Covid NSW: Penrith principals reveal how to make the most of lockdown homeschooling

Lockdown is hard. Covid has a lot to answer for but add in educating your children remotely and it can understandably feel overwhelming. From reaching out for help, self care and socialising over Zoom meetings, Penrith’s top educators have revealed the ways to make the most of homeschooling for both students and their parents during the pandemic.

2. Instead of asking what they did at school, dig deeper.

Caroline Chisholm College principal, Dr Greg Elliott

Caroline Chisholm College principal, Dr Greg Elliott, offered up a philosophical approach that encourages deeper critical thinking for parents.

He advises parents to try not to ask “what did you do in your classes today?” but instead switch up the line of questioning.

Dr Elliott provided the suggested questions below:

  • What was the hardest thing you had to do in class today?
  • Did you get a chance to help another student today?
  • How can you tell if you‘re going well in your learning?
  • What is one thing you can try tomorrow that will make learning from home better?
  • What is something you‘d like to say to your teacher about remote learning?
  • In a couple of days, can you show me something you‘re working on that you’re proud of? (Don’t forget to follow up).

5. Kind thoughts. Kinds words. Kind actions.

Trinity Catholic Primary School Kemps Creek principal Cathy Hey encourages parents and students to adopt this popular school mantra - Kind thoughts. Kind words. Kind actions.

Trinity Catholic Primary School Kemps Creek principal Cathy Hey said parents and students should adopt the mantra ‘Kind thoughts. Kind words. Kind actions’ which they so often use at school.

“During this challenging time of remote learning my tips for success are to embrace this mantra even more than usual,” she said.

When it comes to kinds thoughts, this section encourages students and parents to be kind and understanding with themselves and their own needs, Ms Hey said.

“A routine is certainly important but it is also OK to go off script sometimes and be kind to ourselves. Taking the time to think positively about ourselves and others is good for our wellbeing and energises us to keep going,” she said.

“When we are living in close quarters and seeing the same people every day, it is important to speak kindly to them. The ripples of kindness spread easily in a household or community.”

She also encouraged students and parents to interact with the school community via technology.

“The Trinity community is staying connected with regular zooms and even a weekly bedtime story for the kinder children,” Ms Hey said.

“A wise little kinder person said to me the other day, ‘I can still see you are smiling even with your mask because your eyes are smiling too’”.

The last section of the mantra, kind actions, reminds parents and students to show gratitude for the kindness they witness.

“Our students have written letters and produced artworks to give to essential workers showing appreciation for keeping the community safe,” Mrs Hey said.

“There are many examples of people reaching out to help others even though they cannot do so in person. Kindness doesn’t need to stop because we are not seeing each other in person.”

Although this online learning plan in place, she looks optimistically to the future.

“When this is all over and we look back on this time, I hope we remember some of the kind thoughts, kind words and kind actions,” she said.

6. Listen to yourself and take every opportunity to participate

St Joseph’s Primary School principal Patricia Reilly

St Joseph’s Primary School principal Patricia Reilly offered up two main tips for homeschooling.

The first being, encouraging students to listen to themselves and ask themselves how they’re feeling and if they are going okay.

“Ask yourself questions and then chat to someone about what you are telling yourself,” she said.

“Be kind to the person helping you at home with your learning – they’re learning how to do it as well.”

Second to self-care, Mrs Reilly encouraged students to take every opportunity handed to them.

“Take every Zoom opportunity – it’s the best time to learn with your teacher and classmates,” she said.

“Take every opportunity to participate in the fun activities your school is creating – it helps you to remember that you are connected with many people who care about you.”

The St Joseph’s principal encouraged students to look beyond the current circumstances.

“This time of Covid, isolation, uncertainty and challenge is very difficult for everyone in the community. By looking past this darkness we can see many bright lights of hope for a better future,” she said.

“Our children are resilient. A second year of Covid and still they are smiling, engaging in their learning and finding ways to do even better. The uncertainty has become something they bounce back from.”

Mrs Reilly said these trying circumstances can also be a learning and development opportunity.

“Our children have come to realise that they have the power to be independent. They have gained confidence to know that they can do this – this new way of learning, this new way of living,” she said.

“Our children are the lights. Everyday it is the faces of the children I see on Zooms, their smiles, their enthusiasm and their joy that keeps me positive that the future will be bright.”

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