And just like that, we’ve become a nation of homeschoolers - at least for the near future. It’s not been an easy transition. It can be difficult to fit homeschool around working from home and keeping the household ticking over. To make this a more positive experience for our kids, we asked some of our favourite bloggers for their tips on tackling homeschooling. Here’s what they had to say…
1: Establish a routine
When it comes to following a set routine or going with the flow, it’s very much dependent on your child, say our family bloggers. John Adams of Dad Blog UK has created a homeschooling routine from 9.30am to 2pm each day, for his two children:
“I think routine is essential. There’s a very good chance that children will not return to school until September which could mean five months away from school… Some people are following a flexible approach and I am sure that has benefits. We are, however, thinking longer term and how easy it will be to settle the kids back into school when they re-open.”
Mum-of-three Ann of Rainbows are Too Beautiful is also following a routine with her kids:
“Two of our three kids have autism and for them and many other kids, routine and knowing what’s happening is really important. Simple things like doing things in the same order, starting things at the same time or just having an activity that happens every day, can really help.”
2: Be flexible
Some children, of course, do better without a routine. If a strict timetable doesn’t work for your family, Lianne at Anklebiters Adventures suggests trying a more flexible schedule:
“… don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be working all day - a couple of hours reading, maths, language and a craft activity works really well for us.”
This is echoed by teacher and mum, Jen who runs the online maths and science resource Primrose Kitten. She has also chosen to be more flexible with her kids:
“At home with my 5 year old I’m taking a much more relaxed approach, some days we stick to a timetable and others not. Some days we start with a plan and by 11 o’clock I’ve abandoned that and we’re playing in the garden. For my boys being flexible and responding to what they need is important, a day off to look after their mental health is going to be more important than phonics during this difficult time.”
Claire of Tin Box Traveller has always been a routine kind of parent - with regular bedtimes, meal times and film nights. But since Lockdown, she’s found everything has changed:
“Trying to put in place a home learning schedule and stick to it has been utterly exhausting while the adults in the house also have to try to carve out work time. After a few weeks we realised we needed to give ourselves some slack… we aren’t following a strict school work timetable. Being flexible has been a lot less stressful.”
3: Help kids the right way when they’re struggling
We’ve all been there in the last few weeks - watching our children as they struggle to find the answer to a question. It would be so much easier to just swoop in and hand them the solution on a plate, but we know that’s not the best way. So what advice do our bloggers have for guiding kids to find the answers for themselves?
With her teacher’s hat on, Primrose Kitten’s Jen recommends going gently:
“If you’ve been working on a tricky question for a while (and potentially starting to get frustrated with the situation and each other) then take a break and come back to it later.”
She also advises providing a whole range of different types of resources and lots of different examples so they can work through the things they find difficult.
And Ann of Rainbows are too Beautiful recommends teasing the answer out by reminding children how they were taught to tackle problems:
“Most kids learn things in steps, so if there are tricky questions try asking them what they think they need to do first.”
If you’re not sure how to find the right answers yourself, take a quick peek at our ten best blogs to help with homeschooling. We’ve included excellent educational websites that can help you with everything from drawing an atom to writing a poem.
4: Enjoy breaks and playtime together
We’re all dealing with the stress of being cooped up together at the moment. So making time for fun and relaxation is really important. Jen of Primrose Kitten agrees:
“Breaks and fun are essential at the moment. Our kids are going to be feeling really confused and disorientated, looking after their mental health has to take priority over school work. In our house, we’ve decided to have Wednesday off (as well as the weekend!!) to break the pressure of homeschooling and it makes the weeks go quicker!”
Claire of Tin Box Traveller has been making time for lots of quality-time crafting with her kids:
“Taking a break from school work and our own work has been really important. When will we get the opportunity to just ‘be together’ like this again? We have set up a junk box in our kitchen and filled it with a lot of things that might usually go into our recycling bin. So far it has helped us create collages of places we’d like to travel in the future, space rockets, a fish tank, and robots.”
5: Protect children’s mental health
It’s tough for us all right now and our kids are really missing playing with their friends. So what can we do to look after their mental health during the quarantine?
Jen of Primrose Kitten says:
“Talk to them as much as you can. Be honest with them, tell them you’re scared as well and this is a strange time. Molly Potter has a great range of books for little kids’ mental health.”
Ann at Rainbows are Too Beautiful agrees that honest conversation is key:
“It’s also important that they have time to talk about anything that worries them and that anything they raise is taken seriously. Remember, if your child is worried about something and you don’t seem supportive they then have two things to worry about - their original concern, and that you won’t help them. Help them understand why they are at home so they have a context too.”
John Adams of Dad Blog UK advises keeping an eye on how our children are sleeping:
“I am no expert on mental health, but I think we can monitor how well our children are sleeping. Are your kids getting bad tempered and stroppy? If so, I think you need to give them some slack.”
He and his wife are also making an extra effort to give their kids the individual attention they both seem to need a lot more at the moment:
“I have certainly noticed that my kids need more one-on-one time. This is difficult within the confines of one house but not impossible. I, for instance, watched a film with our eldest daughter the other day upstairs…while my wife watched a film with our youngest child downstairs.”
6: Embrace the positives of homeschooling
Yes, it’s hard (for them and for us) at the moment. But there are also lots of positives that we can take strength from on the tougher days.
Jen of Primrose Kitten is enjoying “spending more time with the boys, really giving them both lots of personalised attention.”
And Claire of Tin Box Traveller is loving getting to know her kids even better:
“I feel much closer to my children and better understand their interests. I’ve discovered that my eldest daughter is a keen writer and enjoys making up her own stories independently. This makes me very proud. My younger daughter has a great imagination. I love watching her playing and acting out different roles in her games. There just isn’t time to make these observations in everyday life while we are all rushing around. The pace of life has slowed and we are all benefiting from it.”
John of Dad Blog UK is also enjoying having everyone together at home:
“… we haven’t had all four of us at home at the same time since my wife was on maternity leave following Izzy’s birth. These are difficult times, but we should make the most of this and spend as much quality time together as a family as we can.”
These different perspectives and approaches show there’s no right or wrong way to homeschool through the pandemic. We’ve all got to find the approach that suits our own particular kids. We hope our bloggers have given you the reassurance to follow your own instincts. No-one knows your children quite as well as you do!
Lead image: Sharomka