January Blues: How to Cope During the Next Chapter of School Closures

Guest Blog post by homeschool guru, Anna Dusseau.

Anna Dusseau is a former secondary school teacher and examiner, who now homeschools her three children. Anna’s first book ‘The Case for Homeschooling’ is available on Amazon. Anna now lives between Bedfordshire and Bordeaux, but grew up in Devon and went to St Peters School and the The Maynard School for sixth form. She loves Devon and places like Timepiece and Boston Tea Party in Exeter! “I wonder if they still exist.. “ she said.

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“Bye, 2020. It’s been weird.”

Taylor Swift was bang on when she saw in the New Year wearing a grizzly bear costume and captioned the snap: “Bye, 2020. It’s been weird.” It sure has. And 2021 hasn’t exactly got off to a promising start, either. In recent days, the chaotic interplay between schools, unions, scientists and political figureheads has left many families adrift. Well, I am a qualified teacher and my children, in fact, don’t go to school at all. Here are my tips for getting through this time as best you can.

Talk to Your Employer.

Depending on the nature of your job, this will likely be your first concern. Set aside time to deal with this matter properly, as you will be in no fit state to manage home learning if your job situation is unrealistic. If you are self-employed, you may be able to change your working pattern to give you more time during the day to focus on homeschooling. If your employer is able to provide you with more flexibility during this time, this too should reduce the stress of juggling things. Children are resilient, though, and more independent than we sometimes allow for. Don’t be afraid of taking a conference call and telling your kids they will need to get on with schoolwork or reading for an hour.   

Discover Podcasts.

This is an ideal way to enrich your child’s learning and there are some great podcasts out there for all ages and stages. From primary-level shows such as science-packed Wow in the World and ethics show Short and Curly, to expert-level podcasts for enthusiasts such as in-depth dinosaur-fest The Terrible Lizards and NASA’s Curious Universe podcasts, there is truly something out there for everyone, if you do a bit of digging. There are also some great radio talk shows and audiobooks available, perfect to listen to while cooking or crafting.

Branch Out.

Homeschooling, even for a limited time, is the ideal opportunity to discover new interests and skills. Books, websites, library catalogues, board games and raw materials for crafting, engineering or science experiments all provide superb ways of discovering your child’s hidden strengths. Interestingly, the human brain hates waste; it is literally wired to recognise only novelty and reject redundancy (in this case, things that aren’t ‘new’). This could be why your child might appear bored or distracted in certain lessons as, if the material isn’t new or stimulating, the brain almost involuntarily ‘tunes out’. So, put the fire back in learning with some brand-new experiences and resources which suit your child’s interests.   

Don’t Doubt Yourself.

Whatever is happening in your family right now, this is an important time to trust your own judgement and avoid ricocheting between ‘expert’ opinions and news updates. Studies show that when we attempt to suppress our own self-doubt, we actually inhibit the executive control function of our brain, making us even worse at accurate decision-making! The message is clear: step away from social media, don’t overload yourself with information, and trust your instinct when it comes to what’s best for your family during this time.

Challenge Them…Just a Bit.

Growth Mindset is a behavioural theory that looks at challenges in a positive way. Rather than avoiding challenge and sticking with what we know – a Fixed Mindset – Dr Carol Dweck presents the Growth Mindset as one that embraces the opportunity to develop existing skills through perseverance and tenacity. Such skills are essential in life, and yet they are difficult to cultivate in a school environment, simply because there isn’t enough time or manpower to allow for real independence and choice in learning. Take this opportunity to encourage your children to be more autonomous in their studies; try to step back and see yourself as a guide rather than a teacher. As a basic rule, the harder you are pedalling, the less they are actually engaging and, of course, vice versa.

Be Clear on Screen Time.

There are a whole lot of problems associated with spending too much time glued to phones and computer screens. The most basic issue is that prolonged screen time reduces physical mobility and Vitamin D exposure from being outdoors, which in turn reduces energy levels and thus creates a self-perpetuating cycle of behaviour. Regarding gaming and social media, there is an added concern that the ‘game’ or flow of updates never actually ends in the way that, for example, a movie or TV show comes to a close. This can cause children (and adults!) to feel constantly distracted. Talk these issues through with your child and come to a joint decision on how to manage screen time.

Good luck with getting through the next few weeks. Do try to stay positive and be clear with your child’s school regarding what is realistically achievable from your end. Above all, your family’s emotional and physical health has to come first, now and always. 

Anna kindly gave us lots of ideas for homeschooling projects in the first lockdown, so if you’re looking for inspiration have a click through.

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