How to successfully learn from home- Annie Styles’ eight tips
Learning & Development
As we all know, mastering the balance of hybrid working can be a challenging task. At present, a record amount of the adult workforce is working from home, as a result of the pandemic. Similarly, students have had to adapt their schooling to suit the hybrid environment between work and school. Zoom, Google Meet and Teams have been miracle tools to allow and facilitate this online work environment for students, with striking benefits: a quieter environment with less pressure; flexibility, allowing students to work at their own pace and times when they are most productive; and allowances of time to pursue hobbies and interests!
However, there is no shying away from the great responsibility, dedication and work ethic required from both parents and students to ensure working from home remains successful. The self-discipline required for home learning will be of life-long benefit for the students as they navigate the hybrid work or education environment after graduation, certainly giving them a head start compared to their peers. At home, there is no detention for not completing homework or threats of missing playtime; instead, a cautionary discussion with a tutor about meeting goals or an inner feeling to become more committed. Students need to develop a want to learn, a love of learning and a maturity in wanting to do the best they can.
Below, I have included some simple, yet vital tips to support home learners, for both parents and students to read together.
1. Have a consistent routine
This is my first tip for a reason, as I believe this to be essential to any successful home learning. During the pandemic, in the days when I was a primary school teacher, this is what I told parents time and time again. If you have no set time to wake up, there is no set time to go to bed. This can then become a vicious cycle of not sleeping till 2am and waking up close to midafternoon! Even if your first online lesson isn’t until 10am, it is important to get up as you would before a day at school. This will allow students to make the most of their day. Get up early, eat breakfast, go for a walk, do some exercise – whatever you enjoy doing! When you log in for your first lesson, you will be more awake, attentive and will have already achieved something in your day.
Be consistent with your eating times (snacks included). Use the breaks in between lessons to fully take a break – have different activities planned throughout the day to mix it up. It is very easy to use a break to be glued to your phone – what you will need is a break from screen time! When you aren’t in lessons, plan when you will complete homework and assignments, this will ultimately make independent learning much more manageable.
Ensure to plan exercise in your day, every day. At school, you would be running around a playground, or taking part in PE, sports and games. When learning from home, you don’t necessarily have access to all of this. Make sure to join a sports club or make time for exercise you enjoy.
Finally, set a time in your routine to STOP working. It is very easy to mix up home and learning; there needs to be a point in your day where you mentally ‘leave school’ and ‘go home’.
2. Sleep is important
Sleep is vital to everyone. It is where we can rest, mentally and physically, and be ready to go again the next day. However, sleeping can be difficult if you aren’t tired. This may sound simple and obvious, but, if you are learning from home, it can be easy to become inactive and before you know it, you’ve sat in the same seat for 9 hours and haven’t done much on either side of that. As I mentioned above, it is important to exercise so that, by bedtime, you are tired! As part of your routine, ensure you have a set bedtime.
3. Get dressed as if you were going to school or college
Again, this seems obvious, but there is so much temptation to roll out of bed and just stay in your pyjamas all day. The age-old saying ‘dress for the job you want, not the job you have’ can work here. Being dressed, as you would do for school, can get your mindset right for learning. It also supports separating school from home, as these lines can become blurred when home learning.
4. Snack breaks
When learning, students need brain food! Carefully plan meals and snacks that will give your child long-lasting energy, without sending them into a food coma or giving them sugar highs (which ultimately end in sugar lows). Give your child something to look forward to throughout the day, and a tasty snack can be just that!
Here are some foods that will support focus, energy and optimise the ability to learn:
- Whole Grains – improves concentration and focus
- Oily fish – promotes healthy brain function
Good plant sources include flaxseed, soya beans, pumpkin seeds, walnuts and their oils.
- Blueberries – boost short-term memory
- Eggs – support brain function
- Nuts and seeds – enhance memory and boost mood
- Broccoli – improves brain power
5. Get outside
Fresh air, a change of scenery, being active and enjoying some freedom are all reasons why it is essential to take regular breaks to get outside during a day of home learning. In all honesty, Mother Nature may find the indoor world pretty tough to compete with sometimes. After all, she can’t offer flat-screen TVs, air conditioning, or WiFi. But she might potentially offer something even more important: improved health, by way of a stronger immune system, better sleep, and reduced stress. Spending time outdoors can boost physical and mental health in a range of ways. You don’t have to spend hours at a time outside before those benefits kick in, either.
6. Have your materials prepared
Preparation, preparation, preparation. We can all agree, a key to success is being prepared! The same applies to home learning. Ensure you have all of the materials you will need to be successful in your day. Take a trip to WHSmith – grab yourself a new pencil case, a pen you love to write with, exercise books, highlighters, and even some stickers if you fancy! It is important for students to be proud of their home learning and want to make it as presentable as possible. A couple of pieces of plain paper and a pencil just won’t cut it. Work needs to be well-organised, easily accessible and purposeful.
7. Have your materials prepared
A tidy space = a tidy mind. Make a space that you are proud of and enjoy spending time in. Get yourself a couple of plants, a salt lamp or photos in a frame. Don’t think that your space has to be boring! It’s your personal workspace, make it whatever you want it to be. Create a space you want to be in, not that you dread going to. Create ambience lighting, and be near a window if you can! You have the freedom to construct your very own classroom, so take the chance to do so!
8. Have planned exercise
In school, exercise is mandatory – why? Because it’s good for you! It is important for a young person to be active and enjoy sports. This will then continue, hopefully, into adult life. When you are away from physical school, it is easy to fall out of love and out of touch with being active. There are many opportunities to stay active, even when learning from home; including sports clubs, meeting up with peers for exercise, walking, running, cycling – you name it – there is nothing to stop home-schooled students from keeping active. As much as I have stressed keeping physically healthy, ensuring you’re tired enough at bedtime, and leading an active lifestyle – exercise has been proven to have tangible benefits on mental health and support in learning.
As you can see, I am incredibly passionate about learning! It is what keeps the world moving and what keeps opportunities open for your children. Support them in getting the most out of home learning and seek out as many benefits as possible. There are no restrictions, just opportunities.
The self-discipline required for home learning will be of life-long benefit for the students as they navigate the hybrid work or education environment after graduation, certainly giving them a head start compared to their peers.
Annie Styles is Director of Studies at Lionheart School London.
Prior to joining Lionheart, Annie was Head of Year 6 and Head of Science Curriculum alongside being a classroom teacher at a primary school in Stockwell.
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