9. Keep up their social contact
“School is not just a place of learning, it’s a place of social contact,” Elizabeth says. “Children are missing out on Auskick, they’re missing out on netball, they’re missing out on catching up with friends at lunchtime. So maybe work with other parents to say can we set up a Zoom or WhatsApp session at lunchtime or 3 or 4pm so kids can all have afternoon tea and sit around and have a chat with each other for half an hour or an hour.”
10. Resist the urge to take over
Elizabeth warns that worried parents can be tempted to take over their child’s learning. “As parents we’re terrified our children are going to fall behind so we want to be in there to make sure they stay on top of things. Sometimes we can undermine the child by doing that.”
Showing your child that you’re interested, but not taking over their work, will help them engage. You can say ‘that’s really interesting, I was listening when you were talking to the teacher about those koalas, I didn’t realise you knew that’.
“A child might say, ‘I’m going okay with my maths but I’m not too sure about my English’, then parents can say how can I help you, what do you need from me – what strategies can we put into place so you can catch up?’ ”.
11. Everyone practise patience
There will be good and bad days for parents, kids and teachers, Elizabeth warns. “One day might go really well and the next will be a disaster so patience is really important. Allow yourself permission to do what you can do and not what you can’t do – you can’t take on the world.
“When the kids do go back to school, if I was the classroom teacher, I’d just want the kids really happy to be with me, happy to be with each other, confident that they’ve done their best and are ready to move on. What’s important is their wellbeing, that they feel included, and they feel in control of themselves as a successful learner.”
12. Accentuate the positives
Distance learning on the scale we’ve just returned to is not easy, but both Paul and Elizabeth anticipate clear positives. Teachers will see their students differently, and children disengaged in the classroom might shine in a new setting with more or less structure than they’re used to. But parents are arguably the biggest winners.
“Just being at home with your children is a luxury [for] many parents ... because they’ve been so busy having to go to outside work,” Elizabeth points out.
“Maybe Dad’s never heard his son read a passage out of a book,” says Paul. “Maybe Mum has never seen that Mary’s really good at drawing pictures or can write really good sentences now. [They can] engage more without tearing off to get this kid to footy, or that kid there – and just slow down and enjoy the process.”