As Lockdown 3 drags on, The Resident consults some of London’s most prominent parent-influencers on how to keep on top of homeschooling while keeping the peace…
Lead image: The Saccone Jolys (photo: Dan Kennedy)
YouTube royalty Anna and Jonathan Saccone Joly have four children and six dogs – so they’re very familiar with chaos! With Anna uploading beauty content to YouTube, Jonathan decided to get in on the action and film his life every day for a week. Things escalated from a bit of fun to a full-time career, and the couple now has a YouTube channel with over 1.8 million subscribers and a combined 3.8 million social media followers for their family-focussed content. Here are Anna Saccone Jolys homeschooling tips:
1. Plan: I usually spend Sunday evenings going over what the school provides for us and working out when we can fit it in, and then copy that over to our family calendar (colour coded for each family member). I think this really helps to encourage the kids to take it seriously and acts as a solid timetable. We’ve realised that the kids find it a lot easier to concentrate in the morning, so we try to get the most important parts of home-schooling done around that time. But every child is different, so look for patterns in your kid’s attention spans over a week or two and try to construct your days around that.
2. Let them work independently: This is only really true for Emilia (8) as the other three, Eduardo (6), Alessia (3) and Andrea (2) are too young. We make Emilia aware that Jonathan and I are free if she’s stuck or needs any help, but this is a good way of keeping distraction levels down. I’ve also read that it’s really good for kids to learn how to study on their own as soon as possible, which works for us!
3. Dedicate time for exercise: Making sure your kids have dedicated time to exercise is really important and helps keep their energy levels consistent. We normally take the children out either in the garden or for a walk once a day. It gives them a break from constantly being on screens and refreshes them. We usually plan it for the afternoon when things start to go a bit haywire! Plus, the fresh air gets them hungry for dinner time and tired enough to get a good night’s sleep!
4. Make a meal plan for the week: I did this pre-lockdown and continue to do it. It’s a pain but it honestly helps, and I save money too. I usually do an online shop and schedule it to arrive on Monday mornings. When the kids were at school some needed packed lunches and others had school dinners, but now we all need lunch. We usually do traditional packed lunch style – sandwich, piece of fruit and a treat of some sort. Try making a monthly meal plan to have on rotation – it works for lots of families. Recently, I’ve also been prepping dinner early, around 1pm-2pm. Having it ready to go ahead of mealtimes helps to keep the madness to a minimum and means I am able to enjoy the evenings with my family a whole lot more.
Sandra Strachan, a self-employed mother of three, is the influencer behind @ladywimbledon, which has racked up 16,000 followers on Instagram and 11,000 on Twitter for making the most of out life in lovely, leafy Wimbledon. She also finds time to blog, write a newspaper column, run her digital media company, Bombshell Consultancy, and pop-up on Sky News as an education pundit as founder of @ParentEducate. This is a woman who knows how to juggle! Sandra joined us for our first ever episode of The London Parentcast, where she talked about work-life balance and being a parent first. Here are her tips on homeschooling:
1. Read a chapter a day: Books are a lifeline of quietness and home schooling offer a great opportunity for reading. However busy we are, reading a chapter a day with each of the children provides the home with a moment of tranquillity. Children in years 3-12 will have a text that their English lessons are based around, and if we parents read this book ourselves, we gain valuable insight into understanding the questions they need help answering.
2. Get involved: Sunday evening is a great time to chat to the kids about their week ahead and to remind yourself of what they are learning about. There are always documentaries and films you can watch in the evening or on a rainy afternoon to help bring the subject to life. This is a key time for you to share a love for learning, not to get all the answers right. Use the lessons set by the school as simple guidelines, not a rule book.
3. Get outside: With my kids having a live Zoom classroom at 10am every morning, I wake up early to get through my own work. By 9am we have all had a healthy breakfast and we are dressed and out the house for a morning walk. This has become the most important part of our day and wakes up our minds and body in preparation for a day that demands little physical movement. The morning routine is not for everyone, but a lunchtime walk would work just as well and break up the day.
4. Embrace the new normal: It is really hard for us ambitious and driven souls to take our foot off the pedal and operate at a slower pace, but these weeks in lockdown cannot emulate our old normal lives. Instead, they offer us the opportunity to bring the family into a new space, one of empathy, gratitude, communication, togetherness and, hopefully moments to share the love of learning (even if it’s just a little bit).
Yasmine, a working single mother with two kids under 10, started out in the social media world as a YouTuber and has gone on to create a successful lifestyle blog and build a 20,000-strong Instagram following (check her out @yasminecamilla). Before lockdown spoilt all the fun, she had started to forge a path as a family travel influencer but her recent content has been very much based around life at home. Yasmine joined us for an episode of The London Parentcast in 2020 to talk about furlough and life in lockdown with no adult company. Here are Yasmine’s homeschooling tips:
1. Don’t compare yourself to other parents: As a full-time working single mum, it was just totally unfeasible for me to homeschool my 7 and 5 year old. There were moments when seeing all the fun activities people were doing on social media got to me so I reduced my exposure to it. I also reminded myself everyone is in a totally different boat at the moment.
2. Allocate time: I blocked out short periods of time throughout my working day and logged off, set my out-of-office and went to be with the kids. I made lunch, often having to leave them due to the demands of my job, but I also cuddled them. Right now their whole world is upside down and I feel the most important thing is for them to feel loved.
3. Let the kids be kids: I work for a corporate organisation with formal daily Zoom calls – people are still wearing shirts! But I never stopped my children coming and joining in a call – sometimes they interrupted a board meeting, sometimes I had to dive off while a call was taking place. I think often we worry about how we are perceived, but right now you need to do what’s right for you and your family, and the more you show your colleagues (in my case, many without children!) your real life right now, the more reasonable and understanding they tend to become.
Yvadney is a mum of two, freelance fashion stylist and founder of Mums That Slay – a blog for brilliant working mums. On the search for like-minded mums who worked hard but wanted to play hard, too, she set up Mums That Rave with DJ Nikki Beatnik, where mums can meet, brunch, beautify and dance all their stresses away (well, at least outside of lockdown!). Yvadney joined us for an episode of The London Parentcast in 2020 to talk about Mums That Rave, but she recently stepped away from the project to focus on other things. Here, she shares her homeschooling tips:
1. Morning home schooling only: I am not a qualified teacher and neither am I a homeschooler1 I am a parent trying to keep her family – and including myself – happy and healthy in a global pandemic. I’m not competing with the kids’ school. So, while I have a schedule for the week, ‘school’ takes place only in the morning, and the afternoons are all about learning through play – they make-up games, we do gardening, baking etc. It’s very informal.
2. Set a theme for the week: So far we have had predators, fables, Easter, Christmas… It helps to have an umbrella topic to keep referring to throughout the week, especially with two kids in different school stages. As they’re involved in choosing the subject, they get really into it – Twinkl is a great website for resources to pull from for this.
3. Let other people do the teaching: -So many personalities and organisations have stepped up with regular and free lessons for kids, from Joe Wicks doing PE to Young Voices doing music lessons, as well as BBC Teach, so there’s a complete curriculum of engaging content out there for when you want to take it easy as a parent.
Nikki, who runs Mums That Rave (founded with Yvadney, above, but now a one-woman mission), previously juggled late nights and globe-trotting, as one of the UK’s top female DJs, with being a mum (she joined us for an episode of The London Parentcast in 2020 to tell us all about it). Now, it’s all about finding ways to work from home while homeschooling. During the first lockdown, Nikki, her husband and her six-year-old all had coronavirus, which really threw the homeschooling off balance. Here are her tips for Lockdown 3:
1. Absolutely no schedules: The exhaustion of trying to recover from Covid was really hard, but also we are not into scheduling. We have been incorporating everything into games and daily activities. During the first lockdown, my son learned to ride his bike in the back garden – with no stabilisers! So then we played games where he had to ride his bike around the garden and we give him points to add, subtract and multiply to arrive at his total points. I also do quick fire maths questions all day at him, such as, ‘If you have two pieces of toast for breakfast, plus another two pieces and then another three pieces, how many pieces of toast have you eaten?’ I also got him into watching times tables song videos like the Bruno Mars Uptown Funk Three Time Table Song, which is great for helping kids to remember boring times tables. Setting something to music is the best way to remember boring stuff.
2. Bite-size chunks: Every day we learn a new capital city together with a landmark of that country, which is easy and pretty fun. I quiz my kid on them at any point in the day.
3. Get creative: Every day we make something new, from paper snakes to cardboard mazes and cupcakes, even books that he illustrates. We’ve also been using the schools app on the phone to read new books – he loves using this app to find new books. I also taught him to WhatsApp his Grandma, uncle and auntie, which helps with spelling, reading and writing without it being a ‘lesson’. Plus, he’s thrilled when he gets an instant response. We use technology to constantly find new things to do.
4. Ease off on the pressure: The main thing I think is not to put too much pressure on the kids, or yourself. This is a weird time for all. If you are healthy and safe with your family and your kids are learning something new every day, even if it’s a small thing, you are winning!