Teaching and Learning in the Home! - COVID-19

Teaching and Learning in the Home! - COVID-19


Attention parents who are home-schooling children!

'Good afternoon from the SBHI Education and Training Department! We have already entered our first full week of school closures. The novelty, for the children, has probably worn off by now (maybe it wore off on day 2!) - but the education must go on! And now, parents must learn a whole new skill for themselves – home-schooling.

Home-schooling is not easy – difficulties can arise with children of different ages in the home, parents not understanding the older children’s subjects and children missing the social side of school life. To support those who are home-schooling children, SBHI will be providing tips on our website to support parents in these unforeseen circumstances. Starting from 4pm today, we will be posting advice for parents daily with our 'Teaching and Learning in the Home' guide!

Unfortunately, we do not have all the answers! Therefore, we are asking you to contact our Education and Training Manager, Sean, at [email protected] or 087 379 2051 with any suggestions, ideas or questions. We are especially interested in getting advice on how to engage children with spina bifida and/or hydrocephalus. Are there different ways of teaching this group? Do we need to make concessions?

So, look out for the first bulletin this evening around 4pm. Until then, Happy Teaching!'

We are running a weekly competition!

❗🎊It's time for Competition #2🎊❗

We are running a weekly competition as part of the Teaching and Learning in the Home guide! The theme for this week will be… Visual Art🎨Children can submit a drawing, picture, clay model or anything visual! Take a picture of your masterpiece and send it to [email protected] The closing date is 5pm on Friday, 10th April. The competition is open to children with spina bifida and/or hydrocephalus and there are 3 age categories that can take part: 3–6 years, 7–12 years, and 12–16 years.

There will be a fantastic prize for each age group… a voucher for Kenny’s online bookshop!📚

Topic 1 - Routine and Discipline

There are two ways that you can approach teaching in the home – Curricular or Autonomous.

Curricular means following what the teacher has set out for your child - most schools will have given or will regularly give, specific work to be followed. This means that when the schools reopen the child will be, more or less, at the point they should have been at if classes had continued.

Autonomous means that you go wherever the day, the environment or the child’s interest brings you. This could mean that the day, like today, brings you to the garden or the kitchen. Learning is going on, but in a less structured way.

Both options, Curricular and Autonomous, are equally effective and each style has something to offer all children. What will decide your choice is the learning style of your child and your own experience of education. Tomorrow, I will explain Learning Styles. But for today, let us look at routines and maintaining the discipline of work.

No matter which approach you decide on – Curricular or Autonomous – a routine must be established early-on. Routines are extremely important for the child’s self-esteem and the parent’s sanity. With an established routine, we are never surprised by what comes next, nor are we anxious about it either. A routine can be very organised and structured to every half hour (e.g. secondary school) or it can be rather loose and flexible (e.g. pre-school) - it can also be somewhere in-between the two options!

A popular way of maintaining routine is the ‘Pomodoro Method’. The name of this method derives from the wind-up tomato shaped timers! Here’s how it works:

• Write down the tasks/subjects that you want to cover each day.

• Set a time for each task (based on the age of the child) and set a timer for that amount.

• When the time is up - tick off the task and take a 5-minute break.

• When 4 tasks in total are completed, take a longer 15 to 30-minute break.

This approach will suit most people. Very quickly, in roughly 2-3 days, this structure will become the norm and children will respond positively to it. It has a built-in reward (a break) and it gives the child control over it because they set the time and they tick off the tasks.

Of course, you do not specifically need a Pomodoro timer. You can use your phone, their phone, an alarm clock or even the oven timer!

It would be great if some of you could try it out and tell me how it works. Even better, if you have a different method, let me know and I’ll share it here on this page! If you have any tips, hints, or questions, please get in contact:

• Sean O’Doherty • SBHI Education and Training Manager • e: [email protected] • t: 087 379 2051

Topic 2 - Learning and Teaching Styles

I think we can all agree that everyone has their own way of learning - and the good news is that there is a theory that explains that! But we don’t need big, overly complicated theories, do we? Well, some of us do - me included. Don’t be worried if this topic is new to you, or a bit difficultit is certainly worth sticking with.

In the 1990’s, the Department of Education began teaching every Primary School Teacher in Ireland ‘Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligence’. Simply put, the theory states that there are eight different ways of learning, so a teacher, over a term, will have to teach a lesson or topic eight different ways. Simple! Well, in fact, it’s not simple. But neither is it very hard. Before we go on, you might want to look at this video:

Or, if you are an intrapersonal learner, you might like this:

Before Gardner’s Theory reached Ireland, parents and teachers would have known something about different learning styles. There was the old Christian Brother’s maxim about pupils: The Tell Me one, the Show Me one and the Let Me one. I imagine that if you are in your home – house or apartment - with a few children, you will have sorted out by now how each one learns. And you are probably, without even thinking about it, changing your teaching style constantly. So, you may agree with me when I say that changing styles is not the hard bit – it’s finding ways to keep the children interested. You now have a golden opportunity to be creative and do this your way while maintaining the child’s interest for most of the time. Here are some of my suggestions for keeping things interesting in the Home-school classroom.

• Get outside if you can. Spring is coming, all those daffodils will teach us about colours, counting, sets, art, ecology, biology. The older, secondary school pupil – why can’t they read outside?

• Dance through the curriculum, or just move. The Bodily-Kinaesthetic learner will do this anyway, so you encourage them. We can do maths by jumping from number to number, making geometric shapes with our limbs, writing the story of the number 5. (Okay the last one is probably pushing it a bit!)

• Get the older children to deliver a lesson to the younger ones. This is great for a bit of variety, but it also helps the older child to order and remember the elements of the topic.

• Bake. Cook. It all happens here – science, maths, home-economics, independence, reading, organisation, health.

That’s it for now. I hope to continue this blog each weekday - but it needs your help! Please contact me with your stories, hints, questions, wisdom, and I will share these on our website updates. If you want to stay anonymous, no problem - just let me know.

Talk tomorrow!

• Sean O’Doherty • SBHI Education and Training Manager • e: [email protected] • t: 087 379 2051

Topic 3: Spina bifida/hydrocephalus (sb/h) – Reading and Writing

Welcome back to the daily blog - I hope everyone is getting on okay! Today, I want to talk about reading and writing and how this might affect a child with sb/h. I use the word ‘might’ because as we know - all children are different. Plenty of children experience little to no problem learning to read, while others might experience certain difficulties throughout their education. Children with sb/h are no different.

Because reading is so essential in our everyday lives, it is the most important skill we can learn in school. Can you name one job in modern Ireland that does not require any reading skills? Even the most manual jobs require the ability to read health and safety instructions!

Furthermore, in my humble opinion, reading is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Reading can be a wonderful escape, particularly in worrying times such as these! If you haven’t got your child started on reading for pleasure during the school closure, or you’re running out of books, here’s a good resource: - this suggestion comes from one of our volunteers, Clodagh McClean.

Now, we focus on the specific issues relevant to children with sb/h. If we observe the reading and writing skills of children with sb/h, we can make the following assumptions about their strengths and weaknesses:

• Most children with sb/h have an average IQ.

• The verbal skills of children with sb/h are usually stronger than their nonverbal skills.

• If an IQ test is carried out verbally as opposed to written, this usually provides a better indication of the child’s strengths.

• Children with sb/h usually have good reading and spelling skills – but their comprehension and maths skills are usually weaker.

Yesterday, I discussed teaching and learning styles. For a child who lives with sb/h, this theory becomes even more important. Many of the children I have worked with over the years have been labelled as “lazy” or “lacking in motivation”. This act of labelling then creates a false narrative when in reality - children are simply experiencing learning problems like many others. If we continue teaching in a way that children aren’t understanding, they are going to become unmotivated and ‘switched off’. If we do not adapt to their learning style, we are contributing to the problem.

In primary school, children are “learning to read” up until around second class. From second class onwards, children are “reading to learn”. Reading to learn requires children to comprehend what is happening in the text and how to use this information in other areas. In order to help children with memory, recall and comprehension - the following strategies might be useful:

• Use visuals (maps, photos, models, objects) to help the child imagine a picture in their mind. This will help them “see” what is being said or described.

• Give simple verbal explanations.

• Ask the child to paraphrase or describe what they have just read. This can be done at the end of each paragraph or page.

• Have a quiz after each reading session. (A fun quiz!)

• In the text, highlight the important parts.

• If you can, act out the story. If this is not possible, watch the film. So, you need to pick a book with a film version. YouTube will have a lot of film segments; this is also a good option.

• Read the comprehension questions at the end of the story before beginning to read.

• Try and get the child to identify the “main idea” in the story. Then read again and discuss with them the secondary idea.

Contact details:

• Sean O’Doherty • SBHI Education and Training Manager • e: [email protected] • t: 087 379 2051 • Facebook:

Topic 4 - DON’T PANIC!

I’m writing this bulletin on the afternoon of Thursday, 26th March - day 14 of the national quarantine! At this point, most people are now getting into a groove, rhythm, or entering a zen-like state. The remaining people (myself included) are still trying to get a routine going or are jumping from one thing to another! I’m working from home now and while I am getting the work done, I have a whole new set of distractions to grapple with. And sometimes I do wonder if some of the things I’m working at are right or even relevant! Part of the reason for this is that I don’t have the same opportunity to chat with other people and run things by them. Conference calls, Skype, Zoom and WhatsApp are just not the same.

But at least I don’t have children to look after! I’m hearing from a lot of parents that they are at their wits end trying to conduct home schooling. I have also spoken to several teacher colleagues and they have reassured me that parents, in this strange time we’re in, are not expected to home school. So, DON’T PANIC!

The main thing to remember is – you are NOT a teacher (unless, obviously, you are a teacher. If you are, contact me. We have another 24 days of this!). Your main role (and forgive me if I’m stating the obvious here) is to keep your child occupied, entertained, but also to keep them in the ‘education zone’. Your children can continue learning, but on a more informal basis. Yesterday, I was speaking about reading and how it can be adapted for a child living with sb/h. I need to emphasise that this needs to be kept fun. When we come to the writing part, this can be fun too. Try and get your child to write down the shopping list. An Post are sending out free post cards – give them to your children!

Now, a quick detour to something completely different! SBHI will be running a weekly competition soon. Full details will be announced on this blog and our social media (Facebook/Instagram: @SBHIreland) on Monday 30th – so watch this space! To give you a preview - each week, the competition will be based on a theme and will be split into 3 age categories. The age categories are: 3–6 years, 7–12 years, and 12–16 years. There will be a prize for each age group - a voucher for Kenny’s online bookshop!

The theme for this week will be… writing! The children can:

• Submit a letter to a friend or relative.

• Send in a diary entry.

• Write a blog.

• Tell a couple of jokes.

• Anything at all!

Just remember to give me their name, address, age and class level.

So - start brainstorming, get your children practicing and I’ll talk to you on Monday!

• Sean O’Doherty • SBHI Education and Training Manager • e: [email protected] • t: 087 379 2051 • Facebook:

Topic 5 - Physical Workouts

Hello again! I’m writing this on the afternoon of Friday, 27th March after a very strange week. We all have things to deal with that have been exaggerated by this Covid-19 emergency such as rearing children and looking after elderly parents while minding our own physical and mental health. However, am I right in saying that we are starting to get into a routine? I certainly am! The anxiety surrounding the future is still present, but I think I am handling it a lot better. I was listening to the radio a little while ago and there was man called Michael talking - he said that what helps him get through the dread was thinking of people in a worse situation than him. These might be people in hospital, nursing homes, people who have lost their job or the homeless. So maybe that might work for you. Most of the time, it works for me.

I asked Jennifer McKee, who some of you might know from the Wheelchair Skills Training programme, to contribute to this post and she sent me the following:

'Finding ways to stay active can be challenging enough without having to do so while staying home. We know that physical activity has numerous benefits for people of all ages and all abilities, yet sometimes we aren’t sure how to modify activities to make it possible for everyone to participate. Staying home to protect you, your family, and our community may just be the perfect time to explore the different ways your body moves and to try a new approach to a familiar game.

For example, if you or your family member has a difficult time running or using their legs, perhaps you can try playing a game that involves tossing a ball, bean bag, or balloon, waving ribbons around, lifting a parachute or blanket, or dancing to your favourite music. Making changes to the rules or how a game is set up can also be helpful, such as making nets lower, having everyone sit on the ground, making the playing area smaller, playing partner games, using rackets or paddles, or using a larger ball.

Here are links to videos for home exercises that you can modify to your own abilities:

- Jennifer McKee, Doctor of Physical Therapy, working as a wheelchair skills trainer, clinical educator, and research assistant.'

Clodagh McClean, a Primary Teacher in Louth, has also contributed to today’s topic. I have included one of her pieces below and I will share more of these tomorrow.

Finally, you may have read or heard this on the radio, but here it is again. It is a wonderful piece of common sense written by Catriona Golden, Principal at Ennis Educate Together National School:


• Sean O’Doherty • SBHI Education and Training Manager • e: [email protected] • t: 087 379 2051 • Facebook:

Topic 6 - Links, things and stuff!

Hello again to anyone that’s still reading this blog! We are now entering week 3 and it’s still feeling very strange. How are the children doing? How are the adults coping? I’m looking out the window of my box bedroom, my (new) office and I can see Spring really trying to force its way through the end of Winter. Buds are forming on some trees, and on others, leaves are emerging from buds. There is colour appearing in the hedges and of course, daffodils are in bloom a while now.

This is an amazing time of the year – it is both vigorous and healthy. It’s also a great time to keep the children learning. Gardens, fields or window boxes – whichever is outside your door can be used to keep children interested and entertained. Many primary school teachers are trained in the ‘Froebel Method’. The garden, Froebel believed, offered an ideal environment for young children. Through gardening, exploration and outdoor play, children develop an important understanding of the natural world and an appreciation for its beauty. It was from this belief that he ‘invented’ the Kindergarten! So, get out and start doing!

The following extract comes from the Froebel Trust which might be of interest. Play outdoors offers:

• Rich, sensory first-hand experience which is essential for growing minds.

• Engagement with the wonder and mystery of the natural world.

• Space and freedom to try things out, explore, experiment and investigate how the world works.

• Space for whole-bodied, expansive movement.

• Engagement with key concepts such as gradient, gravity, speed and energy or such things as life and death.

• Opportunities for adventure, risk and challenge.

• Opportunities for meaningful learning in all areas of the curriculum.

All the above aspects are interrelated and connected. Each aspect impacts one another - this was Froebel’s unique insight.

Today, too often an aspect of a child’s learning is seen in isolation. For example, concerns about obesity can lead to exercise programmes such as ‘treadmills for toddlers’. However, Froebel emphasises that movement is a fundamental part of a child’s very being and it is spontaneous play and exploration that motivates children to move, not exercising or keeping fit! The value of play outdoors cannot be realised in bland, safety–surfaced play areas. Outdoor play is about potential – the potential of spaces to engage a child’s imagination, curiosity and creativity while fostering their health and well-being.

As Froebel argued, the quality of the environment and the interactions within it are crucial. If you want to know more about Froebel, you can click here.

Many thanks to Joanne, Talent and Yvonne for sharing the next three resources:

That’s all for today, talk again tomorrow!


• Sean O’Doherty • SBHI Education and Training Manager • e: [email protected] • t: 087 379 2051 • Facebook:

Topic 7 - Keep on keepin’ on!

Here’s the thing - every time I sit down to start this blog, I don’t really know what I’m going to write about! Yet something always comes to me. Some days I’m happy with the results, other days, less so.

Sometimes, I think I experience ‘imposter syndrome’. Among the people I know reading this, many are teachers, parents, psychologists, childcare practitioners and other similar experts. With that being said – many of you don’t need any help in doing what you are doing! But in these abnormal times, a lot of us can be thrown off our stride. That’s why I’ve written these daily blogs. I’ve tried to keep it real, keep it relevant, always with the hope that it might be of some help to someone.

Additionally, I am also enjoying the “doing” of it (the writing, that is). It’s not quite a diary, but it is a big change from my other work and it really breaks up the day. I was talking with my colleagues this morning online and we all remarked on how long the day was, especially the evenings, now that we are confined to our homes. For me, writing this blog is a nice pause between work and the rest of the day.

Which brings me to my main, and possibly only, point of today’s post – HELP!

Yes, I need some help. Would you like to contribute an article to the website? 500 words. It only takes a little while. Here are some of the key words you could focus on:

• Covid-19

• School

• Education

• Stress tips

• Children

If you do want to write send it to the email below, and I’ll get in touch with you.


• Sean O’Doherty • SBHI Education and Training Manager • e: [email protected] • t: 087 379 2051 • Facebook:

Topic 8: Guest Blogger – Fiona O’Sullivan

Hello again everyone! In my last post, I asked if anyone would like to contribute to this blog, and I got this response from Fiona O’Sullivan. Fiona is an SBHI Family Support Worker based in Wexford. She is currently covering for Jane Mullane who is on maternity leave. So - over to you, Fiona!


Adapting to working and schooling from home can be very difficult for us all. It is really important to remember that we will get through this and everyday life will soon be back to normal. But for now, try to enjoy the time spent at home as much as possible by being creative and thinking of innovative ways to use this time to your advantage.

Here are some tips that you may find useful:

Re-Decorate - Clear out those wardrobes and ‘that drawer’ that has been neglected for years. While most hardware shops are closed, you can still order paint, wallpaper etc online! Try to order from an Irish supplier and check that they are still delivering. This can be a fun way for all the family to get involved and have some fun. Tile stickers are also amazing if you have yet to come across them. It is such a cheap and easy way to transform old tiles. Look them up!

If you are sick of looking at old furniture, why not use this time to upcycle? Chalk paint works wonders!

Come Dine with Me - This is so much fun! Take turns in cooking, pair up in teams, plan your menu and get to work! To add to the fun, come up with a prize! Some that we have used in our household include no housework for a week for the winners, no homework for a week and breakfast in bed passes!

Reach Out - We are all missing our friends and family right now and it’s still important to reach out to them. Set up video chat ‘play dates’ with relatives or school friends or write a letter to granny or grandad!

Gratitude Diary - It’s a great idea at night before we go to sleep to have a gratitude journal and write down 3 things of which we are grateful. This can lower stress levels and promoting a calm feeling while helping you focus on what really matters. It can help you gain a new perspective of what is important to you and what you truly appreciate in your life.

But most importantly…



• Sean O’Doherty • SBHI Education and Training Manager • e: [email protected] • t: 087 379 2051 • Facebook:

Topic 9 – Mindfulness

What Is Mindfulness?

When we are in a mindful state, it means that we are aware of our thoughts and our feelings. It also means that we are aware of what these thoughts and feelings are doing to our body and what sensations they trigger. Mindfulness also means that we live in that moment and that we accept all these things. To do that, we must pay attention to them and accept what they are telling us.

Accepting these feelings means that we don’t pass judgement on them. We accept that it is okay to feel this way at that particular time. There is no right way to think or feel, just as there is no wrong way to think or feel. When we feel a certain way, and learn to accept this feeling, we are not living in the past or thinking about the future – we are rooted, at that moment, in the present.

What Mindfulness will not do:

Mindfulness does not make the world go away. Whatever is happening in your head, inside your house or outside in the world will not go away because you stood still for a moment. Equally, your problems will not disappear because you concentrated on a flower for five minutes. The problem stays - as does the flower.

What Mindfulness can do:

It is a tool. A tool that will allow you to look at things in a calmer manner. Have you ever been ‘all over the place’ worrying about a problem thinking; ‘why did I do that?’ or ‘why did I not do this?’. Alternatively, have you ever worried about something in the future; ‘what if she says this?’ or ‘what if I don’t get there on time?’. Then a friend or family member tells you to slow down, explain to them the problem one piece at a time and slowly, it starts to make sense. The problem becomes ‘fixable’, you feel calmer and then you can work out a plan. Well, that’s what mindfulness does - it provides you with clarity whereby you can see the problem for what it is. You stop exaggerating the issue and making it into something it isn’t. You start to solve or accept the matter at hand.

How/when do I practice Mindfulness?

Practice mindfulness during routine activities. For example, pay more attention to brushing your teeth, taking a shower, eating breakfast or going outside for exercise. Focus on what you see, what you taste or what you hear. If you go for your daily exercise, look up! Observe the tops of the tree and houses while picking out the different shapes and colours. Clear your mind for that little bit of time.

Practice mindfulness right as soon as you wake up. If you find that you fall back asleep, practice mindfulness just before you have your breakfast or coffee. The important thing is not to turn on the radio, TV or check your phone until you have completed 5 – 10 minutes of mindfulness. This will set you up for the day and make it easier to repeat the sessions. Let your mind wander. Don’t worry about where your thoughts go, this is good for the brain.

Keep your sessions short. Our brains respond better to bursts of mindfulness. So being mindful several times a day is more helpful than a lengthy session or even a weekend retreat. For instance, you can tune into your body, such as focusing on how your shoes feel on your feet in that moment.

Pick a prompt to remind you to be mindful. Choose a cue that you encounter on a regular basis to shift your brain into mindful mode. For instance, you might pick a certain doorway, mirror or use drinking coffee or tea as a reminder!

That’s all for now, I will return to this topic next time. Don’t forget to get in touch!


• Sean O’Doherty • SBHI Education and Training Manager • e: [email protected] • t: 087 379 2051 • Facebook:

Topic 10 - A Short Guide to Mental Resilience

Good day, everybody! I hope you are all keeping well. I took yesterday off to enjoy a long weekend. Even though I did nothing special, it felt different with everyone being on restricted movements. I think the reason for this was that I made a conscious decision to treat it as a day off. For me, taking a day off is an attempt to keep my life as normal as possible and that is what we are all trying to do in what are extraordinary and unexpected times. Karen Malone, who works in the SBHI National Resource Centre, sent me some advice on what has been working for her daily routine:

‘I make sure I’m up, washed, dressed and ready to switch on my desktop at 9am. I also go out onto my balcony and take a lung full of fresh air before I start as my body would have been used to going outside before I started work normally.

At lunch I go for a 30-minute walk if it’s not raining, just so that I can clear my mind and get some vitamin D and fresh air again, it’s good for your body and mind.’

- Karen Malone

However, if you are finding things difficult, here are a few more tips for maintaining good mental health.


Before Bed

Practice self-care before bed. Think positive thoughts. Breathe in some fresh air, even from an open window. Put on some calming music. STOP watching screens, read a book instead.

After Waking Up

Don’t turn on your phone immediately. Open your curtains, open the window, take a drink of water.


Did you drink enough water today? Among many benefits, drinking plenty of water will make you feel less tired. It’s when you’re tired that you will find it hardest to fight negativity.


Stay clean. Have a shower every day if possible. The water from a shower generates negative ions which help us to produce serotonin, which in turn relieves stress. Put on clean clothes. Don’t be afraid to dress up.


Get all the sleep you need - which is not the same as get all the sleep you want!


Reduce stress – move around, do some exercises.


• Sean O’Doherty • SBHI Education and Training Manager • e: [email protected] • t: 087 379 2051 • Facebook:

Topic 12 - Wheely Good Fitness

Hello again, everybody! This blog has now changed to a weekly update and the good news is - I am not going to write any more today! Instead, I’m going to share with you a link to a series of videos developed by Wheely Good Fitness.

The aim of Wheely Good Fitness is to ensure that people living with a disability can take part in and benefit equally from varying fitness activities suited to their individual needs. The programme also focuses on removing personal and social barriers while raising awareness of how a lack of exercise can affect your health.

So, check out these videos and get going!


• Sean O’Doherty

• SBHI Education and Training Manager

• e: [email protected]

• t: 087 379 2051

• Facebook: