As we enter our new phase of ‘virtual school’, I thought it might be useful for us to reflect on the best ways to help our young people through this.
1. Children love familiarity and routine. Please get them up at a reasonable time and ask that they wear their school unform or PE kit for their online lessons.
2. Follow the suggested school timetable and encourage them to have a quick stretch and movement break between lessons (just as they would here at school in moving between classes). Please encourage them to have a proper break at lunch time as designated and to get outside. As at school, please make sure children get fresh air and exercise every day.
3. Encourage your son to be experimental and creative in how they respond to some tasks; they may have the time to video a response or to make a podcast or poster.
4. Parents often ask me the best way they can prepare their child for entrance tests. My answer is always READ. Many sites are offering free books at the moment (Audible, New York Public Library). Let your son choose something he will enjoy, even if it is a bit easy. Read with him, to him and at the same time as him. Let him know which book you are currently reading and how much you enjoy it. Use voices, act stories out and be silly!
5. If trying to fill extra lockdown time at home, try to do extra activities with them to help learning like baking, experiments or den-building, writing letters (my Take Away Menu and Solefield 60 have lots of ideas), especially during the holiday. Perhaps learn something like a craft or new language with your son. We also have the Solefield Independent Project of inventions and inventors that he may enjoy.
6. Encourage them to eat healthily; this should be part of a balanced diet and is even better if they help prepare it!
7. Try to limit non-school devices until after school-work is done. Even music in the room where they work can be distracting. Feel free to blame me, if necessary. Learning to learn and give your whole mind to something is a wonderful skill that pupils will have the time to perfect.
8. Ask teachers and each other for help. Community is crucial. Mental wellbeing is more important than anything. If your son is getting upset, please let the teacher know; we would be flexible at school and find ways around it; we can do the same with virtual school and support you, and him, with this. We will be asking the pupils about what works best for them in virtual school and how we can improve and we would welcome your feedback too.
9. Please try to organise some virtual play dates if you can.
10. Again, to fill long hours of lockdown time, teach your son something that is special to you, something that he maybe wouldn’t learn at school; a few words of a new language, a recipe, calligraphy. Encourage him to teach you something too. Make this a very special time that you will both always remember.
There are many strategies that teachers will take away from this enforced spell of adapting our teaching and learning; the lessons that children take away from this about how to persevere, learn independently, reason, think and be resourceful are even more powerful. Children’s brains are amazing and their thirst for learning will prevail; I think you will truly be staggered at the amount your son will learn in the weeks of virtual school ahead.