Top tips for home schooling your kids
Never imagined you'd have to teach your kids? No idea where to start? Here are our top tips and useful resources for home schooling. Good luck!
Are you freaking out about home schooling and suddenly having the responsibility for your children’s education? Do those algebra and grammar lessons you had at school seem like an eternity ago (hate to break it to you but they probably were!)? Don’t panic, no one is expecting you to be teacher of the year overnight. Here are some top tips from fellow Muddy editor mums on how to survive when the kids suddenly see you as Mrs Mummy – science, maths, English, history, drama, PE… teacher all rolled in to one.
- Use the available resources to the max
First and foremost it’s important to clarify that if your child is registered at school, the school still has a responsibility to provide education to your child. You’re not on your own, home schooling the National Curriculum with no advice, help or support! So check with your school as to what their expectations are. If children have to continue to follow topics or the curriculum, then the school will need to make resources available.
Resources are also being prepared and put online by the minute by everybody from karate teachers and sports coaches to national bodies, so to list them all would be impossible. Here however are some starting points to cover the basics:
Twinkl: This is a great site used by teachers and home educators alike, bursting with resources, plans, activities and learning resources for all ages, on every subject under the sun. To support parents and schools during the coronavirus crisis many resources are now completely free.
Science Sparks: Run by the wonderful Emma, friend of Muddy, former teacher and author of several books, Science Sparks is one of the best and most comprehensive resources out there for all things science. There are activities and experiments suitable for all ages and using all sorts of easily-available materials.
Imagination Tree: Another absolutely legendary site that has been sustaining parents and home educators for years, Anna at Imagination Tree has activities, games and educational resources for all ages, particularly younger children. She’s also put together a fantastic self-isolation survival guide for anybody at home with kids.
Learning through Landscape: This outdoor learning charity is preparing and releasing resources for parents at home with children. There’s also a series of Facebook groups.
BBC Bitesize is a great resource for curriculum support and is poised to bring daily updated content for everybody juggling school at home.
Khan Academy: A brilliant nonprofit free online learning site which also has a range of resources and daily schedules for children aged 4-18.
Audible: Has just announced a collection of stories for free, for all ages, while school’s out.
Older children may enjoy the challenge of planning and carrying out their own learning. For younger kids, there will be a degree of help and supervision required but rather than have them writing out spellings and doing sums all day long, try and look for the learning in their play. Are they writing letters or drawing treasure maps? Counting out their little collections? Then they’ve got writing and maths covered.
- Create the right environment
It’s important to create designated work spaces when you’re home schooling. Older children who are more self-sufficient can have their own desks if you have space and work through the list that school has set much like they do their homework usually. Younger kids will need a more interactive setting. Sitting together round the dining room or kitchen table perhaps. Be sure to clear the table of anything “homey” like dirty dishes or general day-to-day detritus.
- Explain to your children why school has changed
It’s important for you to talk to your children about why they are now at home and the importance of keeping up with their school work. There are plenty of resources online for helping you communicate about coronavirus if you’re worried about scaring them.
For young ones this is going to be a tricky transition – home is for relaxing and all of a sudden it’s going to be a place for structured learning and play. So try and keep play and home schooling areas separate. Or use props to help them differentiate. One parent I know has taken their work lanyard and turned it into a teacher’s badge, so when she’s wearing that her kids know that she’s in full teacher mode and when it’s off she’s regular mummy.
- Keep to a routine
As mums we know this better than anyone right? Routine is all about comfort and security for children.
Chat to your kids about their school routine so you get an idea of their day and how you can replicate it as much as possible. This will help remove some of the fear from this very surreal experience.
Keep to your morning routine – get up at the same time and get dressed (some kids might like to put on their uniform) ready for the day ahead.
Try to design the learning schedule together and print a timetable that can be pinned to the fridge. Set break and lunch times and if like me you work from home, weave your work commitments alongside their learning.
Setting some school rules isn’t a bad idea – this could include ‘phone use, talking over one another and reinforcing the ‘absolutely no children in the staff room’ rule. Ever!
Don’t set unrealistic expectations for your new home schooling routine though – otherwise you’ll be setting everyone up for failure. This chart below might be a bit OTT but it will make you feel better about any days that don’t quite go to plan!
A routine is essential though if you have commitments that absolutely have to be fulfilled. If your children are too young to be able to supervise themselves, draw up a schedule that makes it absolutely clear which parent (if there’s more than one of you) is responsible for the children at what times. Make sure you both have enough time to work but also enough time to decompress. It’s not realistic to assume you can spend all your waking hours either working or entertaining/educating your children.
- Have a virtual playtime
They’ll love you for this one and you won’t be judged for screen time!
If you have the technology, download Zoom or Skype and create a virtual break or lunch time where your children can join their friends. You can have mutiple connections and that way the kids (and you) won’t feel so isolated.
While we’re on this – just like school, remove phones from your older kids and return them at break time!
- Be active
In a normal school week kids actually get quite a bit of exercise – be it the walk to and from school or PE/games. Being cooped up in the house is going to be our very own scientific experiment which could lead to an almightly explosion!
Instead of the school run, why not start and end each home schooling day with a dog walk or run around the local park.
If you don’t have a four legged friend or park nearby – Super Movers is a collaboration between the BBC and the Premier League which is packed full of fun activities designed to get kids moving, even in the confines of your living room.
- Embrace real-time learning
BBC Teach hosts over 30 recordings of interactive 30 to 40-minute programmes called Live Lessons, originally designed for use in the classroom, featuring leading experts and some of the BBC’s biggest brands and talent, including Doctor Who, Blue Planet Live and CBeebies.
With accompanying printable resources covering a range of subjects and Key Stages, you can make sure your kids are learning even during screen time (while you grab that much-needed break from them and a cup of tea).
- Teach them through home-based chores
One for the creative mums who like to get messy in the kitchen – BBC Food has a brilliant guide just for you on how to teach your children through cooking – including conveying concepts from fractions to adjectives and even practising modern foreign languages.
It even comes complete with simple recipes with everything from chocolate chip cookies to pancakes and ice cream, helping you to satisfy those cravings and get their brains in gear.
- Prioritise & Plan
Expert advice suggests that we prioritise the core curriculum subjects – Maths and English. They even propose that we get creative with the rest of the curriculum by watching Horrible Histories or Blue Planet – phew!
This might not be the case for older children, but at least if you have primary aged kids then you can inject some elements of fun.
Prioritise and plan what you’re going to cover each day/week and do your best to execute your plan. Like any new job, the first few days will be about finding your feet.
- Let them be bored
Intersperse your pre-planned enriching activities with plenty of down time that includes, but isn’t limited to, screen time. Creativity and imagination thrives on boredom, children are much more capable and resourceful than we often give them credit for. Yes, there will be whinging. Rather than shame your children (‘only boring people get bored!’) tell them you have every faith in their ability to find something fun to do. Try not to get drawn into arguments, but don’t always leap up and suggest something or reach for the remote. You didn’t die of boredom when you were young and your children won’t either.
- Chill out about screen time
Your children won’t spend all their waking hours watching TV. They honestly, honestly won’t. Promise.
- Look after yourself
Take time to relax, exercise – see our home work out guide – meditate and breathe – very, very deeply!
See you on the other side!