So you’ve got the kiddos at home and you’re suddenly in charge of their education. Whoo hoo / eek?! Here’s a brief intro to what we’ve found works, or not.
REMEMBER: just like with all aspects of parenting, every family works differently. So experiment with what works for you and don’t get too bogged down with what other people are doing.
Discuss as parents and with your child/ren what you want to achieve in this time. Are you super keen to maintain academics, or looking for low maintenance activities while you also work from home?
When our son first left formal schooling, he wanted to keep aligned with grade level on core subjects such as maths and English, but he also wanted to do more projects and fun stuff than he did at school. This goal determines how we use our time.
Be aware that if you set your sights too high then you all could get frustrated.
Recognise that this is an unusual circumstance, you’re not a trained teacher, you were given no time to prepare for it, and you’re all learning on the job.
Some children find it difficult to adjust to thinking of their home as their place to study now. It can help to create an area which is dedicated to their study, even if it’s half of the dining table or a corner on the living room floor. Arrange their books, favourite stationery, etc so it feels like their own space.
Younger children usually respond well to maintaining some structure to their day, however I don’t recommend that you aim to replicate a school schedule.
Set yourself up for success by building in more fun; home education is generally more efficient because of the small class size (!) so you are unlikely to need as much formal study time.
Co-create a schedule with them, ask them how long they like to work on things, what breaks they want. Our son’s schedule changes depending on what our life is like at the time; he currently works in 30 min blocks, has 10 min breaks through the morning, with more in depth projects in the afternoon.
However his previous co-op only designated time for lunch and the kids could organise their time within the day however they liked as long as they achieved their daily requirements.
Write the schedule up on the wall or a whiteboard so it’s easily visible to refer to.
Snacks and Wees
Many newly home educating kids really love that they can have snacks and wees whenever they like. Have the (healthy) snacks readily available. It helps make this hiatus more of a treat, whilst minimising distraction.
Children generally learn better, and are happier and healthier when they can move about a lot. Think how to build this into their day: some like studying seated on wibbly chairs or balls; some prefer getting out in the garden and bouncing on the trampoline. Our son currently takes about five ping pong breaks each day. Allow room for this in your day or schedule.
Get them involved
Discuss how it’s going, what they need extra help on, what they want to do better. You might be surprised how much neither of you knows about what their practical learning needs are, given that you’re usually apart during this time.
There are a huge number of educational resources available online.
Choose interactive platforms to ensure they’re processing what they learn. I STRONGLY recommend you balance it out with off-screen, tactile activities.
This is going to be a tough one if you’re self-isolating, as usual playdates are off the table. Organise Zoom and FaceTime calls with their buddies or their classmates, for chats or shared activities. We've even been invited to a daily Zoom dance party!
Sir Linkalot - spelling app, gamified. Great for dyslexics through spelling bee masters!
Storytelling / writing: www.nightzookeeper.com
Mystery Science - free, easy science projects which answers their questions about the world. Check out their school closure guide.
Wide curriculum (currently free for school closures): https://go.brainpop.com/accessrequest
Periodic table: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/the-elements-in-action/id739281034
Star Wars workbooks (Amazon)
Wildlife toolkits by WWF
Gardening with kids - lots of free lesson plans by the RHS award winning programme
Creative learning while you’re stuck at home
NASA / JPL education www.jpl.nasa.gov/edu/teach/
Cook - get them to plan a meal or bake some treats, from researching the recipe to measuring the ingredients
Write book reviews for GoodReads
Grow something, either in the garden or regrowing leftover veg
Nature walks - task them to spot or collect things; dry their findings and make a nature book.
Our son likes listening to these whilst he does something else: build Lego, tidy up, in the car…
Kid Nuz - 10 mins daily news to help children understand and process the world
Big Life Kids - how to build a growth mindset
Story Pirates - also have books and music
TV and YouTube channels
I task our son to write down or tell me three things about each show - eg silliest moment or most interesting fact. This makes him process it more and sparks more conversation.
Mr DeMaio - really silly science fun (YouTube)
Horrible Histories - really silly history fun (Hulu)
TED education - endless range of really engaging presentations
Art Hub for Kids - draw-along with an artist to create fun pictures and learn new techniques (YouTube)
Every board game is a learning tool in some way - even if just soft skills like negotiation, concentration, and honesty! These are some of our family favourites.
Our daily schedule starts quite late so our son has a chunk of reading time every morning.
Many libraries have online facilities so you can check out books to your e-reader if you’re running low on physical books.
We're using all this extra time (without playdates, boo hoo) to get into Story Pirates Stuck in the Stone Age: a super fun adventure that doubles as a creative writing guide for young writers.
If you need any help implementing this, contact Rebecca on firstname.lastname@example.org