Coronavirus: Chichester Free School shares home learning tips

Parents and children of Chichester Free School have opened up about how they have been finding working from home.

A Chichester Free School pupil gets busy homeworking
A Chichester Free School pupil gets busy homeworking

Chichester Free School parents and pupils have been sharing messages with each other about their new daily routines and how they are getting on after their first week of coping with a completely new way of life and learning.

‘A Huge Cultural Shift’

Sign up to our daily SussexWorld Today newsletter

Louise New, the School’s Principal, said: “I can only begin to imagine what parents are all having to juggle at home, balancing work with remote learning and everything in between. I take my hat off to all parents supporting their children at home.

A Chichester Free School pupil takes time out to play

"It is very easy to become overwhelmed by all the resources that are coming their way, directly from us and from the global community and they can't be expected to do everything. We are trying to get the balance right in the work we set, but this is new territory for us too.

"Parents shouldn’t worry if they don't feel they are ticking every box – their mental and physical well-being is just as important as their children's. This is a huge cultural shift for us all, and it is going to take time for us all to get used to these online communities and keeping up with the world around us, whilst trying to focus on those in our immediate circles at the same time.”

Louise also reminds all parents, pupils and teachers: "This is a marathon, not a sprint and nothing sums this up better than the classic Aesop's fable of the Hare and the Tortoise – 'slow and steady wins the race'.

Looking After Your Mental Health

Aly Ede, who has two children at the school and is also pastoral manager there, shared her thoughts: “I’m trying to look after my mental health by limiting my time watching the news and stories on social media, and just being grateful for the simple things which are proving most important – good health, my family and the amazing community spirit.”

Her little girl, eight-year-old Kitty, has been waking up at 6am excited to login to her online tasks – “but we’ll see how long that lasts!” Aly added.

Ten-year-old Devon has set up a penpal club with 20 people in it already. She said: "I am loving that each day my school is giving me great homework. I look forward to seeing my house points and comments from my teacher first thing in the morning.”

Devon's mum added: "Wow, this is a juggling act and an half, but the School has been amazing with set homework and support. I feel like I am learning all over again too and going back to school with a best friend in my daughter. We have done art and cooking. A time we will never forget.”

Establishing a Routine is Very Important

Jess Powell, primary inclusion manager, SENCo has two children at the school.

She shared her tips after the first few days of homeschooling: “We all found the first few days very long. I had been trying to stick to the routine of a school day because that’s what I am familiar with.

"However, a teacher colleague of mine suggested that we lengthen and increase the frequency of breaks throughout the day because homeschooling is a much more intensive environment.

"I am sticking to a rigid routine so the kids know the expectation each day, but I have let them have more free time in between.This gives them time to relax, and me time to tackle my own work from home. I have also managed to download the ‘Zoom’ app which means the children can have online playtime with their friends each day.

“My top tip would be get the routine embedded and stick to it, as all children thrive on structure. Don’t put yourself under pressure to get through everything every day, make sure you reserve time for relaxing and having fun.

"Also remember, we are also responsible for each other’s mental health in these extraordinary times, children need to be children and adults need downtime.”

Tips for children’s activities outside homeschooling

As well as providing online learning, the school is providing a recipe of the week for children to make (Jammie Dodgers for primary students and macaroni cheese this week for the secondary students) and a weekly YouTube assembly for primary students with storytime and craft activity – the first of which, making an origami bookmark, has proved to be immensely popular, the school said.

Louise New commented: “While we’ve never been so isolated, we’ve never been so connected, with more ways to learn, play and have fun online being created every day.

“As well as exercising with ‘the nation’s PE teacher’, Joe Wicks, children can be set up with virtual playdates (there are lots of free online tools to do this), grow a mini garden, watch an episode of a show and discuss it, and cook and share their recipes.

“Interesting online courses and resources are popping up all over the place – for example, British Sign Language are offering their course to children free of charge so they can learn a new skill http://www.british-sign.co.uk/coronavirus-crisis/

“What about virtually exploring some of the world’s most amazing museums, including: British Museum, London; Guggenheim Museum, New York; Musee d’Orsay, Paris; Peramon Museum, Berlin; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; Uffizi Gallery, Florence; National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City

“A lovely thing that children can do is to draw a picture or write a letter to elderly people living in local care homes who are now isolated and missing their families.

"That will help to make sure that long after this whole situation has passed, children will remember how looking out for others made a real difference.

“Also, make sure you write your own 'Happy List' – positives that have come out of this situation, and remind yourself of it on difficult days.

“If we can all focus on staying positive, the situation will get easier, time will go faster than you think and before too long we’ll all be back learning and thriving together."