Here’s our second post for any parents who are currently homeschooling their children.
It’s confession time: my husband and I educated our children at home for almost 16 years. That does not make us experts about home education (or home schooling), but we did gain a bit of experience. So I’ve written some tips which may be useful to parents who unexpectedly find themselves in charge of their child’s school work due to the Coronavirus lockdown.
1) Start at the beginning: what is expected/needed?
When we began to home educate our oldest child we thought we’d try it for just a term, so in that way it’s a little similar to what many parents are doing now. We thought our children would go to school at some point, so we used books and resources linked to the National Curriculum as the basis of what we did. Your child’s school is probably providing work and guidance about what they expect your child to do, so that’s a great starting point. Hopefully you’ll be able to talk to them about any problems/worries you have (remember, this is new to them too).
Enjoy this time and new experience with your children! It’s difficult to learn if you’re stressed or anxious (and that’s probably most of us at the moment). When we started we worried a lot about whether we were doing the right thing, whether the children were learning the right things, or whether we were spending enough time on a topic. Once we became more comfortable with what we were doing we relaxed and everything seemed to work better. Easing the anxiety will help everyone (this situation isn’t going to last).
Something else we discovered is that you need less time to teach/learn something with one child (or two or three) than you do with a class of 30; keep this in mind if you think you’re getting through the work too quickly.
3) Make a plan …
… but be flexible and be prepared to change what you’re doing. I had lots of plans – weekly plans, daily plans etc; they didn’t last very long! We were doing things rather differently after just 6 months. As we settled down we had an overall plan for the year, one for the term (both based on the National Curriculum), and a weekly one based around groups or outings. My plans did not always work out but it seemed a good idea to make them! Although you won’t be going on any day trips, deadlines for work or online activities from your child’s school can be a basis for planning your days. (There are also virtual trips available, such as virtual tours of Chester Zoo and Edinburgh Zoo). Don’t forget breaks and exercise!
4) Be realistic about your family arrangements
If you have 3 children at home and you’re also working at home that’s going to be a different situation to someone who is not working and has just one child. Sometimes you can do things together, sometimes you can all be in the same room doing different things and sometimes you just have to arrange some child-free space while you make that conference call. The age of your child/ren also affects how you do things – helping a 6 year old with spelling is different to a 12 year old learning about tectonic plates or algebra.
5) Your home “school” may not be the same as your friend’s
Every family is different, and every child within a family is different. What is right for one family may not suit another one; what is right for one child may not be right for their sibling. We found that one of our children liked filling in workbooks and one preferred to learn in a hands-on way. Don’t assume that you’re doing something wrong if your child doesn’t seem to be learning something; again, be flexible and try another way to help them understand.
6) Sometimes it seems hard
It’s not all sunshine and smiles! Everyone has bad days, especially if they’re feeling stressed or under pressure (this is true for adults and children). Families can be like dominoes – if one child is in a bad mood it can knock a sibling into a similar mood and suddenly everyone falls out with each other. Humour (and hugs) can help (for all ages). Take a break, be kind to each other, and yourself); tomorrow is another day.
7) We are not all Einstein, Stephen Hawking or Carol Vorderman
Parents do not know everything (ssh, neither do teachers) and it’s OK to admit that! I learned lots with my children; maybe yours can tell you what they know about a history/maths/geography topic and then you explore more about it together? BBC Bitesize has online lessons, videos etc for all ages and the Department for Education has a list of online education resources (there are links to these and other resources on our coronavirus page). This is not what you expected to be doing in 2020 and, as we’re constantly reminded, this is an unprecedented situation – we are all learning!
8) Maths can worry parents sometimes
Maths has not changed (2+2 still makes 4) but the way it is taught – and some of the language – can seem quite different to when many of us were at school. Do you say “subtract”, “minus”, “less” or “take away” (as in “10 – 3”)? We found the internet helpful for translating Key Stage 3 maths so that a parent who’d achieved A Level maths some years ago could understand it too!
9) You don’t have to keep up with the Joneses
This is not a competition! Parenting can be very competitive (whose child was potty trained first, which child learned to ride a bike first, whose toddler prefers broccoli to chocolate – sound familiar?). If others are sharing photos online of their child’s work or of their family building a working model of the Large Hadron Collider in the garden it’s all too easy to compare it with your own child’s efforts. If you and your child are doing your best (and I’m sure you are), feel proud, this is enough. Your family are a team and the current situation is more like team-building than preparing for the MENSA entrance exam.
You do not have to compete with other families.
10) Make it fun (and keep your sense of humour)
This could have been #1 but it’s also a good way to finish. Overall our family enjoyed home educating (yes, there were bad days – see #6) and we looked for fun ways to learn (eg: humorous history and science books). You know your child – what are their interests? Think about what they enjoy doing and how they can do it within the current restrictions – if it relates to a learning outcome that’s an added bonus.
This is a strange time for everyone, we’re all doing our best and adapting. Good luck – I’m sure you’re doing a great job!
Image by paperelements from Pixabay
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