicks PE or Cosmic Yoga, having set breaks before and in-between learning activities is so helpful for concentration. Primary aged children are used to break time and lunchtime, running around outside with their friends. And older children are used to the break in between lessons, walking from one classroom to another, as well as lunchtime and break time.
- Lots of praise- Try to motivate children with praise, they too are doing fantastic with all these restrictions and huge changes, keep telling them how hard they are working, how brilliant their work is, how well they are coping.
- Younger Siblings – Juggling the needs of younger children whilst ‘homeschooling’ older children can be really tough. The things I’ve found that have worked are setting up specific activities for younger children in advance (like a small craft/sensory play activity) that they can do for a few minutes whilst you sit with your older child (I’m going to write a whole blog post on these activities this week- so watch this space). Also trying to involve them as much as possible in any suitable work your older children are doing. For example, we’ve been learning about London with my eldest, so my youngest has been watching the same learning videos about London with him and then instead of the writing she’s been doing some colouring of London landmarks. My biggest tip would be roping in grandparents/friends and family on zoom!! If possible, ask them to read a book or chat with your youngest for a few minutes whilst you explain the task to your eldest. Or they could set the task to your school aged child, whilst you play with your youngest.
- Make sure your child has the same specific resources at home: I’m definitely not suggesting buying the contents of a classroom and putting them in your living room, what I mean by this is- if your child has Special Educational Needs and has certain resources at school to help support them in concentrating/ accessing the work, for example wobble cushion, fidget toy, coloured overlays, work printed on cream paper, writing slant etc make sure you’ve got the same at home. You’re unlikely to need to buy them, try talking to the school and see if you can borrow them. The resources they use at school will be helping them access their learning, so you will be making it so much harder for yourselves at home if they haven’t got these.
I would love to hear any of your suggestions and add these to the post. So if you have found something that has helped with concentration for your children at home, please get in touch and let me know.