Fostering Well-Being Whilst Educating at Home
I doubt that anyone would disagree that it is important to keep fostering well-being whilst educating at home. This isn’t normal home education this is a pandemic and I don’t know about your children but mine are very aware of the situation – they are even opting to watch the news. In my opinion this is going to have an effect on them mentally – I know it does me, not to mention the fact that they have been unable to see their friends. Now we know many children will not be returning to school until at least September and I feel it is important that their days are not just all about making sure that they do not “fall behind” academically but making sure that they are okay. There are things that I feel can help in this situation – some based on our experience of home educating for the last few years.
The Happiness Project
The most important thing for me is my children’s mental well-being and it was the reason I considered home education in the first place. When we did one of the first things people commented on when the boys first came out of school was how much happier they seemed. We actually did a big happiness project looking at what things could trigger our mental health and what were good and bad ways that people dealt with stress.
Healthy ways of Dealing with Stress
We considered what made us happy, sad and angry and what our healthy ways of dealing with stress are: What could we do instead of getting angry? This included listening to different types of music and seeing if they had any effect on our mood; we looked at diet and exercise; the tween discovered that he has a love of cooking which helps him deal with things in a positive way,; whilst the youngest loves to sing and draw.
Rewarding Children whilst Educating at Home
Rewarding children whilst they are educating at home is going to help them be more productive and help with their mental well-being. For example we have allowed our children later nights and lie-ins during the lockdown, more sugar and more screen time than we would normally.
I think screens are good for a number of reasons and our boys love nothing than being able to still keep in touch with their friends whilst playing a game of Fortnite. Normally they are only allowed to play on Friday evenings and Saturdays and Sundays after 11am (unless it is the school holidays). Therefore being able to play over “lunch time” and “after school hours” is a treat they know they can have as long as they have done the work expected of them. It also frees up time for me to have that much needed break. Our middle two children are also utilising their phones to keep in touch with their peers during this difficult time.
Study time and Breaks
There are a few things I have discovered in how best to get the children to learn. Children work best in small chunks of around 15-20 minutes, especially if it is something they enjoy. It is amazing how many other topics can be branched off an initial idea – and they may be more enthusiastic about it if they feel that they have some control.
Of course when considering mental health you want to ask yourself about how much is too much – and when to have a break and what you do in that break. Our youngest loves to talk and really helps if he can. This is really difficult with my husband having to work from home so I take him for a walk where he can just let it all out! This also ensures he gets his vitamin D and exercise too. You may wish to try yoga -which is obviously good for meditation and breathing.
How long the breaks are and when they happen depends on what my children want to do with them. There is no good setting them a quick ten minute break and allowing them to play computer games for example – as it just isn’t long enough. However, it is to play with LEGO or watch a bit of YouTube for example. Establish what it is they want to do and work your breaks around it.
Taking Care of Your Own Well-Being when Educating at Home in Lockdown
Of course it isn’t just the children’s well-being that needs looking after when home schooling and it is important for the primary carer giver to allow time to themselves too. See above regarding my getting a break whilst they are on screens! I don’t feel bad for it – because I appreciate that looking after myself helps them.
Make Time for Your Own Well-Being
One way to look after your own well-being is to make sure that you make time for you that isn’t disturbed – even if it is short. I know that some people wake up early to get some alone time; I don’t know about you, but I would need to get up at the crack of dawn to get up before our youngest! He is a really light sleeper and so the longer we can stay in bed still and be quiet, the longer he is likely to sleep (which still isn’t that late). Then I would need so much coffee and time to wake up it just wouldn’t warrant attempting it. For me I ensure the two minutes to brush my teeth is not interrupted! I used to always stop and answer their questions/demands, but now I am like no I deserve just two minutes and let them know this! I do get time to myself other than this but that is time that fits around them, whereas this is my time and they have to wait for me.
Find Something You Enjoy to do in Your Time
Of course you need to make time at some point in the day for something for you that you enjoy. It can be drinking gin but remember to consider whether this is going to be beneficial long term. I love to put my headphones on and just go for a run! This is usually after the boys have done some work in the morning and I am leaving them to play (whilst my husband is still there working). Obviously this isn’t always possible or practical so other times I just listen to music and dance around the kitchen (again whilst they play). Mine are old enough to not need supervising all the time and I can shut myself off whilst still being available enough.
Both Parents Can Share the Load
When there’s two of you it often can be left to one parent to take care of the children, possibly because the other parent is working. Now I know this obviously this isn’t possible for single parents but I feel that as parents you can both share the load. I often hear of women say that the man has been at work all day so it is only fair that she should look after the children and clean the house but I have to disagree. I love that I am lucky enough that my husband understands that just because he has been the one at work all day I still need help when he’s finished. Whether that is by cooking the dinner, washing up, taking the children for daily exercise or all of the above! Chances are I have work to do and have also been busy all day balancing the children and housework and am exhausted. This bit of help can be a real boost. In return I make sure I do all I can (especially when I have more energy) and make sure that he has plenty of cups of tea and is eating throughout his work day (not forgetting giving him a gentle nudge when his working over has gone a bit too far).
What tips do you have for ensuring you maintain a good well-being for the children and yourself whilst educating at home?