AS BRITAIN moves to the next stage of its coronavirus battle plan, many parents are preparing for potential school closures.
Research by Childcare.co.uk, released today, found 77 per cent of mums and dads want schools to close for “a period of time” to stop the spread of the virus.
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While Chief Medical Officer Chris Witty warned schools could close for up to two months amid the coronavirus outbreak – but how would that play out for parents?
Nicola Anderson, head of customer support at MyTutor, told Fabulous: “If you have to home school your child, don’t panic. We’re more set-up than ever before to manage a situation like this. Remember, lots of parents (about 50,000) choose to home school their kids regardless of coronavirus.”
Speaking to Fabulous, experts have revealed how to home school your kids – and how to divvy up childcare with working from home…
1. Set up a space
The first place to start, Nicola says, is with a makeshift ‘home schooling’ area.
She said: “Set up a desk in a quiet corner of the house where your child can keep their laptop, textbooks and notes – they’ll find it much easier to focus and the rest of the family can continue life as normal.
“Also, schools normally provide things like flashcards, exercise books and planners, so be ready to supply these yourself if necessary.”
2. Phones away
When it comes to older kids, one of the biggest challenges would be monitoring phone use during the quarantine period.
Nicola said: “Isolation will only increase your teen’s desire to communicate socially.
“While some communication will be positive for their mental health, the opposite is true when social media fuels feelings of isolation and anxiety.
“You’ll need to set some ground rules for how phones are used during the day, and keep an eye on your child’s mood.”
3. Set structure
When it comes to home schooling, it’s important to set out of some sort of ‘timetable’ for the day.
Nicola said: “Without the structure of the school day, and without the engagement of peers, motivation and energy can take a dive.
“Help your child set up a timetable that’ll work for them and covers the subjects they need.
“Divide up periods of study with active breaks. Make sure your child moves, goes outside, eats meals at the appropriate times and has offline conversations.”
4. Ask for help
No-one’s expecting you to become an expert in Key Stage 2 overnight, so don’t be afraid to ask for help when you help it.
Nicola said: “You’re likely to run into situations where your child doesn’t understand some of their course content and you’re unable to help. In these situations, having some resources ready is wise.
Those with older kids are likely to feel even more out of their depth.
Nicola said: “Self-study is an incredibly hard skill to master and secondary school pupils may struggle without someone actively explaining concepts to them.
“It’s worth finding an online tutor who can help your child fill in any gaps in their knowledge – it’s like a face-to-face Skype call but with an interactive whiteboard so they can make notes.
“A tutor can keep students on track with the syllabus and give them a much-needed boost of confidence in what is a confusing and challenging time.”
5. Mental health matters
This is a worrying time for many Brits, and kids are far from immune from that.
Nicola said: “What is important is to look out for signs that your child isn’t coping mentally with a home set-up.
“Despondency and withdrawal or anger and higher-than-usual levels of irritability can all point to stress.
6. Make time for your own work
It’s not just educating the kids many parents have to worry about, but making time for your own job too – which is especially hard with young’uns around.
Lizzie Catt, a parenting advisor at bubble childcare app, advised: “Set up a work area you can sneak off to, but accept that this will become the most fascinating part of your home.
“Your children will want to touch every inch of it, steal your Sellotape, rub your blu tack into the carpet and make a den under your desk.”
7. Be flexible with working from home
When it comes to working from home with kids, sadly the 9-5 isn’t going to cut it anymore.
Lizzie said: “Establishing set times to work will probably end in tears (yours). Instead, wait til kids are occupied and crack on for as long as you can.
“Most work can be done on a slyly opened laptop while the kids are watching telly or playing.
“If you live with a partner, scheduling set work times with them is really helpful.
“If they’re still going into the office, ask them to do mornings and/or come home early so you know you have a handful of guaranteed child-free hours.
“If your partner is working from home too, take turns with the kids.”
8. Honesty is the best policy
If your kids are taking over during office hours, it’s best to just open up to your colleagues – many of them will be going through the same thing.
Lizzie said: “Kids interrupt, need tummies topped up, bums wiped, cuddles, stories read to them, arguments umpired and constant attention… usually all of these things simultaneously about five seconds after you’ve got onto a conference call.
“Accepting that it’s going to be a juggle and making sure colleagues know you may need to step away from a call to wipe a tiny butt makes life way less stressful.”
Earlier today, a woman caused outrage by licking a toilet seat in a disgusting ‘coronavirus challenge’ video.