Lockdown Homeschooling: How to help your children thrive during a pandemic
A few nights ago we had our first IG live session on #Homeschool during this period of quarantine (thank you to everyone who joined!).
We gleaned and shared so much knowledge that we really wanted to try and put together a summary of the conversation that happened on Instagram and then Zoom, so that more people could benefit. We hope it proves helpful during this challenging time. Please do share any further tips you have as well!
1. Remember we are in an Emergency Situation, not normal times. The plan should be to try and get through the next few months, not necessarily become a Master of Homeschool! Homeschooling in an emergency situation looks very different to what homeschooling would look like if we were in normal times. There’s no physical socialising with other kids, no outings to the library or museums and for many of us, parents have to also try and work from home! Be kind to yourself!
2. Do not try to replicate school at home. Admittedly this may work for some, and if it does, then please skip to number 3! But if you’re like us and have tried to do school away from school and it’s been a struggle, please stop struggling! Homeschool is not supposed to be like school. Most of us are not teachers and we have not been pupils for decades. Home has all our children’s comforts and distractions, and the people they love. Try and modify your technique to one that suits your whole family. This is really an opportunity to work on some skills that aren’t on the national curriculum, and teach them things you’ve been wanting to for years, but never had the time. Get creative!
3. Timetables – are they necessary? They are not for everyone, and some people prefer to be more child-led and go with the flow each day. For me and my household, they are important (for the most part), as we’re currently not dedicated homeschoolers and free-flowing activity has been a challenge with one parent WFH and the other going out to work. Also, our children enjoy structure and knowing what they’ll be doing a different times of the day. That said, we remain quite flexible. A sample of my timetable is available HERE. What you’ll see is that the school aged child only does around 2 hours of ‘academic’ work a day, and that is broken up into 30 minute sessions. And there is lots of play. Older children will be able to concentrate for longer and will have more targets or deadlines, so this will not be relevant to them. But for children of all ages, if you choose to do a timetable, work with the child to create it. Some people try to mimic the school timetable, some (like us), prefer to have a family timetable. Do whatever works for your family.
4. Review the support you’re getting from the school. Even though we’re all at home, do try and keep in contact with the school. Use the resources they give you. If you haven’t had much verbal or video support from the teacher, do feel free to ask for a conversation, especially if you need help or if the work you’re supplied is not challenging enough.
5. What should your child be learning? If you’re in doubt as to what your child should be learning for their age or level, https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/national-curriculum has the UK #NationalCurriculum for all stages.
6. Get creative with your lessons. Cooking and baking are potential lessons in science, maths, arts and crafts. #Coding is an amazing skill to develop and there are apps out there to support that. One parent who joined our session said she asked her two children who are different ages, to watch a film and then write a review – a lesson in comprehension, storytelling and critical analysis (that will also give you a bit of downtime!). Growing plants and vegetables at home is an ongoing activity that teaches children biology, patience, more about the environment and so much more.
7. Dealing with difficult behaviour, and the child who does not want to work. This can be extremely hard, especially if you have children of different ages or abilities. The first thing you probably need to do is stop. Stop and take a breather, extend the child (and yourself) a little more grace and re-evaluate. If you live with your partner you can ask them to take over, or enlist friends or family to do sessions via video call (put your friends without children to work!). You know your child best. See this time as an opportunity for you to figure out how your child learns best. I admit, I’m African and like a lot of other Africans and Caribbeans, I’m biased towards the idea that a child's only job is to get an education! So as their ‘manager’, how can you make reasonable adjustments to make it easier for them to do their ‘job’? It may be counter-intuitive but for a child with challenging behaviour, traditional methods may not work and you will have to get creative. Read up on different ways of learning, ask their teacher for ideas, ask the child what they enjoy doing and incorporate their learning objectives into that.
8. Preparation for 11+. If your child is planning to take the #11plus exam later this year, you probably have started preparation already and may have had tutors for a while. If you had a private tutor, maybe ask them if they would be willing to do video call sessions. If not, there are lots of practice books available online, and the selective schools themselves will often have example papers available on their websites. There are also lots of paid websites out there that will do virtual coaching, but these can get expensive. If you’d prefer to take on the challenge yourself, start with buying practice books and check Youtube for videos with tips on how to prepare your child for 11+, like this one for example.
9. Exam preparation for older children. This is going to be a super difficult time for older children who may have been preparing for important exams that would determine which colleges and universities they will attend. Schools, colleges and universities are already making adjustments and have plans in place for how to assess students in this time (if you or your child have not received communication about plans for this, contact the school/college immediately). In the meantime, whilst your child is likely doing more independent study, do check in on them often and ask if they are finding any parts of the work challenging, or need any help with anything. Many children struggle when they are in school with qualified teachers, let alone at home during a global lockdown. If you can, buy practice books if you haven’t already, revise with them, have them talk about what they’ve learnt that day. Ask them how they’re feeling about all the changes.
10. Exploring the Montessori method for younger children. We had an unplanned but very special guest @montessori.butterfly, who talked us through the #Montessori approach and ways it can help us raise bright, independent and confident children. We will definitely try and get her on the podcast to discuss this further as it was so insightful. For now, you can read up on the Montessori approach and follow her here.
- Collins writing workbook https://amzn.to/2yfynhF
- Pre – School Circle Time Videos with Monica J Sutton https://youtu.be/_QMv3bkEFWU
- Counting to 100 tool - https://amzn.to/3f41k0q
PRIMARY SCHOOL, SECONDARY SCHOOL and COLLEGE RESOURCES
- Scratch – programming app and website for children
- MoneySense – financial education for 5 – 18 year olds, provided by NatWest
- Twinkl – lessons and activities in lots of different subjects. Available free using the code CVDTWINKLHELPS
- Learning at Home with Kew Gardens – learning about plant and fungal science for all ages
- Chester Zoo – lots of learning resources on wildlife and sustainability
- Alphaphonics book – Excellent book for teaching to read and improving confidence
- BBC Bitesize - extensive learning resources
We hope this helps! Share any tips or resources you've found useful below.