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Rising above Lockdown – Why Homestead Matters

This week, Melburnians were delivered further restrictions and an extension to our sixth lockdown. It's been tough. As a mum, I'm acutely aware of how hard it is to strike a balance between managing work, finding some downtime and keeping our kids busy – all at home! At Woodleigh and as an educator, I am responsible for both the wellbeing and learning of Woodleigh students both onsite and at home during Continuous Learning.


My wellbeing work recently took me to the website of Dr Michael Carr-Gregg's. Michael is one of Australia's most widely recognised adolescent psychologists, and he recently shared some great reminders on how to navigate remote learning. Here are five points from his website I want to share with you:

  1. The first step is to make a daily schedule. Use an app or three-ring binder with a daily schedule per page. Every week, allocate the online classes, study time, reading, leisure time and household chores. Most school timetables incorporate morning recess and a lunch break, and a homeschool schedule should be no different.
  2. Education experts recommend that, where possible, students set up a discreet learning space, relatively free of interruptions and preferably not in a bedroom (which ideally should be associated with sleep). While online classes are in progress, all distracting mobile devices should be off and in another room.
  3. Third, while most schools will provide students with access to online education during lockdowns, supplementing their education with other tools can help young people explore interests they don't have time for during the school year. Caregivers can use a mix of free and paid sites like Outschool.com, ProdigyGame.com and KhanAcademy.org.
  4. Many young people have and will make a seamless transition to homeschooling, and some may struggle. So acknowledging this is a stressful time for them and offering reassurance around just doing their best can be helpful. Some days will be easier than others. Students accustomed to the school environment won't be as focused – but we can do things to make them feel more secure and feel like we're making the most of this challenging time, for example, using the Smiling Mind app for just 10 minutes a day. Allow for the fact that our kids will be holding a lot of tension around all of the sudden and often stressful changes to their routines and lives – and may need time to adjust.
  5. If possible, lunch and recess snacks should be prepared for the school day as usual so that the homeschooler doesn't just graze all day. That means selecting foods that pack a nutritional punch to ensure they get the fibre, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other health and immune-supporting compounds they need.

What parents and carers can do and say to help their child:

  • Choose your battlegrounds – focus on health and safety matters (rather than tidy rooms, etc.).
  • Focus on wellbeing – encourage children to focus on what they can control (sleep, diet, exercise and connecting with friends)
  • See life as it is – encourage children to reflect on what went well for the day (focus on the good bits).
  • We can't choose what happens, but we can choose our response – help children change their thinking. Australia has an outstanding free online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy program called MOODGYM.
  • Don't be afraid to reach out for help – contact your child's tutor, teacher, family friend or counsellor. Additional support can help your child manage a challenging time. Look after your wellbeing too. It will help you to be a helpful resource during this time.

Why Homestead Matters

Distance and a lack of face-to-face connection with our community do have an effect. It creates a challenge that we need to navigate with a thoughtful and positive approach. We are always trying to find ways to engage our students at Woodleigh, regardless of the difficulties we face. What I know is when a child's wellbeing is marginalised, or under duress, learning can be difficult. To help keep this from happening or minimise its effect, our Homestead Teams continually find ways to connect with their Homestead families. Framing the day can be important for a young person, and the opportunity to meet with their tutor at school is critical. Being up and at it in time to meet their tutor online at 8.45 am each day is essential, not only from an organisational perspective but for the vital connection and social interactions it brings. Seeing friends and connecting with staff on a social level are essential components of adolescent mental health. Homestead Coordinators and Tutors continue developing great sessions for students to be part of during our Continuous Learning Plan.

This week, I asked students to provide some insights on what Homestead means for them, and this is what they shared:

"Homestead is good during lockdown because it gives me a sense of family and that there are people who support you." Daisy

"Homestead 7, a place to meet in the mornings, play games, have competitions, ask questions or overall, a place that each person feels safe. Being in Year 10 has brought opportunities to talk to the younger students, give them advice on their first Homestead Camps, answer (to the best that we can) their questions, and guide them in making Homestead 7 a place they feel comfortable. Homestead sessions on zoom are made as fun as they can be. We spend time to reconnect and have fun with others the best we can." Milly

"I think Homestead is important because if you ever feel overwhelmed, you can always ask your tutor for help, and they will always be there for you." Ava

"Homestead 7 means a lot to me. It is a community – a community of people who are always there for each other and support each other. There is so much kindness and generosity. It is full of smiling faces and happiness." Nox

"Being in Homestead allows you not just to be confined to the same people of your grade. On my first day at Woodleigh, I didn't really fit straight away with anyone except with another Year 8 student. Without the grades being mixed in an everyday environment, I probably wouldn't know many people. The benefits of seeing other years mean that instead of just experiencing their 'distance', you can understand how they handle problems that you will have to face someday (in a few years). With every single one of my primary school friends going to different schools, whenever we have chats, not one of them has even mentioned knowing a person in different grades (except relatives at the school). I feel as though more schools should mix the grades often, as it allows for more real-life connections and socialises you more broadly with a wide range of people. With the Homestead activities and sessions involving everyone from Year 7-10, you can meet people who have like interests. Have conversations that reflect who you are, and not just the random talk of the class." Andy

"Senior Homestead is its own little community. It's a back-up support system and a foundation which unites the cohort. In the younger years, although the year level is close, it doesn't compare to the unity which is found in the Senior Homestead." Ruby

So, Keep Homestead strong, and I hope to welcome you back on campus in the near future.

NAT McLENNAN
Deputy Principal – Head of Senior Campus