Learning: Not At School

There is no ‘right’ way to deal with educating your children during the current situation, but here are some thoughts about what we learned from the experience of supporting our own children’s learning when they weren’t in school.

1. A routine is really useful, but it doesn’t have to look like a school timetable if you don’t want it to. Our key routine during our unschooling adventures was to ask the children to write a page in their diaries every day. Routines give children a sense of security and help to give a pattern to your days.

2. Change your frame of mind around what learning looks like. It’s not all about academics – so much of learning is about social, emotional and physical development. For instance, talking on the phone to grandparents for half an hour would be valuable for everyone’s mental health and also supports speaking and listening skills.

3. Find the learning in the everyday tasks that have to be done, rather than seeing learning as something that can only happen in lessons. Cooking, planting some seeds, even doing cleaning – children learn from all these things!

4. Motivation is going to be key – families are going to have to get on together in unusual circumstances, and it’s not going to be helpful to focus on punishment to get things done. Think about what motivates your child in a positive way – ask your children for ideas about the motivators that work for them (and think laterally about what ‘rewards’ might mean).

5. It is helpful to let your child take the lead in what they want to be learning, if you can allow yourself to hand over a bit of control, because that way the motivation comes much more easily. Let your children make a list of the things they want to learn about and then tick off one or two a day, so you’re not constantly having to nag them about learning.

6. See yourself as someone who can provide the resources for learning, rather than as someone who is necessarily going to do lots of teaching, especially if you have older children. You will have your own work to do as well. Dig into the cupboards and pull out the old paints and toys, get them to read with siblings or learn a new language. (My youngest spent yesterday self teaching Japanese.)

7. Keep a sense of priority – focus on helping your children feel calm and loved, and on contact via phone/internet etc. with your family. Give them time and space to talk about their fears but also about their hopes. At the moment, health and community need to be the main focus. Don’t set yourself impossible goals – be kind to yourself and to others. Children are surprisingly self motivated to learn when you give them the space.

For more about our adventures in educating our children when they were not in school, you might like to visit my Road School website. Obviously travel is out of the question at the moment, but luckily we still have the Internet so we can do it virtually. Sending everyone good wishes for the weeks and months to come.

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