BBC 1 Health Check UK (31 March 2020)

BBC 1 Health Check UK (31 March 2020)

Talking to Michelle Acklerly and Dr Chris Van Tulleken, on BBC1’s Health Check, about how parents can plan their daily home-schooling options with their children during the lockdown of Spring 2020.

The theme of the segment was about how the current situation will be causing a lot of stress and anxiety for parents. Parents may be stressed about homeschooling and all the new complications that come with that, especially for parents working from home. Parents may also be worrying about their children’s future, their missed education and whether they’ll fall behind, their missed exams and the implications that may have, or consoling children who are upset that they missed their last day of school.

All of this will be causing a huge amount of anxiety for parents.

My aim in this interview was to reassure parents that although it is a really tough and stressful time, it is all going to be okay – and to not be too hard on themselves if they are homeschooling. A transcript of my interview is below. 

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MA: This is obviously a very anxious time for parents, as we’ve said, what would you say back to them?

SC: It’s very, very difficult, and I am very understanding. When I first became a teacher I remember how very frustrating and how difficult and how challenging it was. Homeschooling is a really, really hard thing to do. So, I am very, very understanding and sympathetic with parents at this point.

CVT: Stephen, why is it so hard. I’ve got a two-and-a-half-year-old and I’m just trying to do a tiny bit of phonics and it’s impossible for me to teach her anything, it feels like. I can’t even teach her to scoot or ride her bike, she doesn’t want to listen to me. I think that’s a common experience for parents, why is that?

SC: Obviously, very, very young children learn by doing. You have to adjust your technique when you are working with a very, very young child. Most of the time they want to be doing activities and not listening to you and repeating words and things like that. Children learn by engaging with things that have letters on them and toys that have letters on them. That is very, very hard. So you have to limit the amount of time, with a very young child, that you are instructing them and telling them things. Older children, obviously, can take more instruction the older the child it becomes easier.

MA: So, for parents watching this morning. What would your, kind of, top key tips be for them?

SC: I think the most important thing is for parents to have a structure. Teachers plan by term, then by week, then by day and then by lesson. So the worst possible thing you can do is wake up in the morning and think, “what are we going to do today?” You really have to structure the time. Learning takes place in two kinds of contexts, I would say. The first context is a very, very formal context. Teaching maths or having a maths session for an hour. Having an English session for an hour. Ensuring in the maths that you do times tables, particularly if you are working with a Primary aged child. Plenty of topics, a topic a day for English. Then spelling, grammar, syntax, comprehension exercises. So, an hour a day of each of that. Then making sure they have a reader, so that they are reading a book every day, and maybe for an hour or half an hour, depending on the age of the child. There you have taken up three hours of your day, effectively. That is structured learning. Then you can also have unstructured learning, or less structured learning, where even films and documentaries can become learning points, where you ask questions, where the child is looking for how many animals they can see on a particular documentary and then researching those animals or doing projects.

CVT: We’ve got some people obviously in really difficult positions here, obviously. We’ve got a question from Linda. “I’m, a single parent, at home with four children all of whom have disabilities and additional needs. I’m not doing homeschooling in the main. I think keeping their anxieties as low as I can and letting them have fun is more beneficial, rather than trying to recreate a school environment”. What would you say to Linda.

SC: I think, for a single parent, this is extremely difficult and I am sympathetic with that. Again, what I would try to do is do your work as a single parent in the time when the child is doing more unstructured activities that they can do on their own. Colouring if it is a young child, or playing a game or researching a project, something like that. Then you can focus on the more structured time with them, and use that time and give them your complete focus and attention. It is possible for you to have time off if you are actually plan it.

MA: Stephen, thanks so much, really interesting. I think the main thing is all you can do is your best, so thank you.