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12 Top Tips to Home Schooling

Where to start? Here are our top tips from creating the right environment to useful resources for home schooling. Good luck!

Where to start? Here are our top tips from creating the right environment to useful resources for home schooling. Good luck!

I’m shaking in my stilettos at the reality of home schooling three children aged 7, 11, 13 for the UNFORSEEABLE future. Without being too flippant – this might actually be scaring me more than the Coronavirus itself.

So if like me you’re feeling the fear of failing your kids – guess what, mummy has no idea about algebra – while keeping your sanity (the summer holidays will never seem long again) – keep on reading.

I can’t claim ownership of these nuggets of information but I have scoured a few good sites and pulled the best bits of advice together.

Right – are we sitting quietly? Then let’s begin ……

1. Designated work space

I work from home (at the dining room table), so the logistics of home schooling are not difficult. However, I am in a mild panic about us all trying to find suitable desk space and for the kids to understand the social norms of workplace behaviour – Ha! who am I kidding?

First of my top tips – create designated work spaces. My older two are pretty self sufficient and the school have given detailed instructions on work and time tabling. We have created one work space upstairs in a bedroom and my other daughter will work at my desk under the stairs. I never use it myself as it makes me feel like Harry Potter but she’s super excited to have her very own station.

The youngest will need hand holding (more on this later) and will join me at the dining table for when she needs guidance. However the lounge coffee table will be utilised for anything creative/low intensity.

2. Understanding the ‘why’

It’s important for you to talk to your children about why they are now at home and the importance of keeping up with their school work.

For young ones this is going to be a tricky transition – home is for relaxing and all of a sudden it’s going to be a place for structured learning and play.

It’s going to be a learning curve for everyone as you adapt from parent to teacher and back again.

3. Keep to a routine

As mums we know this better than anyone right? Routine is all about comfort and security for children.

Chat to your kids about their school routine so you get an idea of their day and how you can replicate it as much as possible. This will help remove some of the fear from this very surreal experience.

Keep to your morning routine – get up at the same time and get dressed (some kids might like to put on their uniform) ready for the day ahead.

Try to design the learning schedule together and print a timetable that can be pinned to the fridge. Set break and lunch times and if like me you work from home, weave your work commitments alongside their learning.

Setting some school rules isn’t a bad idea – this could include ‘phone use, talking over one another and reinforcing the ‘absolutely no children in the staff room’ rule. Ever!

4. Virtual Playtime

They’ll love you for this one and you won’t be judged for screen time!

If you have the technology, download Zoom or Skype and create a virtual break or lunch time where your children can join their friends. You can have mutiple connections and that way the kids (and you) won’t feel so isolated.

While we’re on this – just like school, remove ‘phones from your older kids and return them at break time!

5. Be Active

It struck me that the kids actually get quite a bit of exercise – be it the walk to and from school or PE/games. Being cooped up in the house is going to be our very own scientific experiment which could lead to an almightly explosion!

I’ve decided that we will start and end each day with a dog walk.

If you don’t have a four legged friend or park nearby – Super Movers is a collaboration between the BBC and the Premier League which is packed full of fun activities designed to get kids moving, even in the confines of your living room.

6. Be ‘your’ favourite teacher

Remember your favourite teacher? It’s time to dig deep and channel them! Mine was my Social Studies teacher Mr Scott – he stank of fags but his grounded yet inspirational approach has kept him firmly in my memory. With no exams this year it’s also a great time to reflect on your teacher/curriculum experiences and take the opportunity to do it your way and foster their love of learning.

For shy children, this could be a chance for them to not compare themselves with their peers. Instead, they can focus on doing their best and beating their own marks.

Qualified teachers and sports coaches Tom Rose and Jack Pannett suggest that a great way to monitor progress and understanding is by flipping the classroom dynamic. After you’ve covered a topic, swap over the pupil/teacher roles and get the children to teach you what they’ve learned. This is another opportunity to give them choice, they can plan their lesson and teach it however they want.

7. Real-time learning

BBC Teach hosts over 30 recordings of interactive 30 to 40-minute programmes called Live Lessons, originally designed for use in the classroom, featuring leading experts and some of the BBC’s biggest brands and talent, including Doctor Who, Blue Planet Live and CBeebies.

With accompanying printable resources covering a range of subjects and Key Stages, you can make sure your kids are learning even during screen time (while you grab that much-needed break from them and a cup of tea)

8) Eating In

We all know that kids can get grumpy when they’re hungry – can’t we all?

As tempting as it will be to raid the kitchen cupboard for let’s say, more ‘creative’ snacks, keep to healthy brain foods where possible, such as fruit and veg with lots of water and avoid sugar.

One for the creative mums who like to get messy in the kitchen – BBC Food has a brilliant guide just for you on how to teach your children through cooking – including conveying concepts from fractions to adjectives and even practising modern foreign languages.

It even comes complete with simple recipes with everything from chocolate chip cookies to pancakes and ice cream, helping you to satisfy those cravings and get their brains in gear.

9. Prioritise & Plan

Expert advice suggests that we prioritise the core curriculum subjects – Maths and English. They even propose that we get creative with the rest of the curriculum by watching Horrible Histories or Blue Planet – phew!

This might not be the case for older children, but at least if you have primary aged kids then you can inject some elements of fun.

Prioritise and plan what you’re going to cover each day/week and do your best to execute your plan. Like any new job, the first few days will be about finding your feet.

10) Keep things short and simple

As tempting as it is to put a feature-length documentary on TV it might not be very effective as we know little brains get distracted easily.

Let’s face it – we’re all going to resort to screen time at some point, so start with BBC Teach – a free resource with thousands of short curriculum-linked clips designed for use in class that can help get across key learning points, helping your children learn more effectively.

11) Keep them engaged long term

We have no idea how long we’re going to be doing this and I’m pretty sure the teachers don’t either, so it’s all going to be a bit trial and error.

I’m hoping we’ll get daily work plans, sheets and downloads. However, if this isn’t the case, check out  BBC Bitesize. This site is designed entirely for student use so they can access the content easily and hopefully you’ll avoid any tricky equation questions!

There are thousands of free quizzes available to GCSE students who are signed in, which chart their progress and adapt to their learning as they go. The games designed for primary-aged children are fun and educational and come with built-in rewards and levels so they’ll want to keep coming back for more. 

Resources are also being prepared and put online by the minute by everybody from karate teachers and sports coaches to national bodies, so to list them all would be impossible. Here however are some starting points to cover the basics:

Twinkl: This is a great site used by teachers and home educators alike, bursting with resources, plans, activities and learning resources for all ages, on every subject under the sun. To support parents and schools during the coronavirus crisis many resources are now completely free.

Science Sparks: Run by the wonderful Emma, friend of Muddy, former teacher and author of several books, Science Sparks is one of the best and most comprehensive resources out there for all things science. There are activities and experiments suitable for all ages and using all sorts of easily-available materials.

Imagination Tree: Another absolutely legendary site that has been sustaining parents and home educators for years, Anna at Imagination Tree has activities, games and educational resources for all ages, particularly younger children. She’s also put together a fantastic self-isolation survival guide for anybody at home with kids.

Learning through Landscape: This outdoor learning charity is preparing and releasing resources for parents at home with children. There’s also a series of Facebook groups.

Khan Academy: A brilliant nonprofit free online learning site which also has a range of resources and daily schedules for children aged 4-18.

Audible: Has just announced a collection of stories for free, for all ages, while school’s out.

12. Look after yourself

Now us Muddy mums should be very good at this bit!

Take time to relax, exercise – see our home work out guide – meditate and breathe – very, very deeply!

See you on the other side!

Find more ideas here


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