How Much is Enough?

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Holidays have begun, but little clarity remains as to whether schools will re-open for Term 2. As proactive parents let’s begin building our teaching toolbox early to support online learning, as we could be implementing in less than 2 weeks. Our spaces are now set up for success, but how much learning is enough?

“How long do I have to teach each day?”

Let me paint you a classroom connection. Each week at school, we generally plan for Monday through to Wednesday; 6 hours of Literacy (ideally a Reading hour related to a Writing hour each day), 4 hours of Mathematics (just over an hour each day), 2 hours of Inquiry learning (exploration, student-led learning on a level, class or independent topic) and 2 hours of Social-Emotional skills (often scheduled after lunch to respond to challenges in the playground with an adaptable task).

Sample of a Maths Planner for Term 2 where we plan 3 experiences for the week based on curriculum and learner needs from the previous week.

Now flawless scheduling goes out the window when you add children to the equation. We see this balancing act unfold on weekdays, weekends, holidays and really any schedule you have ever made as a family (it used to be a daily self-talk strategy; “wait for it, where will we have to adjust the schedule today?”). Hence why we plan for just over half the week.

For context, this is what a snapshot of a day may look like; assembly, Reading, Mathematics for 2 hours and a Wellbeing session after lunch.

The planning needs flexibility. Initially it is grounded in the curriculum, but by Wednesday we begin to shape learning by taking snippets of what we have observed to build the tail-end of the week. Why? This is responsive and evidence-based learning.

A small snippet of the Victorian Curriculum and the suggested teaching for a child in Level 1. It contains the words ‘sharing’ and ‘splitting’ which correlate to setting up a task. See the Links page to explore the broader curriculum some more.

So how does this translate to home?

Now we begin to cross a rickety bridge. This is one of perspective. If I post a set number of hours, you may work to those hours of learning each day and if, on that day you have a headache and don’t make the suggested time bracket, you may begin to feel as if you have failed, or have not been the incredible home educator that you are! There is research that states children receive on average 3 minutes one-on-one time with their teacher each week. So it goes without saying, the impact you may have on a ‘hard’ day, is still growing that brain. I mean, each time we blink our brain changes. Keep that in mind; children’s brains are programmed to develop and grow.

Now, you have made it this far down the page because of your agile mind, don’t stop now! We cannot expect to be successful in home education if we teach the way we were taught. Educational research has shown us we are amongst a ground-breaking era. At home, your beautiful, teeny-tiny class size doesn’t even compare to our smallest Foundation class sizes of 16 and is miles from our class sizes of 35. Although, the research still tells us that we need to be explicit in the skill that we are teaching and responding to a need that we have seen (or heard). My point? Try not to bulldoze through online learning tasks, just because they are posted. Pause, break it down and look deeply at the skill. Stop and smell the roses per-say.

Imagine what could happen if the classroom practice changed to optimize the advantages of fewer students in a group!

John Hattie, 2008

So here it is, my ideal suggestion.

2-3 hours per day. Again this does not mean you are needed side-by-side for this whole time; our next piece we learn to educate using the ‘Gradual Release of Responsibility,’ where we set the children up to lead their learning after 15-20 minutes of parent-led teaching.

1x hour Literacy

1x hour Mathematics

1x hour Inquiry/Wellbeing/Student-Led Exploration

1.5x hours Literacy (Inquiry-Based exploring of a favourite text, this may include some screen time – say 10 minutes or a previously viewed episode)

1x hour Mathematics (active learning creating a schedule for the next day or a daily exercise/play agenda)

2x hours Mathematics (that includes Literacy, such as baking a recipe and then writing/speaking about it)

1x hour Inquiry (outside play exploring the garden or creating a game)

These are purely suggestions. The take-away learning is that it is dynamic day-to-day, person-to-person, family-to-family. There is so much more to this ‘ideal’ scenario, but grow your confidence in terms of being responsive. Wrap up learning if you can feel motivation waning or alternatively continue if there is engagement. The washing can wait…

If you are looking for research in the areas discussed, try ‘Visible Learning’ by John Hattie or the Department Guidelines on what truly has impact on learning.

Annie Brookman-Byrne (science writer and editor) encourages us to remain flexible and accept this break in our children’s traditional education. Click here to read.

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