I am getting rather fed up of all the people on Instagram bemoaning the fact that they now have to ‘home-school’ their children. Really, what is the point of having children if all you do is moan that they are currently stuck at home and it is the parents’ responsibility to educate them? I genuinely relish spending more time as a family and not having to constantly chase my own tail rushing around.
Firstly, let us get one thing straight. You are not home-schooling your child. Home-schooling includes planning a curriculum, preparing resources, organising a schedule, understanding a topic, and knowing how to teach it to your child. Secondly, all you really are required to do is to keep them ticking over, so that when they return to school they will not have forgotten most of what they were taught prior to lock-down and will not have such a huge gap in their education.
I am lucky that my daughter is a teenager and her school provide online lessons and exercises in real time. She still gets up every school morning and follows a timetable. However, she will often finish her work early and she likes to have a morning coffee and an afternoon lunch break. My son has work from college to do every day and again he follows his usual timetable. He also has a part-time job, which fortunately he is able to do from home. I am blessed that both my children are able to motivate themselves but much of this is learned behaviour from seeing their parents work at home. They are used to the idea that people have times when they work and times when they relax.
However, what should you do if you just cannot motivate your child to do school work? It is true that many children like to compartmentalise their lives and so they see school as the place to do school work and home as the place to have fun. What about if no work has been provided by school? What about nursery age children who are still learning to read and write? What about senior school level students? There is no need for you to think that you have to provide a broad and varied curriculum at home. Ultimately, doing some work at home will benefit them in the long run, but there is no point in forcing your child to do something if they refuse to, because they will simply gain nothing from it. It will create more stress at a time when we are all trying to keep calm and cope as best we can.
The two most important subjects for most students are English and Maths. Reading in these times is paramount. It really helps children to stick to a routine and children tend to learn more in the mornings. A maximum of one hour of English and one hour of maths is, in all honesty, the most they need to do. The normal concentration span of a child is twenty minutes, so factor in lots of breaks in between. If you child is happy to do work packs from school, then that is the right time to do them. Create a calm environment, put on some soothing music, and give them lots of rewards and encouragement. If you cannot get them to do worksheets, then try some fun workbooks that you can buy from most bookshops online. I would recommend CGP and Schofield and Sims as they are cheap and user-friendly. If you can’t get them to do workbooks, then there are a great amount of resources online such as BBC Bitesize, the newly set-up Oak National Academy and Top Marks as well as Oxford Owl.
If formalised lessons do not work, there are still many other ways for children to learn. Children will learn more when they are actively involved or when they are having fun. Making biscuits with them is a great way to teach weights and measures. Karaoke singing helps in learning to read too. But board games, puzzles, origami, and cookery are forms of comprehension and problem solving. Nowadays with the demands of the National Curriculum, many schools struggle to fit in drama, art, music and creativity. Now is the perfect chance for your child to learn something different. Consider letting them choose to do a project or make a scrapbook about someone or something that inspires and interests them. There are many things you can do around the home. If you have a garden, they could grow seeds. There are a plethora of ideas on Pinterest. It is worth remembering that sitting down with our children and sharing a book together is still learning. They are still learning if they read a comic or do a word-search.
If you are able to afford it, then do consider the idea of signing your child up for an online private tuition lesson just once a week. These usually cost in the region of £25-30. It is a considerable expense, but online lessons work well and on the whole being taught by a professional will motivate them far more and they will complete a lot of work. Many online tuition companies are able to provide homework for the week and so although there is an expense, it is definitely worth it.
Finally, remember we are all trying to get through this and keeping your children happy and safe is far more imperative than how well they are able to parse a sentence or solve an equation. If you end up having to abandon learning, then as long as children are reading, they will be able to catch up later. I am a great believer in the idea that we need to make the best of any situation we are in and try as much as possible to see the positive. There is much joy to be had in sharing these times with our children and you never know, once this is over, there may even be a little more respect for the work teachers do?
If you have any questions to ask please do feel free to leave me a reply or send me an email.