It’s official – us non-essential parents will be teaching the kids at home for another five weeks.
We’re not letting it overwhelm us, though. Instead, we’ve asked an expert how to tackle the online curriculum to give our kids the best at-home education we can (and come out the other side with our sanity intact).
Founder of A Team Tuition Haden McEvoy has broken down the ultimate parental plan of attack. Here’s how to nail your at-home classroom.
Understand the purpose of the online curriculum
The purpose of the Queensland Schools Online Curriculum is to stop kids falling behind during a short, or prolonged period of isolation – it’s not there to measure your child’s academic capacities. Education Queensland has released lesson plans for “general” consumption, which means that your child may feel “miles ahead” of some lessons and may really struggle with others.
“Do not jump onto your year level parent group on Facebook and compare how your child is coping to the other children in their class,” says Hayden. “Some kids will breeze through this and others will feel anxious and struggle to concentrate, but that doesn’t mean they’re not keeping up with the curriculum. It means that as a parent, you must look for signs of their study capabilities.”
Start with their favourite subjects
“If your child can recite the periodic table but HASS makes them want to cry, start with science,” says Hayden. “This is about building confidence in the new learning format. Remember that this whole homeschooling is a big change to a little person’s routine and they may be facing new psychological barriers they’ve never felt before.”
When your child has completed a few of their preferred subjects, look for signs of strengthening study skills before moving on to their least loved topics.
Signs you’re teaching the online curriculum successfully
- Your child is open to reaching daily, reasonable goals for getting their schoolwork out of the way. They will willingly complete all worksheets for that day, even the subjects they don’t like.
- Your child is focused (at an age-appropriate level anyway) on the new system. They’re demonstrating resilience in this time of change.
- Your child is able to do the worksheets independently without your constant encouragement and supervision
- Your child is adapting to a new routine and is able to understand that study time is study time. They’re motivated to get the work done – even if playing Xbox is the overall goal.
- Your child displays confidence in their ability to do the work – even if only in their favourite subjects.
- Your child can take initiative to find answers to questions that confuse them – either by going over the materials again or by “Googling it”
- Your child feels relaxed with you as their temporary teacher. They are not anxious about working with you.
“Note that none of these signs relate to the actual course work,” says Hayden. “As a newbie teacher (and let’s all take a moment to appreciate teachers, because seriously – not all heroes wear capes) your main goal is to facilitate learning – not to transform your student to a straight-A student at this time of change and confusion.”
How to access the Queensland Schools worksheets
Simply visit the Education Queensland website, select your child’s grade level and the subject matter for week one. You can download the PDFs ready to print. There are currently two weeks’ worth of worksheets for every kid from prep to year ten.
Signs you may need professional help teaching the online curriculum
“Your child is going through a period of uncertainty and may be feeling untold anxiety,” says Hayden. “Some kids are very good at hiding anxiety, but it’s there. It may culminate in obsessive behaviours like hand washing or Minecraft World building, or it may culminate in rebellion against the Queensland schools’ online curriculum.
“Most commonly you’ll see an inability to concentrate (this is a very common symptom of anxiety in extreme situations), a ‘bad attitude’ when you call your child to study or a defeatist attitude where you child ‘can’t do it’.”
Remember that every child’s reaction to anxiety is different. As a parent, not a psychologist, your only duty is to acknowledge that your child is struggling.
Where to get help, and where NOT to get help
“Social media is full of armchair experts,” says Hayden. “Suddenly, Australia has eleventy-billion immunologists giving their half-baked opinions based on reading one obscure article written by another armchair expert.”
Turning to social media groups for support may feel beneficial (and community is definitely important right now) but when it comes to the science and art of teaching, it’s all about your child’s particular needs. What works for Karen and Debbie in the mum group may not work for your family.
“There’s nothing more anxiety-inducing than feeling like you’re the only one failing at a task,” says Hayden. “Stick to chatting about your feelings and how you can support your community and leave education and health to the experts.”
Talk to a child psychologist
If your child has had constant issues with school work – even before this terrible time – a good psych may be able to help you identify underlying issues and help with your child’s long-term challenges. This can be a long term process however, and right now getting a seat at a clinic is harder than finding a roll of two-ply. Learn what a psychologist has to say about managing anxiety here.
Talk to your school
“As the dust settles and Australia falls into an online study routine, there will be more time for teachers to spend assisting struggling families,” says Hayden. “For now, you may find teachers are overwhelmed with the tasks that lay ahead, but a great teacher will still answer your questions. Your principal or deputy may also be available, though it could take time. Everyone is in triage mode right now.”
It may be worth hitting pause on your child’s education for a week or two until your school can devote time to one-on-one help. This will, however, mean that your child will need to ‘catch up’ which may cause additional stresses down the line.
As a parent, it may not be up to you to measure your child’s academic performance or get their grades up to scratch, but it is your responsibility (and privilege) to identify what’s best for your child.
Communication, attention and a little (okay, a lot) of patience is the best way forward.