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Creating Supportive Routines in a Time of Uncertainty

Creating Supportive Routines in a Time of Uncertainty

Posted: 25 Mar 2020

By now all of us are on high alert due to the Covid-19 virus pandemic. In South Africa we are facing an unprecedented emergency situation that has left millions of people looking for alternative ways to work and study. Parents who are usually out at work are now needing to be at home and manage their children indoors as well as other aspects of running a household. Normal ways of coping are not available to us and so we have to be creative and flexible in the face of this challenge.


Education is one of the primary concerns for many parents who wish to make this time constructive and productive for their children. Having a structure and routine that is confidently and consistently in place is vital. This will go a long way towards soothing and containing children who are having to cope with a great deal of anxiety and uncertainty, and do not yet have adult coping mechanisms to help ground them. It is up to parents to instill a sense of positivity and organised calm in the home and learning environment.

Here are some helpful pointers to set up and maintain a new routine and space.

  • Focus on the facts and not panic - give children enough information to keep them included and involved with what is happening, but not so much that it causes them to feel overwhelmed and powerless
  • Remind children that they can be super-heroes in this situation by acting responsibly and playing their part.
  • Have children go to bed at the same time as they would on a school night.
  • Have children get up at the same time each morning and get dressed.
  • Build exercise time into the day.
  • Have regular mealtimes.
  • Have family conversations and times together that do not focus on the virus but other positive topics. Time spent with family gives a child a sense of meaning, belonging and security.
  • If possible, set up a separate learning area in the house. Preferably, this should be a different space from where the children relax. A desk in the bedroom or a table in a quiet space is ideal.
  • Remove electronic devices during learning time as they will only be a distraction.
  • Draw up a set timetable that demarcates how time will be spent.
  • Try to include journaling as part of the timetable for older children, as this will give them perspective and self-expression. Writing down three new things each day that they are grateful for sets a positive tone for the day.
  • Include outside play time in the schedule if possible, as nature and sunlight are proven to calm and improve mood and boost the immune system.
  • Meditation and relaxation exercises are shown to reduce anxiety and improve attention. Read more on this and find valuable meditation exercises for children here: https://blog.mindvalley.com/meditation-for-kids/
  • Supervise assigned work and check that it is being completed, without being over-involved. Frequent communication and encouragement are key, but don't get in the way. Try to let children manage on their own as much as possible.
  • Break up work into do-able chunks so that neither you nor the children are overwhelmed. 
  • Allow for regular breaks in between to give knowledge time to consolidate in the brain.
  • Allow for transition times between activities - warn children a few minutes before an activity is about to end and a new one is about to begin. It is comforting for children to know what is coming next.
  • Think about the technology that you need. Older children may require Zoom or Skype for interacting online with teachers and Adobe Acrobat Reader (free) for working with PDF documents, and specific video players such as Adobe Flash player.
  • Encourage reading of a wide range of materials as this helps to feed children's natural curiosity and reduce cabin fever




Depending on the age of your child or children, these are the subjects that are presently being covered in South African schools on the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) for Grade R to 12, or the National Curriculum Framework (NCF) for Early Childhood Development. 


Early Childhood Development (Birth - 4 years)

Areas of focus are:  Well-being / Identity and Belonging / Communication / Exploring mathematics / Creativity / Knowledge and understanding of the world


Foundation Phase (Grade R-3)

Home Language

First Additional Language (not Grade R)

Second Additional Language (not Grade R)


Life Skills - Beginning Knowledge / Creative Arts / Physical Education / Personal & Social Wellbeing


Intermediate Phase (Grades 4-6)

Home Language

First Additional Language

Second Additional Language


Life Skills

Natural Science and Technology

Social Sciences


Senior Phase (Gr7 - 9)

Home Language

First Additional Language

Second Additional Language


Life Skills

Natural Science

Social Science


Economic and Management Science

Creative Arts


Further Education and Training (FET) Phase (Grades 10 to 12)

Home Language

First Additional Language

Second Additional Language

Mathematics / Mathematical Literacy

Life Orientation

Various non-languages as chosen by student




Below are some examples of timetables. Once the content of the various time slots has been decided, it is helpful for children to create or fill in their own timetables as this gives them a sense of ownership of their work and time. Before completing a schedule, spend some time discussing the goals for the week with your child, if age appropriate. Check that the learning content provided by your child's school, or content that you have sourced online or using textbooks, is evenly distributed across the working week, and that each subject receives the correct amount of attention. Aim to follow time frames provided by schools and allow some flexibility depending on your child's progress.


These blank weekly timetables can be downloaded at: http://shared.confessionsofahomeschooler.com/calendar/DailyHomeschoolSchedule_Blank.pdf

and https://thebusywoman.com/free-homeschool-schedule-template/



For younger children, a visual timetable can be created using labels such as the ones below.

These and more labels can be downloaded at: https://www.lovelycommotion.com/blog/benefits-visual-schedule

or children can draw their own.


In closing, be patient with yourself and your child or children. It is a daunting task helping children become more independent learners at any time, and they are facing many additional challenges at present - not being able to partake in their usual activities or social gatherings. This is a season that children will remember forever, so choose to make it as peaceful and beneficial as possible. 


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