Education is changing, and it has quite probably been irreversibly altered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Educators – including parents – and students are having to adapt to new ways of learning; internet access and technology have become essential, and a pressing national issue relating to the lack of equal access for all children.
With the return of universal home learning, we need to face once again how important it is for parents to look after their children’s education and try to make sure their children have what they need. This can feel like an intense responsibility, especially as school resources can differ dramatically in how interactive and inspiring their home learning lessons and learning materials are. Not every day of home-schooling will feel successful or even comfortable, but nobody expects parents to recreate a perfect school environment at home and you should try to be kind to yourself as well as your child.
Fortunately, there are countless resources available to parents facing home-schooling. And of course, we can help with some fundamental advice as well as further one-to-one support if it’s needed, to fill any gaps in learning.
THREE KEY STEPS TO ESTABLISH EFFECTIVE HOME-SCHOOLING
1. Get the home working environment set up to encourage focus and learning
2. Set a realistic daily timetable (and build in some relaxation and wellbeing support)
3. Identify and assemble the resources that suit your child and their learning needs.
1. A CALM SPACE FOR LEARNING AT HOME
Help your child create a dedicated work area, whether they prefer to work in the family kitchen or in their own room. The area should be well-lit and quiet, with everything they need to study kept close to hand. Some people prefer to study with background music in the room or through their headphones, but you should discourage the use of a mobile phone for this unless it’s on airplane mode, so that no distracting notifications can pop up on the screen. Mobile use should be confined to break times. Clever apps such as Forest can encourage teens to focus on work – they’re rewarded by having their on-screen tree grow tall while they are off their phones for a set period, but it will wither if they keep checking Snapchat when they should be studying.
While your child is working, try not to use your own mobile or watch tv in front of them, or create unnecessary noise or distraction. You might be working from home yourself, in which case everyone can hopefully stay focused together, depending on the level of parental input children need while they are learning!
It’s important that students also eat well, and parents can help by cooking their favourite meals, including fresh fruit and vegetables and plenty of protein. Sleep is the other essential. Everyone needs to wind down properly before going to bed, ideally without screen time, to sleep well.
2. SCHEDULING LEARNING AND LEISURE TIME
Schools’ approaches differ. Some schools set a timetable for the work, with live lessons on Zoom or Microsoft Teams, while other schools simply set work tasks and signpost children to online or textbook resources. Children generally like routine, and they are accustomed to the rhythm of the school timetable. Capitalise on this by setting a timetable at home, to reduce daily negotiations about when and how long the learning sessions will be.
If you don’t have a timetable provided by the school, create your own, print it out and display it prominently, perhaps on the fridge and certainly at your child’s workspace. There are templates available online, including on the Twinkl website. Follow the proportions of learning from your child’s usual school week, putting emphasis on the core subjects of English, maths and sciences for students up to GCSE level.
However, you need to be realistic about what you can achieve in the first week or so and allow yourselves time to adjust to the new situation. You will need to assess how they like to learn, if you don’t already know. Then structure their day accordingly, especially if they don’t respond well to a strict timetable and genuinely learn better through a more relaxed, fluid approach that still covers what’s required.
Encourage older children to review what they need to do and to prioritise. Perhaps you can have a daily chat about what needs doing, what’s hardest, and what feels impossible and might require extra help from you or from their teacher. Consider even agreeing aims and expectations on an hourly basis, if that will help your child feel supported and stay focused.
It’s best to keep to the usual household routines, and ensure your child takes adequate breaks during the working day. They should take short 5 to 10-minute breaks every hour or two, with occasional longer breaks to really take their mind off things: walking the dog, playing games, or even an hour of watching Netflix.
Exercise and fresh air are important for everyone’s wellbeing, even during wintry weather. Consider establishing a daily family routine that includes a walk, an energetic Nintendo Switch sports game or joining in with the Joe Wicks workouts on YouTube. It might also be worth investing in a subscription to a meditation and relaxation app such as Calm or Headspace, to help your child (and you!) to switch off completely and regain some composure during the stress of Lockdown. Cosmic Kids Yoga is another fun yet relaxing option for younger children.
Further Resources for Wellbeing and Mental Health:
- Here is a JK article on supporting children’s mental health
- The Young Minds website has plenty of sound advice, including this article on supporting your child during the pandemic
- Scope also has valuable resources on their website
- Childline offers great support and advice
- The BBC Bitesize Parents’ Toolkit has helpful articles and links
- How to make a self-soothe box to calm anxiety
- The NHS Five steps to mental wellbeing
- The Children’s Commissioner’s Digital Five a Day
3. LEARNING RESOURCES
Your first step should be to establish how your child’s school is facilitating their ongoing learning, and what online support and teacher contact is being provided. This will obviously affect your timetable and how many resources you need to find for yourselves.
To keep things interesting, even if your school is providing a full online teaching day, it might be useful to have alternative sources of information, learning and entertainment, so we have pulled together some valuable online resources to help you:
- Research your child’s national curriculum requirements here
- Common Sense Media have some good suggestions for screen-free learning through podcasts
- The Twinkl website has learning ideas and videos for children up to KS4
- The Independent has some useful recommendations for the best home-schooling books
- Try Pinterest for creative inspiration
- TedEd carries inspiring video content for all age groups
- Topmarks – English and maths games for EYFS up to KS5
- Maths Is Fun – explanations, examples and exercises covering all areas of maths from KS1 up to KS5
Primary School Resources:
- Reading lists for primary school pupils
- Education Quizzes – revision quizzes covering all areas of the curriculum for KS1 and above
- ICT games – English and maths games for EYFS and KS1
- Phonics Play – phonics and spelling games for EYFS and KS1
- Spelling Play – spelling activities for Year 2
- BBC Bitesize and BBC Teach are both great resources. The BBC has also announced daily primary programming on CBBC
- CBeebies – a range of stories, videos, games and activities for EYFS
Workbooks for EYFS, KS1 and KS2:
- CGP New Phonics Daily Practice Books – Reception Bundle
- CGP New Phonics Daily Practice Books – Year 1 Bundle
- CGP Reception Maths Workout
- CGP Targeted Study and Question Books for KS1 and KS2 in maths and English
Secondary School Resources:
- TedTalks for inspiration and information
- Duolingo and Memrise are both interactive modern language learning apps.
- BBC Bitesize and BBC Teach are both great resources. The BBC has also announced daily secondary programming on BBC2.
- The TES teaching resources has excellent materials available to purchase
- The Free Teaching Resources website carries a broad spectrum of materials from charities, museums and corporate sources
- Teachit materials PDFs are also free to download
- The Quizlet website offers a fun way to “master any subject, one success at a time”
IF YOU NEED MORE HELP…
Tutoring and educational advice can be valuable in this situation and we have helped many families to continue to achieve their goals and potential despite these difficult circumstances. JK Educate’s flexible online tutoring works beautifully, as demonstrated here in video demonstrating the service. We offer this teaching for all age groups from pre-school to undergraduates, carefully matching each student to the best tutor for them. Our dedicated home school mentoring 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.
If you would like to learn more and find out how either of these options would work for your family, please contact us on 020 3488 0754.