As the threat of school closures looms ever closer, parents are wondering what that might mean for their children’s education. A Facebook group was created today to provide support and information for parents negotiating homeschooling.
“I just wanted to give parents support place to find free resources and make contact with each other whilst staying at home and ask questions while they are waiting for their schools to come up with a plan and afterwards,” Christine Moore founder of Homeschool Due to Coronavirus and School Closures in Australia.
She said they are already seeing a lot of parents who have taken their children out of school because they have immune-compromised relatives.
“There is a lot of anxiety and uncertainty about what they need to do for their kids. Some people don’t understand that you don’t have to sit in a classroom to learn.”
Linda Hoadley, 45, from Taree homeschools three girls aged 10,12 and 15.
They began homeschooling seven years ago, taking their eldest daughter out of school before she started grade four. Her middle child did one year at school and the youngest has never been to school.
“We wanted to try a different way of learning. Something more tailored and interesting and hands on.”
Linda warned that while it has been amazing for all her children, and in many unexpected ways, parents forced to take their children out of school would be faced with a period of transition.
“People taking their kids out will find it hard. The biggest thing when kids come out of school is that they are used to being told what to do for six hours a day and everything is structured. They struggle with that lack of structure.
Kids will be bored and not know what to do with themselves and not want to sit at a table at home and do schoolwork. At school there are authority figures telling them what to do every minute and they have to do it, but when you take that out in the home it can be a bit difficult. You might not whinge to your teacher, but you are quite happy whinging to your mum,” she said.
She said homeschooling required much less time spent sitting at a desk doing formal work because there was no formalities or interruptions to lessons.
Linda explained that much of the real learning happens in that free time.
“One of my girls learnt to draw and is an amazing artist and wrote a novel. She had so much more time to explore these talents and it was amazing to watch.”
She said homeschooling parents often say the number of years the child has been at school is the number of months it will take them to de-school.
“Let them be bored and push through their complaining. Don’t try to fill every minute for them. It will be amazing when they get through it. My kids did amazing creative things when they pushed through it. It is just a bit painful at first.
Don’t default to screen time. It is quite distracting, and addictive and they are cranky when they come away from the screen. For a lot of parents that will be a big thing. But my advice is not to let them do that.”
She suggested that if schoolwork was sent home and the children were struggling with it parents could determine what the focus of the learning was and try to find other ways to learn the lesson, perhaps drawing outside with chalk rather than in a book, watching a YouTube video or reading a book.
Linda advised parents not to stress if children don’t understand things straight away as they all learn at different rates.
She also warned that sibling fighting could be an issue.
“A lot of families can find this difficult at first. We love playing lots of boardgames or work together to design a board game, so they learn and get used to hanging out together.”
Nicole Goring, 35, from Brisbane is a mum to three children and homeschools her seven-year-old son she has also set up a homeschooling co-op where parents can drop their children to participate in educational activities.
“My biggest advice is, try not to stress too much about the academics. Teachers will have to come up with a plan to manage that. There will be equity issues.
It is a good idea if the school is sending home set work to do it first thing in the morning and work on as much as you can in just an hour and maybe return to it in the afternoon.”
Nicole said there plenty of opportunity for learning through everyday activities such as cooking, gardening, helping work out a shopping list and how much it will cost.
She said depending on the child, managing boredom and the limited structure could be a challenge. She said there are a few graphics on Facebook for schedules which set out times for outside play, schooling and calling friends, so they still have structure to their day.
“Social isolation is going to be the hardest thing for everyone.”
Talk to school
Nicole recommended parents talk to their schools now about what they will be sending home and said a lot of online courses are now being offered for free.
“Remember if you have a garden use it. Just because you are in quarantine you can still use it. It will alleviate cabin fever, boredom and get the kids moving. They will find hours of entertainment with a shovel, water and mud,” Nicole said.
The South Australian Department for Education said in statement it has existing practices in place for remote learning during periods of absence.
“In relation to COVID-19, this will be managed via the usual platforms used at the school and will depend on a number of factors such as the length of time the site is closed and the student’s year level.
We are working through a number of contingencies and we’ll be presenting those to the schools in the coming days.”
An ACT Education Directorate spokesperson said public schools are planning for digital delivery of lessons, if it becomes required, using the ACT’s nation-leading investment in technology-enabled learning and chrome books.
Plans have been developed for ACT schools to respond to the potential spread of COVID-19 in school communities. These plans will be scaled in proportion to the spread of the virus.
As of today, all excursions and camps, sporting events, assemblies, school open nights/days, parent/teacher interviews and music concerts will be cancelled.
The Western Australia Education and Training Minister, Sue Ellery, said: “The WA Department of Education is developing materials to support public schools to continue student learning in the event of school closures.
Obviously, this planning has to take into account the many different locations and types of schools we have around Western Australia.
There are a range of options that are being considered, including the School of Isolation and Distance (SIDE) which already delivers online education, as well as online learning platforms which schools already use such as Connect,” Ms Ellery said.
She said public school principals were made aware last week that plans were well underway.
“Principals will communicate directly with parents to let them know of any arrangements if and when the need arises.
“I understand non-government schools are making their own arrangements to suit their individual needs.”
A NSW Department of Education spokesperson said it is developing innovative strategies to deal with the spread of COVID-19.
“The NSW Education Department is working with its major IT providers to create virtual classrooms so teachers can provide work to students over the internet.
Schools affected by COVID-19 are using the technology.
Technology allows the department to create virtual assemblies as well as excursions to supplement curriculum and connect them to galleries, museums, research institutes, science events and zoos.
The department has access to several live streaming platforms that are capable of creating virtual classrooms for teachers and students to interact in real-time during core teaching hours.
The department currently operates a range of services to support the local needs of schools. Aurora College, a virtual selective high school, allows students in rural and remote areas to study specialist subjects, and distance education for students in remote areas or not able to attend school due to illness or access.
Schools can utilise several enterprise agreements and platforms with partners such as Google, Microsoft and Adobe.
Google Classroom and Microsoft Teams are used widely across schools for virtual learning. Our Distance Education platforms have been used for many years in regional, rural and remote areas and can be extended to metropolitan areas.
The department’s digital capability allows streaming from any location,” the spokesperson said.