As of Monday, schools will be closed to all but the most vulnerable children. You might be one of the many parents now faced with a terrifying situation: the necessity to home school your child. Although I am not a parent, I’ve been a teacher for five years, and a private tutor for almost ten. Over that time, I’ve built the experience to deal with these sorts of situations, and want to help.
Here, I’ll share some practical advice for those of you who will be home schooling your children from next week.
1. Create a Learning Space
I’m sure, no matter how old your child is, their teachers have asked where they do their homework. What may seem like a somewhat invasive question is actually a really important one. Young people are not going to learn on the sofa in front of the TV, or planted on their beds.
A teacher’s role – and now yours – is to create their home school learning space. Do you have a dining table, desk and computer, breakfast bar that could double as a work space? Equip your learning space with comfy cushions (to deter a sore bottom), a range of stationery, and if possible, some form of internet access. Ideally, for the foreseeable future, reserve this space as the learning space during the week – you could consider having meals picnic style, on a mat in the centre of the living room if your dining table is out of use.
This action conditions children to be able to distinguish between work time and play time, so you would hopefully limit the number of tantrums or sulks over learning time.
2.Create a timetable
Making sure your child has a balance between learning and play is really important for their well-being and progress during this challenging time. This might differ depending on the ages of your children, but I would recommend about 4 hours of learning for secondary school age children, three for junior school age, and two for infant age. Encourage work only on weekdays – leave weekends for relaxation and play.
Secondary – Year 7 to Year 10
Schools will be providing work to cover missing lessons. They are likely to be given five or six tasks to do a day (depending on their school timetable) however not every task will take the 50 minutes, hour, or even two hours that their lessons would cover.
Teenagers often wake up later than their younger siblings. They will be desperate to access social media or gaming consoles, so I might create a timetable that looks something like this. If your child finishes their work before the hour is up, then let them use social media
|12pm||Social media/ Netflix break|
Junior – Year 3 to Year 6
For junior aged children, I would separate morning into learning time, and afternoons into free time. These children definitely wake up earlier than the teens, and they are slightly more productive in mornings. Teachers will likely be setting detailed work to complete, but for these children, English, literacy, and maths are by far the most important subjects. It might look like this.
Use ‘play’ time to cover some of the other subjects like art and music. Let your child perform a concert to you and your family, or create a gallery showcase of art work.
|1pm onward||Free time|
Infant – Reception to Year 2
With infants, play is one of the most important parts of their lives. Again, the school might be sending work for your child, but be sensible, be conscious.
I would teach in 20/30 minute blocks, and make sure that the ‘learning’ is active, and fun. Perhaps something that looks like this.
Read a story and draw what happens next; counting by playing jenga. You will likely be most hands on with children of this age, but my does it give you some quality bonding time that you wouldn’t have otherwise had.
3.Only ‘Help’ When They Need It
Our natural instincts, when working one on one with a young person in home school is to watch their every word, and their every move. Don’t! Young people need to be given independence to complete work, even during home school, and your looming over their shoulder might demotivate them, causing arguments and tantrums in the future.
Moreover, nit picking, such as pointing out your child’s every grammatical error is counter productive. When teaching English, even in small groups, I often don’t pick students up on every error they make. I choose the error that I am going to focus on for the day (e.g. capital letters) and I tactically ignore all other errors. Now the children don’t feel like I’m battering them with negativity, and I definitely make sure I praise them when they have got it right.
Your teens are likely not going to want your help – ugh, you’re not doing it right. That’s not how my teacher does it – your junior age children might call on you when they are stuck or frustrated. Your infant children are going to need your attention during learning cycles. Adapt your day to suit the needs of your child rather than running your day parallel to theirs.
4.Stay Positive and Patient
A huge trick of the trade for teachers is patience and positivity. We might be seething with frustration that we’ve given the same instruction four times and still someone’s hand shoots up to ask ‘What are we doing?‘
We all know that children love to test our patience. They are especially likely to do so when they are trying to avoid work – trust me, I experience it every day. Again, my advice is to walk away and leave your child to whatever it is they are doing. Don’t be afraid to leave something until later too. Humans revise best in 20 minute blocks, so it might be that your child isn’t being intentionally difficult, they are just being overloaded with information. Breaks can be your best friend during these difficult times.
Lastly, if you’re finding that you need a break, Youtube has a brilliant collection of educational videos and documentaries, and there are a range of websites like Tes.com, BBC Bitesize, and Khan Academy that you can utilise.
Don’t fear the prospect of home schooling your children. Home school offers you an opportunity to truly see your child’s ability and attitude towards learning, and it might change the way you approach education for life. Good luck and stay safe.
Any other ideas you think should be shared? Leave a comment below and let’s help each other.