A couple of weeks ago, we posted a blog on homeschooling resources to help parents navigate the tricky world of home education during lockdown. Many parents have suddenly found themselves in the role of teacher and this aimed to signpost them to some useful, curriculum-appropriate resources to help them plan and execute lessons. This blog focuses more on the ‘how?’ than the ‘what?’ – ‘how on earth do I keep them focused on lessons until this is over?’
By now, you’ll have been homeschooling for a good few weeks, so whether you’re looking for tips to reinvigorate your lessons, or you’ve already thrown in the towel and want to get started again, we have some ideas for you.
Stick to a routine
Having some structure in your day will help. Have lessons start at the same time each day, and focus on the same topics at the same times through the week. Kids like routine and having a structure will help you all differentiate between ‘home’ and ‘school’.
Where possible, try to mimic their school timetable as much as you can in order to keep things familiar. But do remember that your kids aren’t robots, so it’s OK to have some flexibility in the routine to accommodate their needs.
But don’t overdo things
If you feel as if you’re hitting your head against a brick wall as your kids lose interest in each day’s lessons, it could be that you’re expecting a bit much of them. As a general rule of thumb, the younger your child is, the more frequently they need breaks, so don’t expect them to stick to a rigid, day-long routine.
For Key Stage 1 children (reception to Year 2), aim for about two hours of learning through the day. For Key Stage 2 (Year 3 to Year 6), about three or four hours is appropriate. Remember that learning time includes creative tasks such as art and music, as well as activities such as PE. Around four to five hours is suitable for kids in senior school. Bear in mind that your kids’ usual school day includes breaktime, lunchtime, assemblies and so on. They’re not focused solidly on the curriculum for six hours.
In addition to this, remember these are not normal circumstances and your children will be feeling the effects as much as you are. If they need to take time out for their wellbeing in order to better engage with lessons the next day, that’s fine too.
Let your child lead
By this, we don’t mean let them decide exactly what they want to do every day, but rather give them a bit of autonomy in the classroom.
For senior and older primary school pupils, this could be getting them to research a topic and then present back to you. It could be that you set them up with the materials and instructions for a home science experiment and let them carry it out (although, obviously, stay with them for supervision) and then discuss the results with you. Or perhaps help them practice their English skills by letting them writing a story or comic about what you’ve done that day that they can then read back to you.
For younger children, it could be asking them to make something out of playdough and tell you a story about it, or maybe setting them the task of finding a certain number of themed objects to bring to you.
Allowing them to be active in their own learning will make the whole process more fun for both of you, as well as reducing stress for you.
Praise your children for their effort and behaviour, rather than just their achievements. Children who feel encouraged are happier and more open to learning – and it simply creates a more positive atmosphere.
Try finding specific aspects of their work to praise. So, instead of just telling them you liked their reading comprehension, you could mention that you liked how they spotted they’d spelled a word wrong and gone back to correct it. Your child will not only know you’ve read and really noticed their work, but they’ll also feel appreciated.
Set targets… But don’t worry too much
Targets and goals are a good thing to help you decide what your child should get out of each day and week in terms of education. When planning for the day, think about what you want them to achieve (while being realistic) then evaluate after everything is done. You’ll soon see what works and what doesn’t. And remember, your child’s school may have given you some targets to aim for already.
That being said, these are extraordinary circumstances. So, if you and your child get super involved in a garden bug hunt, or making a stop motion film with Lego on your tablet and don’t get round to that literacy lesson you had planned, it’s not the end of the world. It’s all learning and your kids are engaged – that’s the important thing. The literacy lesson can wait until tomorrow.
They key thing to remember is to not put too much pressure on yourself. Any education your children are getting while schools are closed is going to benefit them, so don’t be hard on yourself. You’re doing your best and your children will appreciate that.