Nikki Young: How To Stay Sane While Homeschooling

If what the school is telling you to do isn't working, don't do it, says author Nikki Young

My eldest is part of an historical year group – the ones who didn’t sit their GCSEs.

It’s incredible when you think about it. Her school do the RS exam in Year 10, so that’s one at least.

My daughter was doing art and textiles and just managed to get in her final art assessment last week.

So that’s two. The textiles assessment was today and tomorrow and the school were going to bring them in to do it, but decided against it at the last minute.

It’s just too risky to have them in now. We’re at that point.

So how do we keep them motivated while homeschooling?

I spoke to three friends last week who all homeschool their children. We recorded the conversation on Zoom, so you can watch it if you want to (it’s on my Facebook page).

My main take-out from this conversation was that what we are being asked to do, as parents, is quite different to what those who currently home educate actually do.

We are affectively being asked to keep school going, whereas they follow their own path and it’s very much a child-led thing.

Nikki Young
Nikki Young

It’s important we put our mental health first

Not only are we worried about what is going on in the world, we’re also concerned with what will happen to our jobs. We don’t need the added stress of trying to educate our children.

If what the school is asking you to do is not working – don’t do it.

As simple as that sounds, it’s the best advice you can take. Contact your child’s school and tell them you’re struggling. We are all entering a period of uncertainty and it’s a case of trial and error at the moment.

If you have young children, don’t stress about their academic education. There are so many other things they can learn about life in general.

Today, my eleven-year-old son decided he was going to stick to his usual timetable. First on the agenda for this morning was DT, but sometimes they do art or cookery during this time. He decided to make some biscuits.

Before I had come downstairs, I had been asked so many questions, he was out of breath from coming up and down the stairs.

I told him to stop and think about it for a moment, before coming straight to me. I told him this unique time was an opportunity to make mistakes and find out for yourself how things work and how to do things.

As a parent (one like me who tends to get involved a little too easily), it meant stepping away from the kitchen and leaving him to it, ignoring the noises, ignoring the mess – I only helped him chop hazelnuts as we do not need accidents at this moment in time.

This is a great time for our children to use their own initiative and imagination to bust the boredom

I nurture creativity with the work that I do with children at my Storymakers Writing Club.

It may be based around writing, but the skills required to come up with an idea, organise your thoughts into a logical order and execute them, are all transferable, as is the ability to use the imagination and come up with creative solutions.

We need our children to be more like this anyway. Far too often, the structure of school squashes this side of them down. There’s very little time for free thinking and creativity due to the constraints of the curriculum.

Not anymore. Not for the foreseeable future anyway.

My middle daughter, being in Year 8, has been asked to use Firefly (the school CRM), along with Microsoft Teams, for virtual lessons.

I think the idea is that they will turn up to school (virtually) and follow the timetable as far as is possible.

We will see how that pans out. For my son, he’s been given an example timetable he might wish to follow, or he can use his usual school one. Alternatively, he can come up with his own. He’s been assigned a personal tutor, who will be checking in with him most days.

Whatever you decide, the trick is to keep up the momentum

I am grateful that the sun is shining, because if all else fails, and you have a garden or a patio or a patch of space out the front, that they can get outside for some fresh air.

What better than to develop core strength and to hone both fine and gross motor skills than through playing. These are skills that will transfer to their writing, believe it or not and they’re often neglected or poorly developed because they’re not developed fully. I see that all the time.

Try not to despair. You are not alone and you will find that if you get on to social media. A lot of people, myself included, are speaking live every day, to check in. Doing video calls with friends is also a life-line.

You are not on your own. Even if it may feel that way.

Nikki Young is a children’s book author (Time School: We Will Remember Them, March 2020, Hashtag Press, and the second book in the series Time School: We Will Honour Them, June 2020, Hashtag Press).

Nikki is the founder of The Storymakers Club in Kent and has plenty of top tips for parents who suddenly find themselves home-schooling their children for the foreseeable. She’s also home-schooling her own children now too!

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