Life in lockdown is a challenge for everyone. And while younger family members might have found it a novelty to begin with, not being able to see friends, go to school or pursue normal activities is beginning to take its toll. Want to know how to encourage kids to continue with remote learning and keep their spirits up? Take a look at these helpful tips from some of the UK’s most inspirational teachers.
Why it’s important to keep learning through the lockdown
Science teacher Adam Robbins has a poster on his classroom wall that reads: “Knowing stuff is better than not knowing stuff.” Remind your children, whatever their age, that education isn’t just about exams and grades. As Adam says:
“The act of learning has ramifications for all areas of a person’s life. Learning provides a sense of challenge that builds self-esteem. It also provides variation and stimulation that can improve our mood.”
Harry Fletcher-Wood agrees. He says: “Distance learning…can be a source of stability, normality and meaning. Students may be stuck at home for ages, worried, lonely and lost. Distance learning may help them to make sense of what’s happening, and may widen their horizons beyond the four walls in which they’re stuck.”
How to keep younger children interested in homeschooling
“The most important way to maintain interest is flexibility,” says Adam Robbins: “Give younger children a series of options to choose from, but make sure it’s a ‘magician’s choice’. Don’t ask what they’d like to do – ask whether they’d like to do phonics or counting first. This gives them the perception of control but also lets them know that both tasks will be done in due course.”
Some children struggle with remote learning because they’re being far too hard on themselves. In a fantastic podcast interview with clinical psychologist Dr Hazel Harrison, Jamie Thom asks how to support young people during lockdown. Hazel’s advice:
“Lowering your expectations is helpful for everyone in the family – not just the children.”
She suggests helping children to set small, achievable goals each day. And, says Hazel: “Encourage children to notice what’s working well, even on a bad day…Express gratitude for the good things… Create an upward spiral!”
How to keep teens motivated and ready to hit the ground running
There are lots of ways to encourage your teen to stick at lessons when motivation runs thin. But beware of the carrot and stick method, says Adam Robbins. For this age group, experiments have proved that rewards and sanctions may even have an adverse effect. Why? “Using a bribe with teens signals that any task, in this case completing their remote lessons, is beyond your basic expectations.”
Adam suggests talking to them about what they’re working towards – an ambition can be highly motivational. With schools closed, young people have the perfect opportunity to gain an edge on their future competition:
“There are going to be plenty of teens not working during a lockdown, so every piece of work they master is another step ahead of the person who’s competing for that same grade, college space or university place.”
For those who are returning to education in September, keeping their brains active while others vegetate will give them a huge head start when it comes to getting back in the saddle. And for older teens, we predict that future interviewers will be very interested to find out what young people did during this period of lockdown. Showing initiative speaks volumes.
How to plan the next steps for those who’ve had exams cancelled
In his podcast interview with Dr Hazel Harrison, Jamie Thom admitted that he found it difficult to discuss cancelled exams with his own 16-year-old niece. So how can we motivate children who feel like there’s no point to anything now they won’t be sitting exams? Hazel suggests helping young adults to refocus:
“There are some things that we can control, and that’s where we should focus our energy.”
Teens may have lost the chance to sit exams or improve their predicted grades, but remind them that they still have control over their decisions, their learning, their safety, their exercise… And most importantly, says Hazel, “exams being cancelled doesn’t mean that the learning was for nothing.” Remind teens that all the knowledge they have accumulated over the last few years, all the skills they have learnt – that is theirs to keep forever.
Adam Robbins agrees. Young people going on to study A-levels, BTECs, T-levels, Scottish Highers, or university courses should use this time to consolidate everything they’ve learnt:
“New knowledge builds on prior knowledge. The less gaps they have the easier they will find next year’s information. Build that solid foundation to launch off from next year.”
7 tips to keep children engaged with remote learning
Harry Fletcher-Wood’s checklist for successful distance learning is a great way to keep your kids on task when they’re losing the will to carry on:
- Clarify the habits they should pursue – turning up to lessons and completing work set
- Encourage them not to ‘miss out’ on seeing friends at online lessons
- Emphasise what you expect
- Help them plan what to do, when
- Simplify everything
- Highlight small wins
- Relaunch habits when they struggle
As lockdown continues, many children are missing their school community and normal routine more than they care to admit. Let them know that it’s OK to feel sad, anxious or disappointed. Teenagers may not want to discuss their emotions, but give them plenty of opportunities to talk, or perhaps offer them a chance to write about it in a “generation lockdown writing competition”? Taking care of their mental health is more important than their grades for the time being.