Home schooling: how to keep your child motivated
PUBLISHED: 06:59 12 May 2020
Home schooling has become a part of day-to-day life for many families in recent times, so we’ve been speaking to Nadia Mansoor from Thy English Academy to find out her top tips for keeping children focused and motivated
Whether you’re helping teenagers prepare for exams, or taking on the task of home-schooling a ten year old in light of all UK schools currently being closed, you’re bound to have encountered the challenges that come with keeping them focused and motivated. It’s hard enough to get children to do their homework at the best of times, let alone during a global pandemic, and with distractions such as Netflix, Facetime and the glorious sunny weather we’ve been having, school work probably isn’t going to be their top priority. However, thankfully there is plenty of expert advice out there which will help when it comes to transforming your home into a makeshift classroom – and hopefully it will also reassure any worried parents that they certainly aren’t alone, either.
Nadia Mansoor is the director of Thy English Academy, a tuition college based in Ilford. She explains that one of the first, and most important, steps to helping your child to learn from home is to create a suitable, dedicated environment. This will of course depend on available space and the size of your family, but ideally it will be an area that is quiet and free from any distractions, as well as being separate from the place where they relax and sleep. Nadia also recommends recreating their normal school classroom if you can. “It’s a good idea to have accessible materials and posters on the walls relating to the core subjects so that children have something to turn to and to give them guidance. It is also good to have books, resources and stationary nearby so that they don’t need to go looking for it,” she suggests. It might also be helpful to print out a revision timetable and stick this on the wall, so that your child has a point of reference. “It’s about giving them that comfort and making sure they have access to everything they need,” Nadia adds. This study space will help when it comes to focusing their attention, and crucially it will also help to create a division between work and play – or in other words, their makeshift ‘classroom’ is where schoolwork gets done, whilst the living room is where they watch TV and text friends.
Creating a daily routine is also essential for keeping up motivation levels, Nadia says. “Timing and structure are key. If a child doesn’t know what time they’re going to start work, when they’re going to get their breaks and when they’re going to finish for the day, then there’s no expectation from them and they won’t know where they’re going,” she advises. A daily routine is also essential for grown-ups, since it allows you to fit your day job around your added workload as a ‘teacher’. Nadia suggests mimicking the structure of the school day if you can, with ‘working hours’ between roughly 9am and 3pm, since your child will already be familiar with these timings and it means minimising the amount of disruption. Having said that, if this routine doesn’t work for you and your child, don’t be afraid to change it – after all, nothing is set in stone at the moment and we’re all still adjusting to living in lockdown.
Taking breaks is a crucial thing to consider too, because like all of us, children can’t be expected to concentrate every minute of the day. “When you’re working your mind gets fatigued, and after a certain period of time you reach a point of exhaustion, just like when you’re doing exercise,” Nadia adds. As a result, make sure regular breaks are part of the daily routine (perhaps in the morning, over lunch and in the afternoon) to give your child a chance to recharge their batteries, and also to reward them for their hard work so far. “Breaks re-stimulate you by taking your attention away from the work,” Nadia explains. “You’ll find that you’re able to go back to the task and then add more to it and be more productive.” Nadia also says that, if possible, this break should be taken away from the workspace, such as out in the garden. “Otherwise you’re still looking at the work, so it’s about shifting that mental energy and physically taking your body away from it too,” she reasons.
There’s no denying that reading from a textbook and completing past papers isn’t the most exciting of activities, so try to vary the days as much as possible to keep children focused. This could be through taking some of the lessons out to the garden – although Nadia advises that this is only done if it directly links with the subject, such as science – or through using some supplementary online resources. Nadia recommends having a look at Tes (tes.com), where you’ll find reliable materials that have been created by experienced professionals. Many tutors are offering online services too, such as Thy English Academy. “I would really encourage parents who are stuck to turn to that,” Nadia says. “That way you know you’ve got somebody who can guide you, even if it’s only for an hour each day.” Another good idea is to ask your child to ‘play the teacher’ and explain what they’re learning to you rather than the other way around, or take part in fun online classes such as ‘PE with Joe’, which is run by fitness guru Joe Wicks.
Ultimately, if you sense that your child is losing motivation and things aren’t quite going to plan, don’t panic. We all have days where we’re less productive, so communication between children and parents is key. “I think you have to be honest and listen to the child to find out what’s de-motivating them,” Nadia reasons. “Be there at hand, but take a step back in terms of what you’re expecting the child to achieve – give them open space to talk, and know that it’s also okay for the child to feel stressed sometimes.” Every child is unique, but no-one knows your child better than you do, so it’s about finding a routine that works for them and sticking with it as much as possible, keeping spirits up along the way too. “The most important thing is to have faith and to show compassion towards each other,” Nadia concludes. “This is a time of change and this is going to make a child feel extra vulnerable. But we want to make sure they know that no matter what, we believe in them and we’re going to get through this together.”