How to work and educate your kids at home during lockdown

Article By: Danielle Barfoot and Elmien Ackerman, Optimi Classroom | 29 April 2020

The national lockdown due to COVID-19 has seen many parents temporarily become teachers. Parents now have to juggle working from home and educating their children. And, while it might seem like a daunting task at first, teaching your kids at home can be done. All it takes is some planning, flexibility, teamwork, and creative scheduling.

Here are a few tips on how to make it work.

Forget about the norm Trying to stick to a traditional school schedule where children work from 08:00 to 14:00 Monday through Friday is unrealistic. One of the many benefits of teaching your kids at home is that your schedule can be whatever works for you.  Depending on the hours you work, you can fit in a lesson before starting work in the morning, in the evenings after work, or even on weekends. If you work shifts, you can even shorten the “school week” by making the most of your days off. The key is to take advantage of the time you have, no matter when that is.

Divide and conquer If your spouse/partner is on board, you can share the teaching-at-home load. If your work schedules differ, one parent can work on a few subjects, leaving the remaining subjects for the other parent – maybe Dad loves History and English while Mom excels at Maths and Science. Splitting up the responsibility this way allows each parent to contribute and to work to his or her strengths.

Make use of free resources There are many free resources available online that can help your child learn and discover new things from the comfort of your home.

Rely on online tutoring While you might not be able to take your child to a tutor for extra classes you can have the tutor come to you. Virtually, of course. Here’s how:  

  • Check in with your child’s school to see if his/her teachers are available to answer subject-related questions. Many teachers are now also providing online classes to ensure learners do not fall behind.
  • The SABC and the Department of Basic Education have launched a support initiative aimed at helping learners continue their learning journey at home. Check out their YouTube channel called DBE Learning Tube for lessons in a number of subjects.
  • Impaq, a home education curriculum provider, is hosting free webinars for Grade 10 – 12 learners. The webinars provide invaluable assistance in many of the FET subjects. To register for a free webinar, visit Impaq’s Events page.

Work smart When you work and teach your kids at home, you may need to find inventive ways to sneak in learning during everyday activities. For example:

  • Let your children listen to audiobooks while you work.
  • Allow them to watch educational documentaries.
  • Use prescribed readers as bedtime reading.
  • Give your children self-directed activities that they can complete on their own, e.g. fill in the missing letter/sound with pictures alongside each word that needs to be completed (C?T/ D?G, etc.). You can then mark the activity after work and correct any mistakes.
  • Practice estimation, measuring and rounding by getting your children to help you cook.
  • Work on analysis, comprehension and inference around the dinner table by asking them to describe the characters in a show or movie they’re watching or a book they’re reading, then discussing the genre, foreshadowing, etc.

Plan ahead Working parents need to plan ahead. Check in daily, perhaps during dinner, so that everyone is on the same page regarding your expectations. Discuss what you expect your children to do independently and when an adult will be available to help. During this time, be open to suggestions from your family about how to make things run smoothly.

Remain flexible Even the best-laid plans often go awry. This is especially true when teaching your children at home. Add to that the demands of a job, and you will quickly learn that things do not always go the way you planned. If/when that happens, make the most of what you can accomplish and try again the following day.

Once you get beyond the mindset that school must happen between set hours from Monday to Friday and that children should be in bed by 20:00, there’s room to get creative with your schedule. Evenings and weekends can be extremely productive, so use them well.

Educating your children while working from home is undoubtedly challenging, but it is not impossible. Follow the tips above to ensure your children can continue their learning journey at home.