Home learning – sink or swim?

Dear Quaran – teens,

So here is the benefit of my experience to help you get off to the best possible start on home study. It would be selfish of me not to share it with you, right?

Let’s face it – we may have longed for the Easter hols to come and the revision to be over but we never expected to be at home right now twiddling our thumbs and wondering what the next few weeks would bring. I hope you’ve settled into a new kind of normal at home. At Smart HQ we held a family meeting to plan our route through the next few weeks. It’s a mystery tour now that GCSEs, A Levels and University exams have been cancelled.

For many of you – even my GCSE and A Level classes – it’s important to keep working on something. Until you know exactly what kind of evidence your teachers need to provide to the exam boards to help them decide on your grades, then that should be your studies. There was a time, before I became your teacher that I worked from home every day. It was an adventure. My friends used to drop by for a coffee; it was easy to become distracted by the radio, the housework, the refrigerator or the garden. Nobody would know if I spent the whole day in my pyjamas. Guess what? On some days not a lot of work took place. That should not happen to you.

Here are my top tips.

  1. Stick to your timetable. When it takes three weeks to establish a new habit or routine, why wouldn’t you stick with your school routine? Hockey may be off but kicking a ball in the garden, walking the dog or going for a short run is not. If Chemistry is first lesson on Monday then spend that time doing Chemistry. Take 5 minute breaks between study sessions. Have a proper mid morning break, a lunchtime and a mid afternoon break.
  2. Sleep. As Lady Macbeth informs us, it’s “the season of all natures”. Whilst I wouldn’t hold her up as a role model, on sleep she was bang on.
  3. Eat properly If you’re going to feed your brain you need decent food. I’m sure your parents will help if you have an attack of the munchies but fuelling up with good food at mealtimes is THE way to go.
  4. Spruce up your work space Nobody wants to work in a dingy space. You may have a lovely desk and a beautiful view in your own private space. Or, like me, you may be working in the family kitchen. Wherever you’re based, make it somewhere you want to be.
  5. Replicate your school environment Studying is easier if you have your familiar things around you. Set your workspace out the way you do at school. The more things stay the same,the easier it will be to focus on what matters – your studies.
  6. Get dressed I have a friend who used to work from home in clothes that made him embarrassed to answer the door to the postman. I have another who gets dressed in her work clothes every day, leaves the house, goes for a short walk and then returns to her house 15 minutes later, ready for work. Extreme I know, but way more productive than the one who had to hide behind the sofa every time the doorbell rang.
  7. Have a goal Have an aim, a place you want to get to by the end of a study session, the end of the day or the end of the week. If a teacher sets you a deadline, stick to it. Even project work should be chunked into achievable tasks so that you know you’re keeping everything afloat without the daily checks, merits and demerits of your teachers. Give yourself a reward if you achieve your task. It will keep you motivated.
  8. Keep in touch Studying from home can be lonely. If your teacher hasn’t set up a Skype lesson then you’ll miss the business of the classroom and the opportunity to collaborate with friends, discuss your opinions or compare your answers. Set up a way of keeping in touch with classmates about work. Maybe FaceTime everyday at a set time. Set up a WhatsApp group. You won’t feel so alone
  9. Make studying active Before a remote lesson, think about what you already know, do some reading around the subject and after the lesson, evaluate and reflect on what you’ve learned. Try to add to your notes. That way you gain maximum benefit from the teacher contact you have. You can ask questions to clarify any points and move your learning on.
  10. Plan ahead Although you don’t know when home studying will end, plan ahead to the next holiday. Know what you’ve got coming up next week and the week after, just like you do at school for every half term. It will keep you focused.

Let me know how you get on and look out for my next postcard.

Mrs S


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