Courtney King knows a thing or two about education. She’s a primary school teacher, so she understands curriculum, syllabus, and ‘the system’. She’s also a private tutor, so she understands that different children require different approaches. Square peg, round hole – Courtney gets it. And, she’s also a mother – so she knows that sometimes, some days are just a write off, and what your child really needs is a cuddle and a batch of cupcakes (or maybe that’s just what WE need).
When Courtney started tutoring after the birth of her son, she realised there was a consistent gap in lots of children’s Mathematics education. “Either they hadn’t been taught in school”, she explains, “or they didn’t retain the information in a class setting”. While most of us might quietly panic that our kids were falling behind, Courtney got proactive, and developed The Learning Light – an incredible online resource to help parents empower their kids to take control of their Maths learning.
So as more and more of us are faced with the rather daunting prospect of homeschooling our kids for the foreseeable future, we figured there was no one better placed than Courtney to reach out to for advice from the front lines. And her no-nonsense, realistic, been-there advice is welcome relief. Our favourite takeaway? “If your school has sent home lots and lots of work, you can decide whether or not you do it. Don’t feel guilty if you don’t.”
She’s also all for bribes (well, she calls them ‘rewards’), puts your mental health first, and left us with this incredibly helpful reminder: “Your child will not fall behind. Remember that you are their parent, and not their teacher.”
And thank goodness for that.
Courtney has reduced The Learning Light Program to $90 plus postage to help during this time. Use the code LEARN at the checkout.
You're a trained primary school teacher, tutor, and a mother - how has life been as a tutor in the last couple of weeks? What are the biggest changes you've seen and how are you feeling?
This has been a huge time of uncertainty. Everyone has been taking one day at a time and planning for the future. We are lucky to live in a time that has access to so many online resources! The biggest question has been whether or not to send your child to school. When do we start to work from home? How long will this go on for? It seems that we are about to enter into more and more isolation which can be very scary and daunting, but necessary to tackle this virus!
My child’s school was very proactive and set up Google Classroom to link school and home. My social media feed is filled with home schooling tips and resources, which can also be very overwhelming. So I am going to take one day at a time and not try to figure it all out at once.
What inspired you to launch The Learning Light?
I have been a primary school teacher for over 15 years. When I had my own child, I started tutoring children from home. I have always loved to teach, and impart knowledge to children. I can teach all subjects, but for a period of time, all I was teaching was Maths (my favourite subject) to children around 8-10 years old, who hadn’t quite grasped the basics of Mathematics. There were gaps in their learning. Either they hadn’t been taught in school, or they didn’t retain the information in a class setting. I needed a clear sequence of lessons for all the kids I was teaching to be able to go back to the beginning, and lay a strong foundation in their learning for them to continue to build upon. The program also encourages mathematical thinking, which is essential for children to problem solve.
I was getting more and more enquiries for tutoring, and I filled all my sessions, so we filmed myself teaching these basic skills to kids. There are 20 video lessons. I also created a Learning Light Kit that is posted to you that has all the equipment that is needed – activity sheets, game boards, counters, dice, cards etc. This makes learning a bit more fun and parent friendly! The Learning Light Program is aimed at children from Kindergarten to Year Three.
With many parents worldwide now home schooling their children, what's your best advice for them?
Every family is going to do this differently. There is no right or wrong way to ‘home school’. Some parents themselves want a clear timetable, and others are going to go with the flow. Please do what works for you and your family. If frustration levels get high, then stop! You and your children’s mental health should be your number one priority!
I myself am going to ease into this. We will do some Maths games, reading, writing and some exercise each morning, and then I am happy for my child to guide his learning.
At the moment my 8 year old is watching a virtual walk through of San Diego Zoo and listing any animals he can see, because he loves animals. This is a great time to see what your children are interested in, and then use that to guide their learning. From 2pm each day, I am happy for my child to have ‘free choice’ time while I Zoom and tutor other children. At the end of the day, you will know what worked for you and what didn’t work, and each day is a new day!
If your school has sent home lots and lots of work, you can decide whether or not you do it. Don’t feel guilty if you don’t. You may want to choose one activity the school has sent, but don’t let this stress you out and cause frustration. The schools are trying to figure this out too, and are sending out work so they can say they are doing their best.
If you have children of different ages, then get them to do little bits of learning independently or do activities together such as reading to each other, listening to stories, cooking, free drawing, creating a comic, card games etc.
Your child will not fall behind. Remember that you are their parent, and not their teacher.
Also, don’t underestimate the power of ‘play’. Pull out all the old toys, and use this time to sort them out – you will find your child playing with them again (maybe one last time!).
The Learning Light is a fantastic resource for parents who might not feel confident tackling mathematics with their kids. Can you recommend any similar resources for other subjects?
There are so many resources out there, it can be overwhelming! These are some of the online tools that I will be using to help promote learning at home:
- Your school may already have access to Reading Eggs or Reading Eggspress, which is a great tool for reading
- Go Noodle is a YouTube channel for movement.
- Audible have free stories
- BTN is a fun way for children to learn what is happening in the world around them
- ABC Education is an online education website
- National Geographic Kids is linked with Science and Geography
There are also virtual tours of places around the world, science experiments, cooking shows – the list is endless, so be guided by your child’s interests and you may learn some new things too!
Do you suggest trying to home school to a timetable or schedule?
Most children like to have a ‘plan’. Sit down in the morning and write a schedule that suits you. Children feel safe and can be more motivated if there is clear structure. You may or may not tick everything off. At the end of each day, do a sweet and sour. Ask the children what their sweet was (what they enjoyed about the day) and their sour (their least favourite part of the day). Modify your schedule each day to keep the stress levels down.
For kids who are easily distracted, especially at home, what can we do to keep them focused and motivated?
Use rewards to help motivate your child to try their best and listen. Use whatever your child’s currency is – food, screen time, cash, time spent with you, etc. My son loves the Clinker Game and can be bribed into doing most things for a Clinker (guess the colour inside and if he guesses the right colour, he gets another one!) Ask them what they would like to learn about. Make a list of questions they want answered, and then research to see if you can find the answers together. Make sure your child has lots of opportunities to get active. Use YouTube movement and exercise channels, make an obstacle course, go for a bush walk, etc.
If parents are attempting to work from home and home school at the same time, do you have any hacks to help with time management?
Parents that are working from home and trying to home school will need a little bit more planning. It isn’t going to be easy to home school and work from home at the same time, so you may want to lower your expectations. Don’t compare yourself to everyone else. Create a list of activities with your child that they can do. Use online resources. The list can include activities like Go Noodle (exercise), reading, colouring in, Lego, puzzles, chores, a movie etc. Whatever works for your family. Free choice time will be your most productive time!
Any must-have products or practices for home schooling?
Set up an area that your children can work from – if possible a quiet and comfortable space, free of distractions. Make sure you have paper, pencils, stationary, art supplies, colouring in books. We have created a desk area with a post box so we can post notes to each other.
What's your mantra or philosophy for parenting during the lockdown/social distancing phase?
Go with the flow. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. It is ok for your child to be bored once in a while – that’s how they learn to be creative. Find things each day to be thankful for!