7 homeschooling hacks by parents who have been doing it for years

With rumours schools are out for the foreseeable, you'll need these expert tips more than ever


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.

Military wife Chelsea Enders homeschools her three daughters

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. 

24-year-old mum Reina Marquez started homeschooling her children last year

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.

* For more information, visit peanut-app.io. Peanut is free to download on iOS and Android.

Maria Coole

Maria Coole is a contributing editor on Marie Claire.

Hello Marie Claire readers – you have reached your daily destination. I really hope you’re enjoying our reads and I'm very interested to know what you shared, liked and didn’t like (gah, it happens) by emailing me at: maria.coole@freelance.ti-media.com

But if you fancy finding out who you’re venting to then let me tell you I’m the one on the team that remembers the Spice Girls the first time round. I confidently predicted they’d be a one-hit wonder in the pages of Bliss magazine where I was deputy editor through the second half of the 90s. Having soundly killed any career ambitions in music journalism I’ve managed to keep myself in glow-boosting moisturisers and theatre tickets with a centuries-spanning career in journalism.

Yes, predating t’internet, when 'I’ll fax you' was grunted down a phone with a cord attached to it; when Glastonbury was still accessible by casually going under or over a flimsy fence; when gatecrashing a Foo Fighters aftershow party was easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy and tapping Dave Grohl on the shoulder was... oh sorry I like to ramble.

Originally born and bred in that there Welsh seaside town kindly given a new lease of life by Gavin & Stacey, I started out as a junior writer for the Girl Guides and eventually earned enough Brownie points to move on and have a blast as deputy editor of Bliss, New Woman and editor of People newspaper magazine. I was on the launch team of Look in 2007 - where I stuck around as deputy editor and acting editor for almost ten years - shaping a magazine and website at the forefront of body positivity, mental wellbeing and empowering features. More recently, I’ve been Closer executive editor, assistant editor at the Financial Times’s How To Spend It (yes thanks, no probs with that life skill) and now I’m making my inner fangirl’s dream come true by working on this agenda-setting brand, the one that inspired me to become a journalist when Marie Claire launched back in 1988.

I’m a theatre addict, lover of Marvel franchises, most hard cheeses, all types of trees, half-price Itsu, cats, Dr Who, cherry tomatoes, Curly-Wurly, cats, blueberries, cats, boiled eggs, cats, maxi dresses, cats, Adidas shelltops, cats and their kittens. I’ve never knowingly operated any household white goods and once served Ripples as a main course. And finally, always remember what the late great Nora Ephron said, ‘Everything is copy.’