With COVID-19 causing the closure of schools across the UK, millions of parents have suddenly had to get to grips with homeschooling. As a former secondary school teacher, here are my top tips to lift the pressure of navigating teaching from home.
Before we Get Started - Remember, There is No ‘Correct’ Way to do This.
Every homeschooling will look different, family to family and from day to day. Just like every class and every lesson in a school are always different, because there is no set way to teach - only certain tools and techniques that help children learn.
Some of you will be balancing your own working from home responsibilities with schooling. Some of you will have children of various different ages. Some of you will have children who struggle to access the curriculum.
Every home will be different, and within that every day will be different. You will have days where your children can’t wait to get to work, and everything runs smoothly. You will have days where nobody picks up a book at all.
The most important thing to remember is that you’re not a school, and that this is only temporary. Everyone is doing their best in unprecedented times. As long as you’re doing right by your kids, you’re doing fine.
1 - Create a Time Table - But Be Flexible
Any teacher will tell you that children of all ages thrive on routine. They like to come into a classroom knowing what to expect, and they will want the same from homeschooling. Putting together a timetable will help your children settle into their new routine, especially if you ask them for input when creating it.
Just be sure to make it realistic, and give yourself a break if you don’t stick to it. Let’s face it - you’re unlikely to get through 5 one hour lessons a day, with only a 45 minute lunch break, while at home. Afterall, kids don’t often sit in classrooms for the full hour without some sort of break or change. Simply give certain times of the day over to various activities, and if you don’t cover something that day, move it to the next lesson - there’s always tomorrow.
2 - Familiarise Yourself With the Resources
Take the time to familiarise yourself with your child's current curriculum (especially the core English, Maths and Science), as well as the resources that the teachers have provided. Your children will have questions, it’s inevitable, and you’ll feel a lot more confident if you know exactly where to look as soon as questions pop up.
While the school should have provided more than enough to keep you going, there are also some amazing free resources online that can help to consolidate your child's learning. And although it may not feel like it to you, there are some excellent educational youtube videos out there, it doesn’t all have to come from a book.
3 - Don’t Limit Yourself to the Dining Table
While it’s great, if you can, to carve out a specific area of your home dedicated to school work - don’t hinder their learning by keeping everything to the dining table. Take it outside and do maths games on the patio with chalk, get crafty and build a model of a volcano, give them their own historical passion project to research, create a play based on their current English book….. you get the idea.
When homeschooling there can be the temptation to play it safe, and stick to reading and writing. The truth is that rote learning isn’t effective on it’s own. There is a lot you can do that doesn’t come under ‘traditional’ education, that is still just as effective.
4 - Reach Out to the Teachers
Don’t be afraid to reach out to your child's teacher if you need to. Or, better yet, get your child to contact them if they can. While they are of course there to mark work and return it, don’t forget they’re also available to help explain any questions you, or your child, may have.
Teachers are still working, they are not taking an extended holiday - in fact the majority are working harder now than they ever have before. Teachers are always there for the child first, if you need help or support please reach out to them.
5 - All Children have Different Needs
It’s an overused phrase, but every child really is different. You know your child better than anyone, it’s time to trust yourself and set up a learning environment and routine that will work best for them. Not only that, but if you have children of various ages it is likely that one will need more help than the others. Trust that your children who can learn independently will, and give extra time to your child that may need a little more guidance.
If you’re really struggling, or simply feeling like you’re not getting anywhere all you have to do is plan backwards.
After one particularly bad observation lesson while I was training, my mentor asked me if the class had achieved the lesson objective. They had not. But before I felt like a total failure he told me to plan backwards. Essentially, you start at the end of the lesson and write down what the class did actually achieve - whether it matches the objective or not.
At the end of each day, write down what each of your children did manage during homeschooling that day. It may not be exactly what you had planned or expected them to learn that morning, but they will have learned something. And during this time, that’s more than enough.