With rumours schools are out for the foreseeable, you'll need these expert tips more than ever
If you’re anything like me, you’ve realised over the last few weeks, you’re ranking pretty highly as officially the UK’s worst-ever supply teacher. Mainly because we’re also trying to hold it together WFH in our bill-paying day jobs. In fact, new research reveals 75% of parents are seriously struggling with the challenge of working from home and educating their children during the pandemic. Frankly I’m amazed that a quarter of UK parents surveyed by CWJobs are not struggling with our new normal. So coupled with the news that there’s still no set date for the reopening of schools, it’s time to call in the real experts: the mums who willing opted to homeschool their kids. For years. For real, these women are my heroes. Hopefully by the end of this feature they’ll be yours too.
I spoke to two mums, Chelsea Enders, a 28-year-old military wife and mum to three girls aged two, five and eight. She began homeschooling her eldest in 2016. Our other mum is 24-year-old Reina Marquez who is a relative newbie to this compared to Chelsea but she’s actually homeschooling her three siblings and started last year when she found out she was pregnant. She’s now planning on eventually homeschooling her three-month-old.
Admittedly they’ve both got the added edge of actually being trained teachers pre-kids. But hey, what they don’t know about homeschooling is seriously not worth knowing. Notepad and pens ready? Quiet at the back please, because here we go with their solid-gold lifesaving tips.
1. Differentiate your learning stations
Homeschooling at the dining table may feel like the best option to you, but keep in mind that many classrooms nowadays offer flexible seating options, you may have a little learner that will learn better lying on the floor. This is new territory for you both, so be patient with everyone involved, and remember that learning isn’t only cultivated while sitting in a chair.
2. Prepare the evening before
Designate a basket or shoebox for each child to they keep their learning materials. Every evening you can check their work or mark it, as if they were at school. Adjust their learning plans (you could create plans each Sunday afternoon), and prepare the baskets and folders to be passed out each morning.
3. Maintain a structure
Although daily schedules and expectations are set, it’s still better to just go with the flow. Sometimes plans change, opportunities open, and you have to shift your focus. Set aside two blocks of the day to learn, with lunch and play in the middle. If you have more than one child, remember it will take weeks to find what works. So give yourself a break. Homeschooling with more than one child and across different key stages is tough. Even if they have their work kits from school or daily online lessons and homework. Consistency on waking up, getting dressed, and finding yourself ready to learn is important. This sets the tone for today. But be kind to yourself and find patience with the kids.
4. Learn how to destress
Now more than ever, it is crucial to create a routine of self-care. It is also essential to teach children the importance of self-care and quiet time. Take the time to communicate as a family about how everyone is feeling during this uncertain time and emphasise the positives that have also come from this crisis. We are both active on the social app Peanut, and love connecting with others in the Positive & Uplifting group, where women are focusing on wonderful things that are still happening each day.
5. Explore and share learning materials
There are many resources to help with the transition to homeschooling and many companies are providing free or discounted resources for example blogs like Candokiddo for newborn to preschool-age children. Kiwico is another company that is actively providing resources such as daily schedules, activities by age, and daily DIY activities. There are also seasoned homeschooling mums on Peanut waiting to share all their tips and tricks. You can join the Learn & Play group or find a homeschooling group in your town.
6. Be flexible with your schedule
During this time at home, you have the opportunity to evaluate your family’s prime time. Do your kids have lots of energy early in the morning or after lunch? Once you determine their prime time you may notice they can focus and get through their work with less distraction. Sometimes it’s even helpful to focus on one subject a day. Instead of trying to get through each subject and regular daily activities try doing a few reading lessons one day and a few math the next. Try breaking up challenging or tedious work with hands-on or movement activities. For example, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, math) or practical life lessons like cooking.
7. Remember play is a part of learning
Depending on the age ranges in your home, play can be a big part of learning. Even giving teenagers opportunities to play can help them in remembering that they don’t always have to be so serious and cool. Getting silly and making memories can make a lesson or activity click in a way that won’t be easily forgotten. Also creating distinct play spaces can help when creating rotations and allow you to direct yours to follow the flow and work/play independently. If you can, use outside spaces. A change in scenery while reading or working on math can make the activity feel a bit more positive.
* Peanut is the social network for women. Created with the idea that no one should have to navigate motherhood alone, Peanut’s app is a place to build friendships, find support and learn from other women at a similar stage in life. Over 1m mothers, expectant mothers and women trying to conceive have joined the app to connect and share experiences in a safe space.