Monday, 13 April 2020

Home Learning ; One Parent Shares their Story

Faith, hope and innovation at our school were key themes of my previous post. Please place your faith and hope in our innovative staff as we are assure all families that our children will flourish with Home Learning this term. Let's focus on the core values our children live out at school as we support each other with a positive mindset at home.

On Sunday 22nd March, the Victorian Premier announced that schools would close early, almost a week before Term 1 was officially due to end. The global COVID-19 pandemic was unfolding. Every few days new restrictions were introduced until home isolation became the norm for most of us.

Fortunately, at the end of Term 1, our teachers had prepared and uploaded Term 2 Home Learning resources on our Learning Community Site. We wanted to be ready in case school wouldn't resume. At that stage, little did we comprehend the full meaning of the national "Stay Home and Stay Safe" slogan.

On Tuesday 7th April, just before Easter, we were officially told that schools would remain closed for Term 2. Immediately our staff responded. We held a Zoom leadership meeting and began to review and prepare detailed plans to ensure a smooth and supportive transition for our community to Home Learning.

In the interim, I received a number of emails from parents with questions, concerns and worries over and above the COVID-19 challenges already impacting families. To support parents and hopefully allay any anxiety, I responded with a Frequently Asked Questions FAQ tab on the Learning Community Site. Our staff have indeed been working hard behind the scenes. You can access a preview of the detailed daily planner which includes time to share tasks with the teacher and extension opportunities at this link. 

Amidst these communications, I received an Easter blessing. It was an encouraging message of hope in the form of an email from a parent, Brooke, who trialled our Home Learning resources with her children during the holidays. Brooke was happy for me to share her story to help encourage and support other parents. Brooke is a mother of two children, Evie in Year 3 and Chloe in Prep. Just as Brooke said to her daughters.. "this will look and feel different to school", we cannot and do not intend for you to replicate school learning at home but together we can create a supportive Home Learning environment that works for your family.

Here is Brooke's story..

I made sure that the girls are aware that we are continuing to do their schoolwork daily, but that it will look and feel different to their classrooms. It’s sub-structured, so I ensure that we still go for a walk or a quick bike ride. I utilise Cosmic Kids for yoga classes, and I know there are other resources to keep the kids active inside when its wet and cold. I also incorporate learning, so they aren’t even aware they are learning i.e. cooking, getting them to get the specific ingredients, use their maths skills etc…… or I may make up a scavenger hunt out in the backyard and they need to tick off their items from their list.

The night prior, I set all of us up for the following day. I will go through what they have completed and what needs to be actioned and make an outline for the next day. I make sure that Evie incorporates reading every day and she completes her daily diary after she has read. She will spend 20-30 mins reading and may do this over 2 parts of the day.  She is organised. We have her weekly spelling words so each day she writes these into her book and practices and on Friday I do a spelling and dictation test with her. Evie is also attentive and makes time each day for her writing. I normally get Evie to complete these tasks when I am working one on one with Chloe, as I know she is more than capable and completes these successfully. Chloe, who obviously in Prep needs support, especially in terms of reading and understanding words, phonics and pronunciation.

We have been working on the year level documents provided on the school Learning Community Site which provide good guidance. As Evie is self-sufficient and motivated she can complete her maths tasks, and when Chloe is working on something independently, I will then sit with Evie and we go through this. We identify if she didn’t understand anything, work through and then correct her work. Besides writing and maths, some days we allocate the other tasks such as narrative writing which Evie did a great job on. She drafted this, we discussed it and when she was happy, she wrote it into her book.

I am also allowing them time to be creative. They make up stories together and they both love drawing and colouring so I give them that opportunity and it breaks up the day for all of us. I have been using FUSE and they have good resources. I think keeping the children involved too is important as they can then take ownership. I know Evie would specify if there was something, she wanted to work on i.e. history work etc. For the Youtube clips they both watched these together and again it's just making the time to do this.  I ask them questions afterwards to gauge their understanding.

In terms of Chloe, Reading Eggs has been fantastic, she is really doing well on that. I am encouraging her to continue with this. She completes Reading Eggs and Sunshine Online daily for 30-60 mins per day and she is very keen which is positive. We have utilised Top Marks for her maths and again I follow up in everyday discussions to get her thinking. For me, the biggest concern with a Prep is ensuring they can read, so I am working hard on this, and trying to put things in place to help such as Reading Eggs. I am working on Chloe's understanding of phonic and the chunking of words, so we break them apart. I have printed Oxford wordlists and specific words that I have turned into my own cue cards/flash cards and daily I focus on 5-10 words and we go through these, pronouncing them, sounding them out so she actually understands them and then do a mini test at the end of it to gauge where she is at.

We read daily, and I was hoping we may be able to get some readers from school. She finished her scrapbook and loved this. I have other similar worksheets and books that she also completes. I encourage writing, she writes the alphabet fully for me, and is learning how to space out her letters and put them on a line. Chloe also writes the days of the week and she practices her name. I am just getting her to feel confident with her writing and again understanding her letters and words.

Other adhoc things I incorporate – puzzles, they love memory games, play – using their imagination, keeping them active, helping around the house, cooking etc.

Personally, I have found knowing what you want to achieve for the day makes it easier, as I then know what one child can do whilst I am focussing on the other. I break up the work spaces too giving them variety. Some days we are all on the dining table, other days they are working on the kitchen bench or I have one in the other lounge room where I can see reading and then focussing on the other so that both get the attention they need.

What do the girls think of Home Learning ?
Evie shares, “Despite missing being at school and seeing all of my friends I am enjoying being at home and learning with my Mum & sister. It’s a different type of learning, but we are making the most of it and Mum is making it enjoyable for us both”.
Chloe said, “I miss my friends, but I am trying to learn how to read and keep doing my work. Mum helps me with writing, and I love Reading Eggs and Sunshine Online!” 

Brooke said to me, "I can understand that there are many parents feeling anxious about the term, it’s not always easy juggling it, but having the guidance we have been given via yourself and the teachers, and so many great resources out there it alleviates some of the stress."

Thanks to Brooke for sharing her story and photos of her family in action.

Every home setting will naturally be unique to the family living there. You will be able to support your children's learning in a way that works for your family. Please understand that our experienced and approachable staff will be with you all of the way and we know that a strong parent school partnership supported by our core values will enable all of us to adapt to this new way of learning and change2flourish.

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