Lorraine Lee’s Strategies for Home Learning from Pea
Last week, Child Psychologist Lorraine Lee ran a virtual workshop on Helping Children with Home Learning, arranged via my children’s school.
Lorraine explained that in our Lockdown world, adults and children have mixed roles in the home. As grown-ups, we are teachers and parents. And for our little people they are our sons / daughters and pupils. And it is this confusion of roles that causes stress.
Here are some of Lorraines’ positive strategies for effective home learning:
Not everybody has desk space, and it may be that everyone is trying to work at the table together. Wherever you’re working, try to create a clear work space to minimise distractions, by putting everything in a box out of sight. And if you don’t have a table or desk available to children to use, Lorraine suggests that it would be better for them to sit on the floor with their back against a sofa or bed, rather than sitting on it to help focus.
Nursing visual timers such as sand timers are useful to help younger children to manage and understand how much time they have until they can have a snack or a break. Lorraine suggests buying sand timers, which you can get for different amounts of time.
Lorriane explained that routines are particularly important when there is no change of physical environment to help children know what is expected of them when. When it comes to breaks, she suggests taking breaks at the same time as your children so they get 100% connection and interaction with you during this time. Make it a positive time together and not a time for telling off!
Detach and Reattach
When things go wrong, don’t throw the whole day away. In other words, move on! Be optimistic for the next part of the day. It’s a useful principle for learning as well as managing home life.
The bit of our brain that does the thinking is different from the part of our brain that deals with emotion. If we don’t stay calm, we can’t think effectively. We need a calm brain for learning which means we need to keep the blood in the top part of our brains, instead of flooding it with emotion.
Manage Verbal Obstacles
When a child uses words like “can’t, won’t, don’t” it tells us what they’re feeling, their emotional state. Which means they need our help to diffuse the situation, rather than trying to rationalise. Lorraine recommends agreeing first and offering empathy, for example “I can see that you’re struggling”, as opposed to using facts to rationalise as a child will simply reject them.
If there is something they feel they ”can’t” do, try responding with something like “can you show me something you do understand?”. Or if there is something they “won’t” do something, try and switch on the thinking part of their brain. Have a drink of water. And maybe take a break. But try not to respond with opposition. Or if they “don”t” understand something, problem solve together saying something like “what can we do?”.
That said, if your child is really struggling, it’s important to be transparent with the school. Let them know what’s going on.
The most effective way to manage disruptive behaviours is to incentivise the behaviour you want, versus consequences for those you don’t. Lorraine suggests getting children involved in this to find something that works for them. That may be a marble jar, a reward chat, a grab bag, or even using an app for older children. The important thing is to reward progress and to be able to give the reward immediately. So remember never to take away what has already been earned. Think about the behaviours and attitudes you need, then incentivise those. That way it is personal to your child and your home.
Lorraine likes Grab Bags as a way of delivering immediate rewards. The idea is that you put lots of activities into a bag, so for example, you would write down fun things you can do together in 10 minutes and put them in the bag. Then use these as an incentive to help get over something they’re struggling with. Fun activities could be: hide and seek, a game of Uno, reading a joke book, or a favourite in my house, a nerf gun war. Then they pick one out as a reward for achieving something. These activities are all about the connection with your child. Something fun to do after dinner.
Giving children choices increases control and compliance. Lorraine recommends giving two choices, then pausing allowing them time to pick. It also helps to avoid opposition. So for example, you can say “do you want to start work now, or get a drink of water first”? Or use it as a way of getting them started on a task “do you prefer to do the easy stuff or the hard things first?”. It can even be used to avoid escalating threats. So instead of saying “you better have done that in the next 5 minutes”, you can instead ask your child “would you like to do that now, or in 5 minutes?”. It avoids opposition, and helps them feel as though they have some control.
Reframing is a way of looking at something from a different perspective. It allows you to see the positive. Whether that’s a way to approach the day’s lessons “all we have to do this morning is..” or a way of learning and improving “what better choices can we make today”. This is something a technique I find really useful and I use it for myself all the time, having first been introduced to it by Rick at The Body Camp a couple of years ago. It is a way of focusing on the positive and changing mindsets.
At a time when a big part of children’s lives have changed, we need to behave in reliable ways that make them feel safe.
On a personal note, from Pea, we wanted to say that it’s really important to remember we are all human. So do what’s best for you and your children. And maybe just pick one of Lorraine’s strategies that resonates with you. Trust your gut on this. And as @theyesmummum Hollie said “let go of other people’s expectations”. We know that is easier said than done. But more than anything it’s important to stay happy and healthy.
Everyone’s circumstances are very different so if all you can achieve each day is reading a story, and getting out in the fresh air then that is enough. You’re doing a great job.
And don’t forget to join our Adventure Club where you can find free activities to get creative and help keep children entertained over the coming weeks. Whether you need fun things to occupy little ones whilst older siblings are busy learning, or to fill family time on wet weekends. Plus you’ll get access to exclusive discounts and offers.