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Learning at Home – from Homework to Full-time Home Schooling

happy father and daughter at sofa looking at digital tablet

We can all remember a time when learning at home simply involved getting set homework done on time, perhaps some coursework and then revision at home before exams. This has changed during 2020, with COVID-19 leading to most students doing all their work at home and online for several months.

Schools have re-opened, but more families are now undertaking full-time elective home learning for school-aged children, most university teaching seems likely to take place online, and the possibility of track and trace self-isolation periods means that the need to study part of a term’s work at home remains a potential reality. Learning at home is here to stay, at least for the time being. We are going to talk about it here in all its forms, from routine homework to full-time elective home education, and discuss how you can support your child’s education at home.

Routine Homework

With the return to attending school comes the return of regular homework that needs to be handed in for marking. Getting back into the routine of doing this within a weekly timetable has proved challenging for some children. How can parents support them in this?

Homework Basics

First of all, encourage your child to review what they need to do each day and prioritise, so they don’t feel overwhelmed. Perhaps you could have a daily chat after school about what needs to be done, and what’s hardest and might require extra help from you or their teacher. Remember that it’s always best to tackle the hardest homework first, before children start to get tired.

A regular time and place for homework is essential. Whether they prefer to work in their room or in the kitchen, make sure there are minimal distractions and that your child has all they need close to hand. Ideally remove distractions by putting their phone in another room and not having the tv or radio on while they are trying to concentrate.

Be clever about how you motivate your children to work. Some children enjoy doing homework, while others need more coaxing and encouragement. You know your child best. Let them see that you value them doing their homework, but in a relaxed way that doesn’t apply any pressure. You can also help their work seem engaging and fun if they ask you to be involved, but remember it is their homework and not yours. Make praise the primary reward for your child’s completion of their work and remember to be specific about praising the effort, rather than how clever you think they are.

Overcoming Resistance

“I hate English! I’m not doing this stupid homework!”

There is almost always an underlying reason for this type of protest and resistance to study, so as a parent you need to investigate that. Talk to your child to ask for their reasons and then talk to their teacher. What else is going on that might be affecting their attitude to studying? Of course, the homework itself could be too hard or too easy and therefore seems either boring or daunting, in which case a conversation with the school is a good starting point, whatever the age of your child.

Keep Talking

Talk with your child and really listen to them. Let them know that you support their homework efforts and appreciate how difficult it can seem. Homework is a key part of school life and invaluable in helping children to become independent learners, so it is vital that children learn to accept it as such. Educational consultants can provide invaluable extra help if you are struggling; there is always a listening ear and sound advice available at JK Educate if you need it.

Home Learning When Away from School

It is possible that some children will need to return to home learning part-time or full-time, for short or longer periods of time over the next few months of the pandemic. This might happen if, for example they need to self-isolate, or if their school is wholly or partially closed for a period due to infection rates. If this happens they will need support just as much as they did during the national lockdown.

Schools differ dramatically in the resources available to them and therefore in how interactive and inspiring their home learning lessons and learning materials are. Many parents have felt that the onus is on them to ensure that their child’s education is not suffering because of the need to learn at home. They have told us that they feel an intense pressure from juggling this responsibility with their own work and perhaps also looking after younger children at home. If this is how you feel too, remember that there is expert help available in the form of online tutoring or JK Educate’s home school mentoring service. This service includes a daily student-tutor check-in, help with organising the workload and the opportunity for students to seek help with detailed aspects of their work.

Full-time Elective Home Education

More families are now undertaking full-time elective home learning for school-aged children. A House of Commons Briefing Paper published in July 2019 estimated that “in 2018 there may have been around 53,000-58,000 registered home educated children in England; and that the number has increased in recent years”. It seems likely that this number has further increased this year, as recently indicated by Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman in an interview with The Guardian. Some parents are worried about their child’s lack of educational progress during lockdown and want to take control of their learning in case schools close again. In addition, some families might have simply found they prefer home learning, their children have not wanted to go back to school, or health concerns have made staying at home to learn permanently seem a better option than school.

The Department of Education’s elective home education guidance for parents asserts that “educating children at home works well when it is a positive choice and carried out with a proper regard for the needs of the child.” It is certainly not any easy route to take, but it can work very well for certain children. We have been delighted to support families who make the choice, especially in providing specialist subject teaching to prepare for GCSEs or A Levels.

A team of skilled tutors is carefully selected for this crucial work. A designated Training and Monitoring Manager liaises regularly between the tutor, the parent and the student. Lesson planning, teaching impact and student progress are all closely monitored. Tutors are encouraged to share their observations and successful teaching strategies; this helps their manager to identify any emerging issues so that early interventions can be made with specific recommendations agreed upon by the tutors, the manager and the parent.

One home schooled student who worked with a team of subject specialists achieved one or two levels higher than the predicted grade in all 9 GCSEs and consequently gained entry to their school of choice to study A Levels. Another student had felt unmotivated and unhappy – and ultimately unable to continue attending school – at the end of Year 9. Our team of tutors worked together to support him throughout Year 10, boosting his confidence, organisational skills and appetite to learn. He felt able to return to school for Year 11, which his tutors agreed seemed the best thing for him. A very positive outcome.

For further information on home schooling, read the Department of Education Elective Home Education Guidance for Parents.

Home Learning Support

Parental involvement and a supportive home environment are known to have a very positive effect on how children learn. Education Scotland identifies parental engagement as a key driver in education excellence. It clearly states that: “Parents who take on a supportive role in their children’s learning make a difference in improving achievement and behaviour. The active involvement of parents can help promote a learning community in which children and young people can engage positively with practitioners and their peers”.

It can be challenging for parents to find the time and space to provide the ideal supportive study environment at home, for homework or for full-time home learning. However, it helps enormously if you simply let your children know that you appreciate and support their efforts, and you listen to their concerns. JK Educate are also always on hand to provide advice and support with our homeschool tutoring services. Feel free to call us at any time to discuss your concerns. We are here to help.


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