School may be closed and exams cancelled, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to put our students’ learning on hold too. In fact, the next few months could be crucial in preparing your child’s learning, whether they intend to go on to further education or not.
By preparing a flexible itinerary for a daily routine, it’s easier for us to get children on the right track and ensure that their learning doesn’t come to an end as abruptly as their school year has.
The benefits of a healthy routine
Building a routine isn’t only good for keeping a sense of productivity in the house. It also has numerous health benefits too. A well thought-out routine will help your children get more quality sleep, keep their brains from turning to mush and tackle some of the anxiety that we are likely all facing.
According to doctors at Piedmont Healthcare, having a set routine reduces stress as repeating the same activities at certain times makes them more predictable and controllable. This applies to our children’s studies too - making sure they have set times in the day for certain activities can actually make them feel more comfortable and relaxed.
Routines also benefit sleep patterns. Our circadian rhythm, a.k.a our 'body clock', dictates how we feel and how ready we are to learn, based on when we go to sleep and when we wake up. Keeping bedtimes and wake up times as constant as possible can actually improve our children’s academic performance, daily mood and overall mental state.
Trying to maintain some form of learning and development will put our children in better stead to succeed in the next stage of their life. They’ve already lost a lot of school time, so it's important that we make sure they don’t lose out on learning altogether.
Putting together a daily itinerary or a study timetable will keep these days at home structured and full of purposeful activities.
How to create a study timetable that works
The main thing to remember with any home study timetable is who you’re making it for. There is no point drawing up an itinerary that your child isn’t going to be able to stick with, or one that they actively dislike.
Go through their home timetable with them and write it up together, making sure they understand why you’re creating it and how it’s going to help them. Explain that this is meant to replace classroom lessons and being at home doesn’t mean their education is finished.
Here are some things to consider when creating a study timetable:
Start with a morning routine
We’ve already touched on the circadian rhythm and how it can help children sleep better and wake up easier. Nailing the morning routine is part of this. Whilst we’re still in term time, try and get your children to wake up and times as close to their normal school morning routine as possible.
Have a healthy balanced breakfast to start the day off right and have them get ready for ‘school’, apart from uniforms of course! Then, if their school isn’t using an online learning platform, start the day's lessons.
Some find that taking a register at the start of the day, even if you only have one child, introduces another element of normality and brings the classroom into the home.
Separate work and play
Our brains associate certain places, sounds and smells with certain activities, affecting how we behave in different environments. This is why it might be difficult at first to get your children to work at home. They likely associate home with relaxation rather than schoolwork.
Having a dedicated space for learning and quiet work is the ideal solution to this, but we’re not all lucky enough to have room. If your children need space to work, and don’t have a desk or work area in their room, make an adaptable dedicated space at the kitchen table or in the living room.
Try to create a space that is easily convertible from a workspace to whatever purpose it usually fulfills. This can be as simple as changing a tablecloth and adding a laptop (if this is necessary) with their workbooks for the day.
This shows that the area is ready for them to study in. When the ‘school day’ is done, make a point of packing away all school work and returning the space back to its regular state - this helps them to stop associating that area with work and relax for the evening.
Vehemently discourage working in bed as it can interrupt the brain’s association between bed and sleep, causing sleepless nights and a lower quality of work.
Consistency is key
It can be hard to maintain a consistent regime, especially in the first week, but you’ll be glad to know that your efforts will make it worthwhile. Keeping your study timetable, and weekday routine, as consistent as possible might get easier as time goes by.
Experts say that it takes 30 days of consistent practice to form a habit. That’s 4 weeks. 4 weeks of effort on your part could make sticking to a routine easier for both you and your children.
Once a habit is formed, it becomes almost instinctual to follow it. Keeping consistent might make the struggle for a 9 am maths lesson much smoother in 4 weeks time. So stay committed and don’t give up!
Having rules and a study timetable helps to promote good study habits, but being too stringent can have a negative effect on our children’s motivation. Pushing students too hard to work often results in the opposite.
It’s important to remember that this is a completely new situation for all of us and that nobody is expecting parents to immediately become veteran teachers at home.
If your child is struggling with some work, don’t force it. Tell them to take a 15 minute break and come back to it. If your child is feeling unwell, the priority is for them to be well again.
If the study timetable you drew up isn’t working, go back to the drawing board with it. This whole scenario is completely unprecedented so remain flexible and take all the hiccups and alterations that will inevitably come with it in your stride.
If you’re stressed at the moment, you have every right to be. Creating a functioning, valuable routine can help us to feel that life is under our control again. It’s a study plan, a daily routine and a coping mechanism all rolled into one.
So get planning - you’re doing great.