Advice on home learning
With schools across the UK closed, many parents have found themselves taking on a new role as they try to continue our children’s education at home. The current situation is challenging for everyone, and no one has the perfect solution, so please remember to be kind to yourself during this period.
We’ve created this guide to share some tips on how to create a pleasant learning environment at home. You know your child best, so feel free to choose examples that you think may work best for you and your child with a vision impairment.
When children are at school their body and mind is automatically set into a routine. For example, they know when to wake up, have a morning routine, know what time school starts and how different parts of the school day are focused around timings.
Changes to this routine have undoubtedly caused challenges for children of all ages. Children automatically associate their school with structure. However, parents and carers shouldn’t feel the need to replicate the routines which take place in school, because routines at home are often based around self-care or general housekeeping, such as brushing teeth twice a day or cleaning their bedroom once a week.
The challenge for parents and carers is to establish a routine which will structure their child’s day so that they are not only productive but also happy.
- Try creating routines with boundaries but also with flexibility.
- Involve your child in the discussion around routines
- What do they feel is suitable for them?
- How would they like to structure their day?
- Encourage your child to continue a morning routine which includes getting dressed, having breakfast and being ready to learn.
- Set your child targets around expectations, such as one piece of English, Maths and science work respectively to be completed each day.
- The length and difficulty of each exercise is up to parents and carers to establish.
- Allow flexibility in their learning to take a break and occupy their mind with a different activity and then they can return to their task.
- Choose the routine which works best for your child. Some children are more productive in the morning, others in the afternoon.
- Create a variety of learning activities, such as written work, online learning and practical activities like baking.
Zone your home
Your house is your home first and foremost and that’s important for your child. You shouldn’t feel you need to create a typical classroom environment because that’s unrealistic and unnecessary. Children learn best when they feel secure and happy therefore, your home needs to continue to be the place they recognise and love.
Create a space where your child can focus but equally a place where they can move away from, during those important rest breaks. This is where ‘zoning’ will help.
Regardless of how much space you have available, agree with your child where would be a good ‘zone’ to set up a place for school work.. , this should be a different zone, for example, from where they go to have some down time or where they may go to physically move around and be active. Creating zones for different purposes is a healthy way to organise your home environment. It helps your child to associate different areas of the home with different activities and allows them the opportunity to mentally, as well as physically, shift their focus from one task to another.
For a child with a vision impairment, further consideration may need to be given to the storage and use of specialist equipment and/or additional learning aids. Equipment may need to be safely located next to a power source and made easily accessible. Having equipment set up in this way, in a safe ‘zone’, can allow a child to smoothly transition into their learning day.
When setting up a learning zone you might want to think about the following ideas but please be aware these are simply top tips to get you going.
- Try if you can to create a learning zone that is in one of the less busy areas of your home.
- The space should have less visual or audible distractions.
- Choose a space that doesn’t isolate your child from the rest of the family. It’s a quieter zone where they can focus, but it’s also a place where they can easily talk to an adult or family member for support.
- Find a space with a good source of controllable lighting. Ideally, natural light with blinds that can be adjusted, if necessary.
- They have easy access to all the equipment and amenities that they may need e.g. plug sockets.
- It is a space where they can mentally and physically move away from e.g. at break times and lunch time
If space isn’t a problem for you, you may want to avoid communal family areas such as the kitchen table. It may feel like the obvious first choice but would likely involve regular packing away and un-packing of learning materials, each mealtime.
Have fun creating your zones!
Creating a timetable for you and your child to follow can be beneficial.Where possible, you should try to follow the guidance of your child’s school. Regardless of whether a timetable is being provided by school, continuing to have subjects like numeracy and literacy in the morning, may help focus your child’s concentration.
- Place the timetable in a position where everybody can access the information. This will help your child to become increasingly independent in preparing for their learning. This will ensure your child can still recognise some form of routine and structure.
- Try to ensure that you use the precise format, which your child would use at school, such as font style, font size or Braille.
- Cut out and make an interactive timetable. Using Blu Tack on the back of each subject card will allow you to move the structure of the week around, if required, whilst also ensuring that all key learning still occurs.
- Include some flexibility. Do not feel guilty if changes need to be made or you choose to take advantage of the sunshine in the morning for a garden activity or exercise opportunity in the local park.
Regular breaks are important for all of us, especially when we’re trying to learn in a busy home. This can be especially so for children with a vision impairment, particularly when using Assistive Technologies, computers and visual aids, which can have significant effects on your child’s level of fatigue.
- Include regular breaks for drinks and snacks. It’s important to have time to stretch their legs or burn off some energy.
- Use your daily walk to create learning opportunities, which can offer your child real life examples to reinforce the work they are doing in the home. Examples might include, talking about the weather that day and how it has changed over the week or discussing any nature you find along the way.
As we know, the environment at school is very different to your home. At school, during lessons, your child has time to interact with their peers and with other adults. There are periods of independent working but also opportunities for working as a pair or as part of a small group. There are lots of natural situations where they can socially interact with others and where they can switch their focus. Therefore, at home, it’s important to recognise that it’s okay and perfectly natural for your child to shift their focus from time to time. In other words, they cannot realistically be expected to be “on task” 100% of the time.
- If your child is struggling to focus, suggest they move away from their learning zone to do something physical, ideally in the fresh air, if available. For example, a run around or a game of catch in the garden, a family walk, or a game of hide and seek around the house.
- Have some ‘down time’ together where you can talk about anything your child may wish to talk about.
- Have a fun list of ‘go-to’ activities already prepared which you can easily refer to at times where your child needs a change of focus. Pick an activity to do together or as a family.
- Stay positive. Keep praising your child and offer lots of positive feedback where you can.
- Be flexible and occasionally, ‘go with the flow’. For example, if your child has been working on Maths in the morning but they haven’t quite finished the piece of work before they move on to the next exercise, know that you can always go back to it later. That’s not typically how school works but it can in your home, for now.
- Any contact with their friends is positive. Like everything else this should be balanced. Little and often is perhaps most advisable but either way, it’s important they stay connected with friends and extended family too!
- If you need your own time to chat or even have a little moan, which is perfectly okay, try to make sure it’s out of earshot of your child.
It’s important that children engage with their friends during this time and that we provide opportunities for them to speak to other children of their own age. It is important that your child understands that everyone is at home at the moment and that they are not the only one missing out on school, going to the park or visiting family.
- Older children are likely to be used to using social media platforms and may use these to talk to their friends, share experiences and support one another.
- Younger children will need to be supervised more closely but you could arrange ‘virtual playdates’ with other parents so they can see their friends and maybe play games or set each other challenges.
- Virtual conversations with a friend could be built into the daily routine to catch up with what they have been doing.
- They could write a letter to a school friend and post it through their letterbox during your daily walk. Your child may enjoy waiting to receive a reply.
For further information about the safe use of social media platforms, please refer to our online safety guide for parents and children.