I’m not an expert on home school, but I am a mum as well as being a teacher. So I am hoping that marrying my experiences of these two will help.
I’ve put together some tips and ideas to help you and your kids make the transition from school-school to home school.
Structure is important but don’t over do it! We are all undergoing huge change, in our homes, jobs, society. If your children are used to the structure of a school, I think that having some sort of structure to your days will help them to not feel so unsettled by all of the changes that are happening at the moment. Both of my children seemed relieved to have a timetable of sorts to base their ‘home school days’ on.
It’s probably best not to impose a timetable on your child and then enforce it with military precision. Some home educators call their daily structure a ‘rhythm’. I’ve chosen to call ours a routine. Ask your children what they think is important to include. Ask them about their daily routine / timetable at school. They may not admit to it just yet, but they are going to really miss being part of a school community and the daily structure of a school. If your children have played a part in building your new routine, they are more likely to invest and engage with it. Another thing you can do is ask them to help write it up / decorate it, type it and then review it at the end.
Content. You probably have some ideas of what you would like to include on top of school work. I know I do! My ideas are for including things I never get the time or they don’t have the inclination to do in normal busy term time life. I want to include gardening, household work, creativity and cooking as a part of our home schooling.
Simplicity. Try not to over complicate your plans, be flexible, Things can and will change and that is o.k. The simpler your plans, the easier it will be to make changes. You could have an over arching theme to a part of your day such as “organised activities” ” School work” “exercise” and then include suggestions of activities which may form part of that time each day. This way you can pick and choose each day from a selection of activities.
Include plenty of break times. Try to encourage a change of scene during or after each break. Maybe some sessions could take place in bedrooms, others at the dining table and some in the garden? A change of scene will help to break up the say and refresh tired minds.
Before you begin, it might be an idea to establish some ground rules. For example, what is your policy on mobile phone usage? Your rules do not have to be draconian, or involve punishments, but they should be clear expectations. We decided that phones might well be useful for school work, and my (teenage) children enjoy having their friends on a video call whilst they do their homework. I think this is a nice way to maintain contact with friends and also build social skills such as teamwork. However we have built in some sections of the day where we know we will not need or want to use mobile phones and therefore we will get a healthy break from them as well.
The younger your child is, the shorter your planned sessions should be. It is unrealistic to expect them to sit down and work for long periods of time. For a secondary aged child I would recommend periods of no longer than 1 hour per piece of work. For younger children or those who struggle with concentration, it would be beneficial to break down larger tasks into smaller tasks with rewards – such as snacks, breaks, games in between sections.
I don’t think you need to rush out and buy anything special for this, I’m sure you have everything you need in some form or another at home. It might mean re-purposing somethings. We dug around to find a folder with plastic wallets that could store work done for different subjects. You could get a shoe box with useful items gathered together such as glue stick, scissors, felt tip pens, eraser and ruler. A desk, or clear space to work is helpful, even if it is the dining table which gets cleared for meal times. You could empty a shelf or drawer to store Home school books, folders, and equipment.
It is likely that there will be times when your child has completed all of the tasks set by their teacher. I would like to encourage a bit of self directed learning here. We are going to call it our personal project. We don’t know what it is yet, it will appear at some point and each child’s starting point and outcomes will be different. It is likely to be something which emerges from a personal interest… and who knows where it could end! Examples could be … animation, making a magazine, a diary, a sketchbook, a sculpture, research into a period of history, or a country of interest. It might be about animal care, or personal care. A personal project might last one day or months. This is the time to let your child run with their ideas with minimum input from you. I guarantee they will surprise and impress you!
We are going to a have a notice board, shoe box or drawer where I will store some of the amazing ideas for home school activities that are circulating on the internet right now. I might pick out a few to display on a notice board and change them weekly or monthly. This is a place for ideas of things to do when the children have exhausted all other activities. I’ve seen some really great stuff on the internet and will be sharing some of my favourites on my Facebook page over the coming weeks.
Don’t be scared or worried about not knowing how to help your child with certain topics. Remember, the teachers are still around, at the end of an email. Show your child how to deal with being stuck… how to ask for help and how to try to find solutions independently. Don’t forget – you can always ‘phone a friend’ as well!
I’ve included a blank copy of my timetable here for you to use as a stating point. I have also shown our completed one if you fancy having a peek for inspiration. Feel free to use it.
Have fun! Let’s try to make the most of this situation we find ourselves in. This is the year that our children will never forget! Let’s try to make some amazing memories with them. Check out the Art Windows challenge #artwindows on Facebook / Instagram as a creative way of connecting with others during isolation.
Stay in touch! Sign up to my newsletter for more ideas and resources as well as recipes.