Parents across the world are finding themselves stretched like never before due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. School closures and lockdowns in many countries mean many parents find themselves having to homeschool their children for the first time while also maintaining full-time jobs.
These are extraordinary times. But never has there also been a better opportunity to spread love and build community. And that's what Sophie and Friends is all about.
We reached out to Sophie and Friends supporters for tips and activities to help those of you homeschooling while in quarantine or self-isolation.
Below are the responses we've gathered from parents as well as a special interview between Sophie and Friends Creator Sophie and a UK primary school teacher, who shares multiple ideas and resources for parents of preschool and primary children.
Tips from parents
Create a rhythm
"My biggest piece of advice to parents out there right now is to try and create a rhythm so that all know what is coming in the day. And it doesn't have to be a strict rhythm. Just roughly. If the kids are older get them involved in trying to help create the rhythm.
Have set sleeping/nap times (usually the case) but also snack times. And times for getting energy out. Put on your favourite music and have a dance party. EVERY DAMN DAY. At the same time. More than once a day. And not just for the kids. Doing it yourself will make them want to do it more."
"To all those parents that are not used to being with their kids 24/7, it’s going to be hard at first. But there are ways to create pockets of time for yourself, especially with rhythm. Write it up and put it on the wall."
Get them involved "Get kids involved in the house. It works even with small ones. At first it’s super frustrating because it’s slow and maybe not done the way you want, but eventually it gets better and they really love doing things with you. So hang the washing up together. Or set the table together. Human connection will keep everyone calm in this very scary time."
Go easy on yourself
"Children learn in all manner of ways. They learn much more through play and imitation than they do through formal instruction. So instead of feeling under pressure to stick to the school schedule down to the last detail, you could try including them in household activities and supplying them with a mix of resources so that they are free to come up with their own games and follow their own interests."
"Children are surprisingly perceptive. If they don’t know already, the break in routine will quickly have them wondering what’s changed. This can open a range of thoughts and emotions, so it’s important they know that feelings are legitimate and okay. Take time to explore feelings and why we have them, offering calm and reassurance that it’s okay."
Ask what you can learn
"There’s nothing that can make this much uncertainty worth it, but can it be worth something? In time, we will look back. Thinking about what we’d like our children to learn from this (e.g. simple joys, importance of unity, care for others etc.) brings us quickly to our set of values - our compass through choppy waters."
Sophie and Friends Creator Sophie sat down with UK primary school teacher Emma Brackenridge to explore a number of questions sent in by parents, such as:
1) how to handle not knowing the answer, feeling stupid
2) dealing with overwhelm
3) losing patience with homeschooling and conflict between kids
4) finding structure
5) recommendations for offline activities
Also covered is how homeschooling during the coronavirus crisis can become an opportunity for children to develop independence.
And finally, here are some ideas for activities you can do with your child or children if you have a little more time.
Activity ideas if you have more time
1. Go out in the garden, find a flower or two, (with permission!) snip it and press it between two heavy books and use it as the centrepiece for art work.
2. Set up a garden library - write the blurbs for favourite books and invite people to come and take them out. Tell them what the books about & how it might make them feel. You could read your parent the book if you feel confident.
3. It might sound obvious, but playing shops has the same effect - give everything a price and you’ve got instant maths practice when someone (parent) wants to buy multiple items!
4. Choose an item of food to eat. Describe or write down each stage of the sensory process of eating it. What does it look like? Smell like? Feel like? Finally, what does it taste like? Heightens all the senses!
Dear parents, if we can leave you with one message, it is this:
Please know that you don't need to be a perfect educator. Being a parent is enough.
Love from Sophie and Friends
Over the coming weeks and months, we'll be sharing new resources to help children and parents through this time. If there is anything we can support you with - or if you have skills or knowledge to share with the community, let us know. You can email us anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you to everyone who sent in tips! We are so grateful you're a part of this community.