It’s strange times we find ourselves in at the moment! Here in the UK some schools are beginning to close while others are hanging on waiting for the PM to say the word.
For those of you with children at school or nursery, while on the one hand you may be looking forward to having some more time with your children, I am sure the thought of having them home from school for an indeterminate number of weeks may be a daunting prospect. You never planned on home educating, yet here you are feeling that surely you should be doing something with them?! And for many of you, you will need to juggle working from home at the same time. There’s a lot to think about!
Here’s where I come in. As a former primary school teacher (not ready to hang up my whistle yet though 😉) and a current home educator, I’ve got a few tips and tricks up my sleeve which may be of use.
It’s natural to feel overwhelmed when suddenly there are so many uncertainties. Here’s where making a plan is your friend. Each child and each family is different, so I can’t tell you exactly how yours should look, but I can offer you some tips on how to go about it.
Make a plan
Firstly, figure out what it is that you want to do with your children while they are home. For some of you, that might look like board games, baking, getting out the craft box, and snuggling up to watch films together. For others, you may feel it would work better for your family if you keep some of the structure of school, and hope to do some more formal ‘learning’ activities. You might decide that now is the perfect timing for a bit of project work around a particular interest of your child’s. Any of those things are fine, or anything in between – do what works for you!
Once you’ve got a rough idea of the sorts of things you want to do, consider how regularly you want to do them. Daily? Weekly? Once you know this, you can make a rough timetable for your days. My advice would be to keep this reasonably flexible, but if having approximate timings on there will be helpful to you, feel free to do that to! Remember, these are unprecedented circumstances, and we all need to do what works for us – there’s no right or wrong.
Our ‘timetable’ is constantly evolving, but at the moment it looks like this:
I’m trying to have a little activity ready for them to get on with while I get breakfast ready. It’s usually maths or phonics. I tend to do these early on the day, because I find T works best on these when she is wide awake and full of energy!
Over breakfast, I have a few books to read – they tend to be related to our topic or the season. At the moment, we’re reading some Spring poetry and information books.
We try and get out for a walk each day – it’s a great mood booster! Obviously this may have to change in coming weeks, but we’ll keep getting outdoors as much as we can.
In the afternoons we have ‘quiet time’ – a couple of hours where the children play independently in their room. Ideally, I get a couple of hours peace! It doesn’t always work like that, but it gives me a bit of headspace and time to do chores! It’s also been really beneficial for the children – they play so creatively during this time! After that is when we do creative activities, usually related to our topic.
Take the pressure off
Don’t expect your days with your children to look too much like school.
Firstly, children can behave very differently at school than at home! I will always remember the shock on one parent’s face when, at parent’s evening, I told her how polite, helpful and hardworking her little boy was. “Really? He’s nothing like that at home!” They’re used to home being a place of relaxation, so they may not relish the idea of suddenly doing ‘school things’ at home.
Secondly, however they feel about their school being closed, it’s going to be a bit of an upheaval for them and a sudden change in routine takes time to get used to.
Work out what things are your priorities and what you can be flexible on. If you can make this a discussion that involves them, you might find they’re more likely to be on board!
Don’t feel you have to replicate school by giving them four or five ‘lessons’ a day. Do what you need to, and what works for you. I’d recommend keeping activities reasonably short, especially if they are needing to really focus! As a guide, I’d say don’t expect more than 20 minutes for KS1, 25 minutes for Years 3 and 4, or 30 minutes for Years 5 and 6. Of course, if they are happily engaged with something and want to continue, then you can – but if they have had enough, or are getting frustrated, then it’s time to stop! They can always come back to it later.
Give them plenty of free time to play, and don’t feel guilty if you need to switch on the TV!
Arm yourself with resources
I’ve made a list of some great, free educational resources which you can find here. I’m going to be uploading some more resources in the coming days which I will link in this post, and I’ll also share them on my Instagram and Facebook pages. If you don’t follow me already, pop over and follow to make sure you don’t miss them! If you’re want to be absolutely sure, then you can turn on notifications on Instagram by going to any of my posts, clicking the three dots in the top right corners and selecting ‘turn on post notifications’. I’ll also share some materials that might useful to order in, if that would be helpful.
You can find lots of activities by subject by heading to my home page and choosing the subject you’re looking for. I’ll be adding some more ideas here soon.
Also, if you haven’t already, you can also download my Power of Play eBook which has around fifty different playful activity ideas, including role play (great for developing language and storytelling skills); STEM; sensory play (excellent for some calm-down time); and creative play.
I hope this is helpful! Keep your eyes peeled for details on resources and activities over the next few days – and please feel free to drop me a message (either here or over on Instagram) if there is anything you would find particularly useful!