Ten tips to help you cope with school closures

8 min read   •   March 19, 2020
Elmien Ackerman – Copywriter

After the announcement of school closures by President Cyril Ramaphosa, many parents are worried that their children might fall behind with their schoolwork. This as public schools closed two days earlier and are likely to only reopen after the Easter weekend.

But spending time at home might not be all that bad. Did you know that Isaac Newton did some of his best work at home? Following an outbreak of the bubonic plague in 1665, Newton was sent home after Cambridge University closed its doors. It was at home in his garden that he saw an apple fall from a tree, providing him with the inspiration to eventually formulate his law of universal gravitation.

And, while the law of universal gravitation hasn’t changed, technology has. Online tutoring, educational computer programs and digital strategies now make it possible for learners to use their time at home wisely. Here are ten tips to help you (and your children) explore, learn and gain knowledge during school closures.

1. Plan your day

You don’t have to follow a strict timetable to complete academic work throughout the extended holidays but for your own sanity, it might help to have some sort of plan in place. Download and save this handy daily schedule that can help you and your children stay on track during school closures. Bear in mind that you might not be able to stick to a timetable if someone in your household is sick, needs to return to work, do other activities, etc. You will then have to adapt the schedule and complete the academic work at another time. Loosely sticking to a timetable will help everyone know what is expected and when and can help you and your children stay on track.

2. Consider homeschooling as an alternative solution

When conventional face-to-face education isn’t an option, such as when pandemics break out (i.e. the coronavirus) home and distance education can be an excellent alternative. Homeschooling provides uninterrupted learning as learners can study at their own pace from the comfort of their home. During school closures, learners who would otherwise receive no education can continue with their learning journey.

If you’re thinking about homeschooling, join Impaq’s Home Education 101 webinar to learn more about what you’ll need to make home education a success. You can also find more information on the Impaq blog about how to choose the best home education curriculum provider for your child, the benefits of using a curriculum provider and what a day in the life of a homeschooling family is really like.

3. Have fun with educational computer programs

Many parents are worried that school closures will result in their children spending hours in front of a computer screen. But time spent in front of a screen can be productive. Cami Maths is a fun educational software program that helps learners improve their Maths skills. Learners play interactive games and because they are actively participating in solving sums and problems, they are more likely to remember what they have learned. The lessons are pre-planned, and the exercises are marked by the program, which means less work for you.

With Mathematics (just like any other game) it’s important to practise. Make it fun and play against your child to see who wins in a Cami SpeedTest. Cami is offering all South African learners a 14-day free trial so they can practise their skills while they are on a break. Download your free trial of Cami Maths (Grade R – 12), Cami Perceptual Skills Builder (Grade RR – Grade 4), Cami Reader (Grade R – 12) and Cami Literacy (Grade R – 5). The programs are available in English and Afrikaans.

4. Make time for reading

Now that your child has more free time, ensure that they spent some of it reading. Research has shown that reading for pleasure not only improves children’s academic performance but also helps them develop a broader vocabulary and increased general knowledge.

Getting children to read, however, is not always an easy task. Luckily, educational psychologist Dr Ronelle Venter has some reading tips for parents:

  • Set a good example. Read where your children can see you and talk about what you have read.
  • Schedule family reading-time. Put the TV off, put out snacks and let everyone explain what they have read.
  • Put out magazines and newspaper where children can reach them.
  • Read in exciting places, like in the garden in a tent, or create a reading corner.
  • Make it fun! Praise attention, effort and correct responses.

ITSI is offering parents and learners access to 45 000 free e-books. Learners can escape into their imagination and browse ITSI’s online store for endless reading.

5. Rely on online tutoring

Just because face-to-face education is not possible, it doesn’t mean that learning must be put on hold. There are so many free resources available online that can help your child learn and discover new things from the comfort of your home.

A popular internet duo, John and Hank Green, created a YouTube channel called Crash Course. They post educational videos, containing illustrations, diagrams and cartoons, about a variety of subjects.

There are so many things to learn and discover online but before you let your child scour the internet, make sure you have measures in place to keep your kids safe online.

6. See the world (virtually)

While travel restrictions are in place, you and your children won’t be able to strap on your hiking boots and walk the Great Wall of China or stroll the halls of famous museums like the National Gallery of Art in Washington or the Guggenheim Museum in New York. But there is a way to get a little culture and education while you are confined to the couch.

Take a virtual tour. Walk the Great Wall of China, see dozens of works from French artists who worked and lived from 1848 – 1914 at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris or visit the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam for the largest collection of artworks by Vincent van Gogh, including over 200 paintings, 500 drawings, and over 750 personal letters.

7. Stay connected

With playdates cancelled for the foreseeable future and teenagers stuck indoors, it’s understandable that children will feel isolated. Technology makes it possible, however, for children to keep in touch with friends. Encourage them to talk to their friends via Skype or to hang out in Google Hangouts. Seeing a friendly face can help them deal with feelings of loneliness. Teenagers can also stay in touch with friends by playing video games online.

You can also use this time at home to strengthen your bond with your children and spend some quality time as a family. Try one of these fun activities:

  • Try a new food: Trying something new can be a great adventure. Explore a variety of different foods, colours and textures – you might discover a new family favourite!
  • Make a family movie: Let the kids chronicle your family’s quarantine adventures or develop their own story for a fun summer project. Most phones have excellent video capabilities and there are various free editing programs online.
  • Game on: Dust off Monopoly and Cluedo, get some snacks, and get ready for some old-fashioned fun.

8. Exercise

Staying healthy and exercising is now more important than ever. Encourage children to stay active by playing soccer in the backyard or going for a walk. Take this time to teach your kids the classics: Play frisbee. Jump rope. Fly a kite. Play hopscotch. Classic childhood games are not only simple to grasp and fun to play, but they also teach kids a host of skills.

9. Clean out your children’s study space

Whether your children’s study space takes up an entire room or just a small part of their bedroom, now is the time to clean and reorganise it. Not only to ensure that surfaces are clean of potential viruses or bacteria but also to help your children focus when they need to study or spend time on academic work.

Gather everything – papers, projects, books and supplies – and put it in one pile. Then tackle it all at once. Consider what you already have and look for ways to reuse it before buying anything new. (It’s good for both the environment and your pocket.) Having a dedicated study space that’s clean of clutter will help your child learn and process new information.

10. Sneak in some chores

Balancing working from home, helping your children with their schoolwork and completing chores can be a challenge. Sneaking in some chores can provide an excellent educational opportunity while also helping you tick things off your to-do list. Teach your kids skills like cooking, doing laundry, ironing, vacuuming or washing the car.

As you can see spending time at home doesn’t mean that your children should fall behind with their schoolwork. They might now even have more time to explore and learn. Having time to muse and experiment worked for Isaac Newton, remember? Treat this novel experience as something to learn from and remember not to put too much pressure on yourself or your kids. Take it one day at a time.