NOFASD received a copy of this letter from a family, who said it had a big impact on them. Their child’s school sent this letter to all parents & carers in response to the COVID-19 measures in Australia. NOFASD is sharing this (de-identified) letter with permission from the school, and we thank them for their thoughtfulness at this stressful time.
Dear parents and families,
SUPPORTED HOME LEARNING
We are guessing you are feeling just as confused, worried and conflicted about your responsibilities, your job, your health and your families at the moment as we are. We’re all hearing about ‘school closures’, ‘lock-downs’ and ‘home-schooling’ and what this will mean for you as parents, for us as teachers and for your children. We just want to reassure you that if the Government puts these measures in place, we are not expecting you to ‘teach’ your children while you continue to work, care for them and others, and love them during this unusual time in our lives.
“Home-schooling” is a conscious choice by parents and involves rigorous planning and an application/accreditation process here in Australia. As Catriona Golding said in her article, “Stop Trying to be Superheroes” this is not home-schooling. This is an unprecedented emergency situation impacting the whole world. Let’s keep perspective. Home-schooling is a choice, where you considered, you plan for it and you are your child’s school teacher in whatever form you choose. This is at best distance learning.” So we would like to refer to what perhaps lies ahead for us all as “supported home learning”.
You are your child/ren’s first teachers. You send them to us with a vast amount of learned behaviours, knowledge, skills and talents and our job as educators is to get to know your children, use that foundation and build upon it. Your children are at school for 6 hours each day, learning from a variety of adults across up to 16 separate learning areas within the national Australian Curriculum. In addition, as teachers we incorporate 3 Cross Curriculum Priorities and 7 General Capabilities addressed through the content of the learning areas in their teaching and learning programs.
So…while you might feel you need to cover all this through a lesson by lesson, or minute by minute schedule packed to the brim with NAPLAN practice tests, worksheets, online activities, science experiments, maths problems, spelling contracts/assessments, visual art activities, music and dance compositions, book reports/story writing etc., here’s the thing …
Your children may be just as scared as you are right now – they are possibly hearing more misinformation than they need to and trying to make sense of it. We have never experienced anything like this before and despite our best intentions (yours and ours at school), children are picking up on our tension, anxiety and worry. They are hearing new words and social concepts that many of us have never had to consider before – social distancing, pandemic, quarantine, isolation, hoarding, physical space, COVID-19, lock-down, and while the idea of being off school for weeks sounds wonderful, they are probably picturing a fun time which includes play dates, going to the shops, movies or playground, sleepovers, holidays away and visiting family or friends – not the reality of staying in, learning at home and the social isolation this entails.
Over the coming weeks, you are possibly going to see more meltdowns, tantrums, and defiant behaviour in your children as they begin to realise that they can’t do the regular ‘holiday’ things. This is normal and expected under these circumstances and the best we can all do as adults in these moments is to “share our calm, not join their chaos” – a favourite educator quote by L.R. Knost. What kids need right now is to feel comforted and loved. To feel like it’s all going to be okay. This has been our focus at our school for the past weeks. Don’t worry about them falling behind academically – every single kid is in this boat and they will all be okay because they have you and the school community: A community for you to connect, belong and grow with pride We value honesty, respect, excellence, responsibility and care they’ll be supported by us.
When we get back to school, we will all reset, regroup (rejoice!) and meet the children where they are. As educators we are great at this! In the meantime, we’ll be here to support the learning at home – your child’s teachers and SSOs will be working on this over the upcoming week and will be in touch with you via the classroom & school communication modes.
So we guess if we can leave you with a couple of final thoughts:
- Start creating a structure and routine for this temporary but “new normal” – if school closures go ahead, we don’t know how long it may last, so setting up systems and schedules in the first few days or weeks (and sticking to them as best you can) is much easier than trying to implement them after a prolonged period of unstructured days and late nights.
- Educator tip – go in hard and then relax a bit! Establish a daily schedule based on your child’s age – two to four hours of total time per day spent on supported home learning would be sufficient. For Reception to Year 2, expect to halve those average learning hours. Having said this…don’t be scared to throw out the schedule if it’s not working that day, the weather outside is beautiful or your children just need extra love and comfort.
- Don’t worry if you can’t explain something or understand something – contact us and we’ll support you, or let us know and we’ll go over it when we get back.
- Don’t expect your child to sit and concentrate for more than 30-45 minutes at a time (even less for children 8 years or under!) – As we mentioned above, if you get between 2- 4 hours of learning time in over the day, then you are magnificent!
- We don’t expect you to ‘home-school’ – there are times we can’t cover the entire curriculum so we don’t expect you to while you are working, maintaining a home and keeping your family safe.
- Take time for yourself – create a “staff-room” to escape to and share the “yard duties” fairly!
At this time, your child’s emotional wellbeing, physical and mental health are more important than their academic knowledge and skills. If the first three aspects are impacted or neglected, it is neurologically impossible for new information and skills to be learnt or remembered. In the months ahead, your child may forget (or even refuse to do!) the learning activities or school work provided by our teachers for supported home learning BUT they will remember the fun new things they learn and do with you – the cuddles while reading, the measuring & counting while cooking, the gardening, the creating, the dancing, the games – and how you made them feel over this time.
View NOFASD’s COVID-19 resources for families
Read other NOFASD Australia blogs