Dr Paula Radice, Director of Enjoycation – which provides group-learning and tutoring in Hastings for home-educated children from Reception to GCSEs in a fully-resourced learning room in Hastings town centre – addresses some concerns parents may have about their children’s learning during lockdown. 

There has been a lot of talk across social media and the news about the problems some parents of school children have had during lockdown with ‘home schooling’ and making sure children ‘don’t fall behind’ with their learning.

Here are some reasons why parents shouldn’t be worrying too much about how they have done:

You haven’t been home schooling, not really

The permanently home-educated children and teens who come to Enjoycation have settled – no doubt with trial and error over time – into very individualised patterns of learning that suit them.  This includes a wide choice of activities, like drama lessons, art classes, Forest School, dancing, languages, craft classes, voluntary work, self-directed online learning and tutoring sessions. They also have a wide range of social meet-ups, and spend time with their parents travelling, as well as visiting museums, art galleries, exhibitions, lectures, Open Days, hands-on-history days etc. Truly home-educated children, in my experience, have extremely rich and diverse learning opportunities.

In times like these, children don’t need times tables and spelling lists. They need you, and the sense of security and safety you give them

Few of these things have been available to your family (except online) during lockdown, so you haven’t been able to access many of the most exciting aspects of learning ‘at home’.

Most importantly, home-educating families also know that all children learn differently, and at different speeds. They don’t put on children the anxiety of meeting national curriculum targets or taking SATs tests. Despite not being too concerned about ‘age-related expectations’, they do just fine – and frequently brilliantly – when it comes to GCSEs, A Levels, college and university! They’re lovely, confident young people, too. 

Home-educating families know that ‘sitting-down-with-paper-and-pencil’ learning sessions do not have to be long

You can do in a couple of hours a day what a child would cover in school in a whole day. I know, because I’ve taught both ways. Concentrated learning sessions with one or two engaged children can cover more ground much more quickly than a mixed-ability class of 30+ pupils.

Short, focussed learning activities are absolutely fine: 5-minute maths games, a 20-minute diary writing activity, a short read from a book together.

Learning is much wider (and deeper) than some people think

A school curriculum is a construct; children, however, learn about life in all its weird and wonderful forms. Cooking, gardening, lying on your tummy watching ants in the garden, making up games, sewing, making music by banging saucepans, building with different materials, drawing and painting, talking to lots of different types of people, singing and dancing around the kitchen: these are all learning activities.

Most importantly of all, playing is learning… and not just for the little ones. Playful learning is magic at any age.

The most motivating learning comes from children’s own passions and curiosity. Researching and writing about Minecraft (or Frozen, or your favourite YouTube channel) is as valuable as researching and writing about anything. When children are captivated by a subject and allowed to explore it at their own pace, they can often exceed ‘age-related expectations’ (horrible phrase) in the depth of their understanding and knowledge. 

So… don’t worry if you haven’t managed to ‘cover’ the topic work that was sent home.

Trust your child’s teachers

Our local teachers are brilliant: they will do whatever is necessary to get children back up to full learning speed when the time is right and things settle back down. They will understand that experiences of learning at home will have been different, and that you (and the children) have done your best.

Most importantly, academic learning is absolutely not what your child has needed most in the last few weeks.

These have been challenging times for us all, adults and children. As well as the difficulties of being cooped up inside, we have all had the same anxieties and fears as our lives have been disrupted.  You may have been worried about money and losing jobs. Families with key workers have been anxious about loved ones’ well-being. We have all worried about vulnerable members of our own families, and about everyone in our town, our country.  The news has been full of death counts, fear and sadness.

PICTURE: Annie Spratt/Unsplash

If your children have been resistant to sitting down and working through schoolwork, they may have been showing a very natural emotional response to these strange circumstances. The last thing they need is for pressure of schoolwork to add extra stress into the whole family dynamic.

In times like these, children don’t need times tables and spelling lists. They need you, and the sense of security and safety you give them. 

Every minute you have spent talking with them, cooking with them, cuddling up to watch a good film, playing games, laughing with them, making posters… and just being together, has been precious. It will have done their emotional intelligence, and their whole sense of well-being, a power of good.

Your children will have learned the most important lessons of all, ones that will hopefully last them a lifetime: that when times are tough, we get through them by being together; that we can handle anxiety-making changes by being kind to ourselves and others; that we all have resilience that comes to the fore when we face problems; that community really matters; that each and every one of us can do something – no matter how small – to help someone else. And at the end of the day, that love matters more than anything else.

And you, I suspect, will have learned more about the wonderful individuals your children are.

Now isn’t that more important than any national curriculum?

Enjoycation, based in Jackson Hall, Portland Place, Hastings, can be contacted by email ([email protected]) or by phone (0785 100 8863). We offer five GCSE subjects, weekly group learning for KS1-KS3-aged children who are being home-educated, and high quality one-to-one tutoring. 

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