My Kitchen Classroom: Reflections on Home School
In this guest post, one trained teacher reflects on her lockdown home school. What can she bring from her classroom to her kitchen table, and how will her kids respond?
Working in a school, I have seen close-up how teachers make their classrooms tick. As a parent, I know how to help my primary-aged kids focus. So, home school should have been a breeze! But I had not reckoned on the gap between knowing and doing.
Over the weekend before home school started, I jumped on the list of educational websites sent by the school, but it quickly became clear that although ample material is available, finding something to interest both my children would be tricky. I settled on Literacy Shed with its free lessons based on a host of short films and images.
But on that first Monday morning I could not find the film I’d chosen. So, instead, we watched an eight-minute short about a group of meerkats who inexplicably sleep in a tree and worship a mango, and the vulture who steals it. After summarising what they saw, my kids caught fire.
“Can we act it out?”
“I’ll be a meerkat!” Panic. Will they both want to be meerkats? Who will be the vulture?
“I’ll be the vulture!”
And off they went, acting out the story with sound effects, climbing on the sofa to fly and bumping into things as they chased after the delicious fruit (the lesson was not Geography so we didn’t examine the likelihood of finding vultures, meerkats and mangoes in the same landscape).
They couldn’t wait to write the story from their own character’s point of view. When they finished – miraculously, at nearly the same time – the older one said, “Let’s swap jotters, I’ll tell you what’s wrong.” After a nudge and Post-Its for praise of what they liked and questions for what they didn’t understand, they gave each other genuinely constructive comments. A brilliant morning!
Managing our expectations… and finding a balance
Too late I realised this lesson had set the bar unfeasibly high. In the weeks since, we’ve rarely had so much fun during school hours. Partly this is because we are now doing “real” school: since the start of April my kids have been set specific work through an online platform. Aware of the massive variation in kids’ home situations, we are reassured the majority of tasks are optional, but given that I support learning in my work life and am now home with not much else to do I feel duty bound to make sure my kids complete most of it. At the request of my youngest, we do occasionally “act something out” but we haven’t quite reached those meerkat heights again.
The best learning is an alchemy of mood, movement, spontaneity, preparation and time management. The meerkat lesson had all those elements, plus a large dose of autonomy. Kids are most alert and creative when they’re in charge of their learning. All the basic elements of a well-run classroom – visible timetables, clear expectations, readily accessible resources, a dedicated space to work – set the stage for that self-reliance. With a little creativity of our own, we can make that magic happen at home.