The Covid-19 national lockdown is in many forms, forcing old-school ways of living back into existence. For the time being, we’ve lost the conveniences of modern life; we cannot buy weed-killer for that over-grown garden so we spend hours pulling them by hand, we cannot buy building materials for those over-due DIY projects around home so we make do with what we have or seek near-by natural resources that will do the trick, the bread is sold out in the supermarket so we bake our own, un-certainty looms so we prepare vegetable gardens in our back yard…Kiwi ingenuity must be at an all-time high. Whilst some find this refreshing, others are bewildered, particularly for parents battling with the idea of home-schooling.
According to RedBull Ironman athlete and Dad, Braden Currie, parents who are stressed about the concept of home-schooling need to take the pressure off themselves.
Every year, Currie, his wife Sally and kids Bella (4) and Tarn (13) spend six months overseas so that Dad can continue racing Ironman during the Australasian winter. For this globe-trotting family, home school life is fun and there is no expectation for it to reflect a normal day of school.
Although many would agree that keeping kids engaged and thriving during tough times seems like an unsurmountable task, Currie emphasises that home-schooling shouldn’t feel un-achievable. This is not an academic emergency, our country is in crisis, people are stressed and tired, so now is not the time to pile more pressure on. The Currie’s home-school strategy integrates a focus on connections and working through feelings of fear and other emotional elements along with utilising online resources, practical ‘life-skill’ sessions, exercise and plenty of vitamin D!
“Living life as a family without the structure of schools and after-school activities can seem daunting – but the key is tocreate the structure, remembering that kids always like to know what is happening. Instead of telling them what to do, involving them in the planning of the daily structure and holding them accountable has been the key for us. In our experience, if we don’t follow this philosophy then the kids become disengaged, turn to technology more, and don’t make the most of their day”.
In the Currie household, the lock down period entails a daily 10am meeting via the digital ‘Meet’ application with six other kids of similar ages and their parent/s from three families (of which they are friends with), Monday through Friday. The parents take turns at setting out projects for the day for all the kids and the day is broken down into four, thirty-minute sessions covering different subjects, with a good break (outside when possible) in between. The first hour takes place in the morning, covering the most difficult tasks followed by an activity, lunch and then the final hour in the afternoon covering the more creative tasks that are easier to achieve without parent assistance.
“Having that set time each morning means that when the kids are up, they are motivated. We always encourage them to go outside and do something active before the home work begins. We have resources for every subject; for creative artswe use Art Hub which is a really cool YouTube based app where you watch videos on different creative projects and then copy them. We mix that up with a creative drawing and writing project where the kids make up stories and using art resources at home to create a picture that relates to that story. Sometimes we encourage the use of leaves from the backyard and sticks to incorporate elements that are not just colouring-in pencils.
For mathematics we use IXL; you can choose the relevant year-level and work through different subjects. It’s good to have the most mathematical person in the family teach the elements of one particular theme. If needed, there are YouTube videos for parents, teaching the skills required to help your child.
Creative writing is another subject encouraging imagination and creativity, we’ve loved seeing what the kids come up with and they create drawings related to their stories. This can be tricky for younger kids so we have Bella tell us the story and we write it for her. For my eldest, he creates stories and reads them to us in the evening and continues to build on them.
Then we have reading. For older kids it’s simply a matter of including reading into their day with any books that are available. There’s also Kindle and probably a bunch of other free apps available. For our youngest we use a programme called Steps which is great for learning the basics of different word groups, forming sentences and sounds – you can work through it quite systematically”.
Empowering kids to feel they are achieving and consistently acknowledging their learning success is in consonance with the Currie’s home school philosophy. Not only this but utilising the outdoors and exercise is indispensable when kids are not taking information in.
“Engaging in physical activity and getting their blood pumping changes their mindset a little bit. Then talking it through with them becomes easier and they absorb and learn quicker.
On the weekend the kids set up little projects for themselves, like cooking or building an obstacle course around the backyard or a mini biking or running mission. We make sure our weekends are still really fun and exciting (just in a different way to before the lockdown) which gives them something to look forward to. We get a kick out of going through what each child has learnt each day at the dinner table and also encourage an emotional aspect of learning; talking about an element we feel has helped us in life. For example, we might talk about the concept of living above the line, or filling your bucket, or fear and what it is, exploring different emotional states so that our children can learn ways to develop in that sense too”.