Home Schooling Hacks with Shelley Craft
What are your top tips for setting up a good home-schooling area?
Have a place for everything
I have surrendered the dining table for the foreseeable future and made sure that EVERYTHING my girls could possibly need is within easy reach. So, every pencil was sharpened, every texta and gel pen tested and sorted and all books and reading material at the ready, with a dedicated drawer for all equipment and a great spot to hide it all away from view. What will help me stay sane during this period is quite simple, NOT to be asked where something is 100 times a day.
Keeping a watchful eye
I also want my children front and centre - out where I can see them, not spending hours in their bedrooms (and not doing homework!), so the dining table was the obvious place for us. If you have the luxury of a home office or separate space for ‘school’ then it’s a massive win for you.
Have you designated spaces for different activities? or kept them contained to one area?
To find a quiet corner of an open plan home is a little tricky, but we’ve designated an area for quiet reading in the lounge with a rug and cushions and blankets – anything to keep them still for more than 5 minutes at a time and comfortable. Art is a combination of outside messy and inside ‘reflective’ and exercise in the garage – or a bike ride to get out from behind the fence. I have found that having separate areas for every activity means A: less pack up and pack down and B: breaks up the day a little more.
How can you inject a bit of fun into children’s routines?
Luckily for me, Milla and Eadie love playing ‘office’ games, so to engage with online learning has been easier than expected. I allow them to choose their ‘work attire’ for the day (yes sometimes that means heels). My role in this game is as their PA. I role play bringing them their daily tasks and set them up with their online communications. I then have a few moments to sit at my ‘reception’ area – which is the kitchen bench and pump out some of my own work on my computer. They summon me, like all good CEO’s if they need assistance or are ready to submit their efforts. Yes, both girls have assumed the roles of CEO’s of their own individual businesses using the dining table as a shared workspace.
When it comes to devices, how do you manage those between multiple kids?
The iPad and laptop are shared and we have a desktop set up for ZOOM in another room of the house (I was zoom bombing too many classes) for lessons in private, whether that be full school Zoom lessons or piano etc. This is in one of the girl’s bedrooms which has block out blinds - something to keep in mind to help with the camera exposure.
What have you implemented so you can still be productive and get your own work done?
My girls are nature lovers and have a very keen interest in anything to do with animals – enter Disney Plus and their documentaries! Some couch time in the middle of the day and an oral presentation on what they have learnt, post viewing. This gives me at least ½ hour of quiet to attempt to achieve. something.
In this new way of learning, how have you balanced the parent and teacher role?
The thought of home schooling for a whole term is enough to send most parents reaching for a Coronarita before 10am, but I think we may be looking at this far too seriously - not that educating our children should be taken lightly, but I like to see myself more as a teacher’s aide - not the teacher.
There is no doubt some kids will thrive in the home-schooling environment as will some parents/come teachers. For me, it’s about keeping my relationship with my girls as open and ‘motherly’ as possible. Assuming the teacher role will not play well for me down the track – I am not an authoritarian and I find it makes me a little short and aggressive. I feel we need to nurture in this time as well. Did your parents try and teach you how to drive? Yes? Well, remember that feeling when you try to help your 9-year-old with their maths.
What has been your favourite subject to help your kids with?
My love of geography and culture is something that I am embracing and am enjoying teaching the girls, assisted by personal stories and photos. What is it that you really love? Perhaps your children will learn more about you as a person and your life ‘before them’ over this time and what it is that makes you tick – as an individual – not mum or dad.
I have also ‘outsourced’ a lesson a week to the girls’ grandparents – each teaching in their own way about things they enjoy or have experienced.
Any last pieces of advice?
My only real advice to you is, – go easy on yourself, take a deep breath, give plenty of hugs and praise to your kids for coping in this environment too. Afterall, they will be teaching their children about what it was like to live through COVID 19 in many years to come. Give in to this moment in time as this too shall pass, and I think we might find ourselves missing this slower pace and simpler life in time to come