Homeschooling in the bubble: Mum's top tips after 20 years of practice

Bronwyn McLennan has been teaching Annabelle and her three other daughters from home for 20 years...
Bronwyn McLennan has been teaching Annabelle and her three other daughters from home for 20 years. Photo: Supplied
After an abrupt end to term one, students across Canterbury are gearing up to start the next school term - but this time in their bubbles.

With term two set to begin on April 15, it would mean business as usual for parents who already homeschool their children.

Caregivers and parents without any homeschooling experience had to quickly adapt to the new environment in a matter of days.

But Cashmere resident Bronwyn McLennan has been homeschooling her daughters for the last 20 years and advises parents to take it easy over the coming weeks, especially with current pressures such as job security and general Covid-19 stress.

"I really feel for the parents who were given two-days notice to homeschool their kids," she said.

"Every parent needs to just take a big deep breath, and relax.

"Your teenagers won't want you hovering and your little kids will be picking up on your anxiety."

She urges parents not to pressure themselves into replicating the usual 9am to 3pm school structure and recommends a lighter approach.

With fewer distractions at home, it is possible to get the work done in less time, she says.

"Don't feel guilty about finishing the work early. If you've got no distractions, you can really get it done quickly.

"If you're finished by midday and the sun is shining - get out there."

The decision to homeschool her four daughters came about while discussing education options for her children.

After weighing up the pros and cons, she decided to give it a go - and had not stopped since.

Said Mrs McLennan: "We looked at options and thought one-on-one tuition will be better than classroom situations, especially when they're so young."

The absence of distractions, such as classroom changes and learning in bigger groups, means there is more time for her children to discover and explore their passions.

With school work completed in the mornings, the afternoons are spent on sports, participating in extra-curricular activities and developing life skills.

But the benefits of homeschooling comes with some disadvantages.

Parents would often overthink their methods, comparing their child's progress with other families due to fears of failure and being left behind.

Mrs McLennan says homeschooling provides a personalised and collaborative approach to learning by individually identifying how children learn best.

While it was hard to overlook the disadvantages, Mrs McLennan said it was okay to not know all of the answers.

"The kids need to find the answers as it's their education, not yours," she said.

"The main thing about homeschooling is the relationship with your kid. You love life, you love each other and you're learning."

Results from the Ministry of Education's recent survey of schools has allowed it to identify families with limited access to devices and the internet.

The ministry announced emergency funding of $87.7 million for 80,000 families. It will help provide hard-copy materials, computers, internet modems and broadcasting educational content on TV.

Mrs McLennan said the use of technology has been handy for teaching at home.

She did not have these resources readily available 20 years ago, so it was possible to improvise without relying on it too heavily.

"Reading aloud to kids is good for their brain development. Play math games with board games or a pack of cards - or get them involved in the kitchen to read recipes."

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