The internet and social media are buzzing right now with excellent activity ideas for homeschooling and we really recommend you take advantage of free worksheets created by educators. Printouts and workbooks will be lifesavers if there’s an increased demand for the family laptop. Once you’ve got the resources the tricky part will be getting anyone to use them! We love the 'do what you can' and 'don't beat yourself up' approach to home learning so here are some simple ideas to get you up and running.
Mark the start of the day
We are huge fans of spending the day in pyjamas but it may be worth saving your loungewear for the evenings or weekends. When the days and environment start feeling rather samey, you’ll be looking for demarcation wherever you can (sweeping the toys behind a curtain, wine in hand, at 7pm to signal ‘grown-up time’ may not be enough). A morning routine is especially important for young people who will be used to getting up, dressed and leaving the house five days a week. It signals the start of their day. When possible, our advice is to stick with as much of this routine as you can. If you can spend time outside safely, then we suggest going for a walk. For many schoolchildren walking to school is their first exercise of the day and an opportunity for some fresh air. If you can’t go for a short stroll but have a garden, then set up a simple outdoor task. Many schools give pupils ‘morning jobs’ and if they’re familiar with that, adopt it at home. Morning jobs could include a gardening task, a bug search, or chalk drawings on a patio. No outside space? Don’t despair! Try some indoor morning exercise, such as yoga for kids, a Joe Wicks Youtube PE lesson, or a dance video.
Teachers work hard to create a classroom environment that supports your child’s learning. It’s tricky to recreate this at home but we have some thoughts to bear in mind. Your children will be used to working at a desk for a lot of their activities. If you have kitchen table or similar, then designate that area for any desk-based work. School desks rarely have things on them other than books and pens, so aim to clear it of items that are not part of their learning. If you’re worried that you lack enough space, remember that school classrooms are also multi-purposeful. Children are used to putting things away at the end one task to make room for what’s next. Make sure this happens at home, otherwise you’ll quickly find yourself buried underneath gel pens and reams of paper. If you can display their work, that’s a great way to celebrate what they’re doing and remind them that home is also a learning space.
Create a relaxed timetable
Older children are very familiar with timetables and the structure can help to make them feel in control and secure. Younger ones won’t necessarily have seen one but they’ll be used to feeling their time is structured. Divide the day into chunks and it’ll help to make things feel achievable for you all. Consider including a variety of activities and decide how long to spend on each one. Younger children may only spend 10-20 minutes on something, whereas older children may be able to focus for double that time. Don’t forget to include snacks and lunchtime (everyone’s favourite) along with playtime!
It’s a helpful way to be organised, feel in control and establish some sort of learning journey. If you are also working from home, think about timetabling independent tasks to tie in with your own work commitments. Even if you just invest a few minutes in the evening planning what they’re going to do the following day, you’ll save yourself a lot of time. But you don’t have to put it all on yourself; children can help with the planning. Involve them in the choice and organisation of activities so they feel they have some ownership over their learning. They’ll probably have some of the best ideas too. This time is a great opportunity to encourage them in the areas they’re passionate about.
Learning is not just academic stuff
It’s natural for there to be anxiety around our children missing formal schooling. For our mental health, we need to mitigate this with the knowledge that schools are providing resources to support us and there are plenty of opportunities for extra curricular learning to take place in the home. It’s not always going to be easy to get children to sit at a table and solve maths equations or write an essay, so embrace all the other skills they can learn. Making lunch, vacuuming, or climbing from one side of the room to the other without touching the floor are all valuable learning opportunities. Keep examples of their work; be it essays, paintings, a photograph of a viaduct built from Lego, or make a video journal of them cooking, dancing or cleaning the car. You’ll be amazed at how much evidence of their learning you’ll create.
Start as you mean to go on
Ultimately, it’ll be much easier to get your little homeschoolers on board if you provide a routine from the start. As much as they may protest, we all know that secretly this is what makes them feel secure. Yes, school is important but also, don’t forget that the Easter holidays are coming up and they may well be lasting for a while. Don’t underestimate the benefit of enjoying some gentle, down time; it’s good for us all.