Friday, 27 March 2020

Home-Education - Advice for New Home-schoolers

I see that lots of schools are giving out learning packs or getting older ones to follow timetables, I am concerned that parents will be overwhelmed by the extra workload. This is going to be a steep learning curve. 

I have created this post as advice for parents and carers who are finding themselves teaching their kids at home for the first time in the wake of Covid-19.

Most home-educators I know learned the hard way, and there were lots of tears... home-school is not school at home, it can't be and it shouldn't be (for this reason we mostly use the term 'home-education') 
I hope it is helpful to share; my daily schedule looks roughly like this:
8am - Everyone gently wakes up - music or podcasts are generally on in the kids bedrooms at this time, then everyone bundles downstairs for a relaxed breakfast.
9am - Chats and chores - This is usually centred around the kitchen table, I let the kids start chats about what they heard on podcasts or whatever (this is secret school-time, these Big Fat Conversations (BFCs) teach comprehension & narration and give a great opportunity for them to ask questions) While chatting, we do the basic household chores (fold laundry, empty the dishwasher, clean up after breakfast, etc)
10am - Schoolwork - 13YO has maths everyday and another 2 subjects, 6YO does some basic writing, maths, activity books or drawing (I follow his lead, he often has little projects he is working on) We sit at the kitchen table for this, I help 13YO if she needs it, by this age they should be self-led but still need some help when they don't quite understand the text books.
11am - Reading time - on the sofa - 6YO reads his reading book and flashcards. Then I read a couple of chapters from chapter books, and maybe a page from a science encyclopedia or dinosaur book (depending on what the days interests are) The 13YO sketches, knits, sews or does some other kind of 'handicraft' - she likes listening to the stories too.
12noon - Outside -Sometimes I structure our outdoor time - bug hunts, cloud sketching, bird spotting, seed planting. Most of the time is run-about free time.
1pm - Lunch and school is over - the afternoon is free for play, projects, adventures or reading (I don't allow them TV or video games time before 4)

My 5 top tips
1. Get Outside  - if you can manage it, in all weathers, for about an hour, it will make a massive difference to your mental and physical strength. The more you can do outside the better.
2. Read - books should be many, varied and often - there are lots freely available as e-books, if you need reading suggestions ask me. Building this in to our daily routine has created a passion for reading alone, to each other and as part of the family and I cannot over-emphasise the importance of reading with your kids.
3. Play - Kids will process all this stuff that is going on through play, let them play, let them get messy and muddy and silly and noisy - play with them too, it will help bonding.
4. Talk - Our best, most educational moments are in those Big Fat Conversations. They need to be telling you how they feel and what they think, they will need to ask questions and sometimes you won't know the answers, then you find out together and it is a lovely life-long-learner lesson for everyone - sometimes there is no answer, and you help them accept that.
5. Don't attempt 9-3 school work - You will burn out within weeks, they will be fractious, your home will have a negative vibe (man!)

Keeping a positive family relationship is infinitely more important in these trying times than ticking the boxes for the teacher, so be kind to yourselves and hug your kids more than usual.

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I am a home-educator with 9 years experience. I have been home-educating my 2 children, 13YO and 6YO, since birth. They have never been in a school, nursery or formal learning environment. I use various free online curricula to match my kids' learning styles and abilities to the wider expectations of the school system.

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