With schools all over the UK closed to try and slow the spread of coronavirus, parents have been forced to turn their living rooms into classrooms and juggle their own jobs with teaching.
But how do you teach you own children at home without losing your temper or giving up altogether? And does your child risk falling behind if you don’t manage to recreate school during lockdown?
Here are our top eight tips for coping with homeschooling during a crisis:
The current situation is far from ideal for anyone so don’t expect too much of you or your children. Keeping your children at home and away from other people is not a normal experience and it will take time for both you and your children to adapt and adjust. Even people who choose to educate their children at home are not used to doing it in lockdown conditions with no possibility of meeting up with groups or going on day trips. With this in mind, don’t worry about trying to replicate the normal school environment in your own home. Focus instead on finding a solution which works for you.
Many children thrive on having a routine and knowing what to expect. There is no need to draw up a complicated timetable with lesson times marked on it but it is a good idea to make a rough plan for days when your child would normally be at school. This could be as simple as setting aside some time each day for school work or deciding that you will tackle English and maths activities in the morning and leave the afternoons for things like PE, arts and crafts and other subjects like science, history and geography.
Young children struggle to concentrate on tasks for a long time so don’t expect a primary school pupil to be happily engaged with one activity for an hour. Give them activities to do which they can spend a few minutes on and make sure they get plenty of breaks. If you want them to do something time-consuming then look out for when their attention starts wandering and let them do something else before returning to it later. For children aged six and under, aim to spend around 10 minutes on a task. Those aged seven to nine should be able to focus for 15 to 20 minutes whereas a 10-year-old can easily manage about half an hour on one thing. Teenagers should be able to concentrate for nearer an hour but will still need regular breaks to keep motivated.
Even though your child is no longer going to school, their teachers should still be available to provide work and answer questions. If your child is struggling to understand something and you’re not sure how to help them, agree to come back to it later and send a message to school to see if they can offer some guidance. Continuing with something neither of you understands properly will only lead to frustration and arguments. If it is tricky to get hold of your child’s teacher, look on the internet to see if there are any sites explaining how to do this particular activity. There are lots of online videos which explain mathematical concepts or what grammatical terms mean so there is no need to struggle alone.
If you’re whizzing through all the tasks your child has been set by school and you feel they need more to do, there are lots of free online resources you can use. The BBC Bitesize website will include 14 weeks-worth of free online lessons for children from April 20 featuring a range of CBBC presenters and including collaborations with the Premier League, the Royal Shakespeare Company and Puffin Books. And the teaching resource website Twinkl is allowing parents to access its worksheets and lesson plans for free while schools are out due to COVID 19. Sign up here with the code CVDTWINKLHELPS. Other sites allowing children to access them for free include Phonics Play, for little ones learning to read and Carol Vorderman’s maths tuition site The Maths Factor.
Children are learning all the time so don’t panic if you are not spending all that much time sitting down doing formal schoolwork. Playing games, going for a walk, baking a cake and doing some gardening are all valuable opportunities for your child to learn something new. Taking time to read to your child or listen to them read is one of the most useful things you can do to support their education.
If your children are getting tired of listening to you all the time, why not outsource some of their learning to some famous faces. A whole wealth of celebrities are putting online classes onto YouTube or Facebook, including The Body Coach Joe Wicks, illustrator Lydia Monks and singer Myleene Klass. Children’s author and Britain’s Got Talent judge David Walliams has been releasing audio versions of his stories for free and actor Tom Hardy will be reading a bedtime story on CBeebies every day from Monday, April 27 to Friday, May 1 so you can snuggle up together on your La-Z-Boy sofa and get ready for bed.
Once the schoolwork is over, that doesn’t mean the learning has to stop. From watching zoo animals on live webcams to taking virtual tours of museums, there’s plenty of choice of things to do online. But one thing you can all do as a family from the comfort of your sofa is pretend you’re taking a trip to the theatre. A number of venues in the UK are streaming productions during lockdown and you can join the audience and watch for free. Andrew Lloyd Webber is showing one of his musicals at 7pm every Friday on his YouTube channel The Shows Must Go On and you can catch a Shakespearean play on the Globe Theatre’s YouTube channel Shakespeare’s Globe. One family favourite which is available to watch now is The Wind in the Willows, a West End musical adaptation of the popular children’s book written by Kenneth Grahame.