Home Schooling – Challenge or Opportunity?

—By Dr Betty Kehoe

Principals and parents need to take stock of what is more important at this unprecedented time in our history.

Dr Betty Kehoe, Former Primary School Principal, and Mentor of Newly Qualified Principals

Dr Betty Kehoe, Former Primary School Principal, and Mentor of Newly Qualified Principals

Step back and look at the reality for many families. Imagine a ten-year-old child worrying about a parent who goes out to risk his/her life as a healthcare worker. The same parent comes home after a long and difficult day and is expected to take up teaching duties.

A stressful teaching and learning environment is the last thing we want young people to remember from Covid-19. Frustrated parents taking on an additional role as untrained teachers, unsure of how to teach the subject matter, together with stressed children fearing the repercussions of not completing the assigned homework, are a recipe for educational failure.

Education is a journey, and this journey is not the same for all learners. Therefore, giving all students copious amounts of schoolwork does not make sense. Yes, give parents an overview of the content that their children would learn at school and ask them to teach what they can. Take note of whatever is not addressed so that the school may continue the educational process at a later stage.

During this coronavirus pandemic, parents may be well-advised to concentrate on English and Mathematics, the medium through which all curriculum subjects are filtered, except for Gaeilge. Homeschooling may then become a more positive and rewarding experience for both parent and child.

Suggestions for Creating a Happy Rewarding Educational Experience:

  • Allowing children to devise the timetable gives them ownership of the allocated schoolwork. They will choose to focus on their favourite subjects and activities. Parents will, therefore, discover their children’s strengths.
  • Check and discuss the new vocabulary and concept to be taught, e.g. a Maths lesson on ‘Shape and Space’, and base the informal, incidental hidden lesson on this. Consider a gate in the town or country. There are many lines, angles, and shapes to be found for discussion.
  • The construction of a make-believe shop, school or house; gardening; baking; or a walk in the wood – all of these tap into children’s imagination and creativity.
  • Watching and measuring the sunflowers and planning the menus to cook the fruits of the garden or balcony containers require reading and mathematical skills.
  • Supervalu/Lidl/Aldi catalogue: Make out a shopping list for today’s dinner. Estimate the cost by rounding to the nearest euro. Write out the shopping list. Estimate how long it will take Dad to drive to the shop. Time him and, on his return, check if the estimation was correct.
  • Cooking a simple dish incorporates reading, comprehension, sequential steps, weighing, measuring, fine motor skills, and calculating the wonderful calories!
  • A casual walk develops family relationships. It provides a spontaneous opportunity to discuss wellbeing, explore the environment, play ‘I Spy’ and get daily exercise.
  • Writing a card to grandparents and school friends, a letter to the nursing home to thank the staff for minding all the grannies and granddads, or keeping a Covid-19 diary, teaches letter writing skills and develops social skills.
  • Finally, principals, teachers, and parents must realise that when this pandemic is over, students/children “may forget what you said but they will never forget how you made them feel” (Carl W. Buehner).


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