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Learning from home: a lockdown story

Eva Roald Dahl pic.jpg

Stacey, Andy and their two daughters live in Middlesbrough - home to our very first literacy Hub, Middlesbrough Reads. Like most families, lockdown came with its pressures and suddenly having to teach two children from home was a shock. Thankfully, Stacey stumbled across Middlesbrough Reads on Facebook and our series of competitions, activities, and free resources inspired the family to make literacy fun. Since then, Eva has won one of our competitions and the children have even fallen back in love with some old reads.

Stacey moved from Sunderland to Middlesbrough three years ago with husband Andy and children Eva and Leila, now 9 ¾ and 8-years-old. For Andy it was a return to his roots and both girls are at the same primary school that he attended.

Like every family, COVID-19 and the lockdown has had a big affect on Stacey and her's. Andy was put on furlough

Eva Roald Dahl pic.jpg

and suddenly they became full time, at-home teachers with two girls, two years apart at school and both with their own interests.

The hardest period hit during the limbo period; just as COVID-19 became a serious threat in this country but schools had not yet closed. For a week or more the children had been coming back from school and asking what was going to happen and of course, like the rest of us, Stacey didn’t have the answers. Once lockdown itself happened Stacey and Andy made some decisions about how to be the best educators they could for their children. As Stacey put it;

“I decided the best thing was to be organised from the start. Have a routine, a bit like school and try and stick to it. We got new workbooks and a new pen and pencil set to help mark that this was going to be different, and most importantly we were doing everything together.”

At the beginning it was difficult to balance everyone doing school work together but having to do different subjects at different times. For the parents there was also the challenge of knowing how much had been done in class; had they already talked about Elizabeth I or were they still on Henry VIII? For Ancient Greeks, were they meant to remember any of the Gods or was this new?

Stacey says that compared to a lot of people they know, they are very lucky. The girls had each got a device for Christmas, so they could both be online at the same time to do their school work. For the first couple of weeks the novelty of school with mum helped to keep them both attentive. Stacey says their primary school has also been brilliant and she has been especially grateful for how the work is presented:

“It is all about; this is what we’d like them to do (mainly reading) and if you can do some more, here are some ideas.”

For someone who isn’t a teacher (most of us) this approach gave Stacey a lot of confidence to try things out that work best for her children. For a topic in Science about densities of liquids the whole family could gather things from cupboards and try them out. Similarly, a creative writing task started with a game of Eye-Spy with my little eye out the window to come up with things to include.

Stacey came across the National Literacy Trust and our resources via the Middlesbrough Reads Facebook page. The activities we created gave the family lots inspiration and ideas to help make learning fun. Eva and Leila took part in one of our competitions linked to the Roald Dahl favourite, George’s Marvellous Medicine. The challenge was to come up with a potion made from things found at home. Stacey added some extras by timing the children to find ingredients around the house and then identifying which of them rhymed before writing up their recipes.

Leila's potion gives children the power to talk with and understand their pets. The main ingredient is cold, mouldy cat food (and we also have a sneaking suspicion that Leila doesn't like strawberries). Eva's entry was inspired by Double, double toil and trouble, the famous Shakespeare poem recited by the three witches in Macbeth. We loved it so much, that Eva was chosen as the winner an received a bundle of Roald Dahl books as her prize. You can see Lelia's and Eva's entries below:

Reading has always been a big part of family life, but we've inspired the children to revisit some family favourites via our #BoroReads Midsummer challenge - a series of 30 reading challenges with daily prizes up for grabs. Stacey hunted through cupboards and found some of the books her girls had grown out of and used lockdown as an excuse to re-read.

“Just because you’ve read something before doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read it again. I’ve got lots of things that I re-read because they are a great book or bring back fond memories. I wanted to make sure that with school coming into their home, the girls didn’t start to see reading as just a school thing”.

Although lockdown hasn’t been easy, the family have been able to experience positives as they’ve spent extra time together in recent months. Stacey says one of the biggest learning curves was having even the slightest insight into being a teacher. Now it's the summer holidays, Stacey and Andy have been looking back at the last term; keeping up the momentum was tricky at times but they got more into the swing of juggling lessons, and as parents they're confident that their approach was right for them:

  • Be in it together
  • Keep it fun (and push through the bits that aren’t to get them done quickly)
  • Give as much choice as possible to the Eva and Leila about how they completed a piece of work
  • Keep reading (we like this one!)

If you want to find out what the National Literacy Trust has on offer for your family, visit Family Zone for free, high quality resources. If you live in one of our Hub areas then you can search for the campaign on Facebook too!

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