Many of our regular readers (and obviously those who are our friends) will know that we have been home educating by choice for the last eight years.
Hello and welcome to those of you who are currently having to join our ranks and are looking for help, advice or support!
We completely understand that the emotions accompanying this enforced isolation will be ranging from sheer panic and worry for a range of reasons, to joy at having extended family time.
Right now is not the norm for schooled or home educated families. Home edders are also feeling the lack of social contact right now. We are often out at meetups or seeing friends more than we are at home! This is not our usual life either.
After chatting with friends and receiving messages from people, we thought it might be helpful to pool our thoughts and share some of our top tips and resources with you all. I’ve been watching out for resources that are relevant to our family and making a note of top tips that I have seen in other places online.
We hope this post is useful for some of you, as well as being reassuring at this tricky time.
‘School at home’ is not always the best approach to take
It’s not difficult to understand why parents are looking to recreate school at home for their children. However many of us who home educate avoid this approach at all costs. Putting in a schedule (however vague or loose) can be brilliant. But don’t let the schedule or timetable become the be all and end all.
Some of our most successful times of cracking on with some bookwork have been after we’ve all stepped away from the books/screens and had a walk, or a brew, or an ice cream at the front!
Home educating allows us the time in the day to stop and breathe and reset when we all need to. The schedule will still be there when you come back to it. And everyone’s heads will be in a better place to learn.
Think about what tasks have to be completed that hour, or that morning, or that day.
Does your child have work from school that needs to be completed at home? Break it into chunks on set days. Once that chunk is complete, they can go and do whatever they want to do for an hour.
Screen time is ok!
These are strange and uncertain days that we are living in right now. Sometimes the best thing that we can do is to take the pressure off and have a movie afternoon. Or give everyone time on a tablet or computer.
Gaming is ok.
Watching tv is ok.
Enjoying movies is ok.
Please don’t panic about screen time.
We actively use screens for learning and entertainment every single day. In fact, we both work online too!
There are hundreds and thousands of brilliant learning websites and apps that are relevant and educational. Some are just plain entertaining and we don’t mind that either!
There is a huge list doing the rounds on social media that has been compiled by a home educator. Please do ask if you haven’t seen it and would like me to send it to you.
Here are some top apps and websites that our family suggests having a look at:
(Please check them before giving your children access.)
We use the Duolingo app for learning languages. They also have a great website.
We have been using Khan for over 6 years now and the girls especially enjoy the ‘Pixar in a box’ resources. Great for Maths, literacy and computing especially. Note that it is a US website, so levels refer to the US grade levels.
We did these for years and enjoyed getting out in nature, whether that was in our back garden or the wider countryside.
NanoWrimo Young Writer’s Programme
A brilliant writing resource for young writer’s. Two of our girls are currently using this daily and learning so much.Red Ted Art
A brilliant art and craft site run by an artist Mum.
The Imagination Tree
Art and craft activities for young children, run by an early years teacher and Mum.
Twinkl are offering a month of free access to their site for parents now that the schools are closed.
Plenty of great geography games covering countries across our planet.
Easy Peasy Homeschool
A full homeschool curriculum offered at a what-you-can-afford donation cost. Does contain some religious content, but can easily be avoided if that isn’t your thing.
Plenty of awesome videos – entertaining and educational!
An Australian-launched resource that covers the UK National Curriculum. Aimed at primary aged students. One we used for the past few years and that our girls really enjoyed.
English language learning resources.
A Geography-based quiz site that is full of quizzes.
A brilliant website that is a library full of awesome courses for kids. Some are one-off lessons, some are short courses covering a range of topics from the Mythology of Harry Potter to Creating and governing a Minecraft city! From Mindfulness for Kids to Character Design modelled on Studio Ghibli! From Basic Human Anatomy to Veterinary Medicine!
Courses cost, but are mostly affordable. Our girls have done a few one-off/double lesson courses on Outschool and really loved them!
My girls love projects. Something that they can throw themselves completely into and learn all about in one topic area. When we travelled to Vienna and Prague before Christmas, our older two girls researched about the two cities we would be visiting. They found about foods and currency and the popular and lesser known places to visit. They presented their findings in a Powerpoint talk for the family.
Our youngest loves to do projects, where she can make and build and research and chat about and create and paint (See Red Ted Art and The Imagination Tree links above).
Don’t try and stick to the normal routines that you have when your children are in school. The mess in the living room, or on the kitchen worktops can wait.
We try to loosely time block our days where possible. For example:
breakfast time is when everyone gets showered, dressed, has breakfast and the dishwasher gets emptied. I also clear off and wipe down the worktops at this point. Any mess in the kitchen then gets left until lunchtime. Any afternoon mess/pots get left until tea is being prepared.
This means that I am not constantly chasing my tail cleaning up when I should be doing other things with the girls. We time block to try and increase our efficiency and make sure that I am focussed on the task at hand and not panicking about the state of the kitchen!
Everybody in our house has to get dressed on weekdays. We don’t have school or workday clothes, but we also don’t live in our pyjamas. Don’t get me wrong; we have pyjama days like plenty of other families. But not on days when we are trying to get things done.
Often the older girls will change back into pyjamas in the late afternoon, just to be comfy. But in our house, pyjamas are most definitely not conducive to working.
I should also say that we have other home ed friends who are big fans of home edding in pyjamas and that works great for them!
Remember those days when as a teen you would have to drag yourself out of bed for school? So much is happening in the teenage brain!
Does it matter this next couple of weeks if they get up at 11am and work into the evening? Go with the rhythms that work for your family. Think about whether your children find it easier to work in the morning or the afternoon. Stop and consider whether you like to get things done and finished in the morning and then get outside together for the afternoon.
FInd what works for you and your family. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing.
Work as a team
We are big on Team in our house. Our girls know that in order for life to run as smoothly as possible, we all need to muck in and help. They have chores that they do daily and then every Friday afternoon is Chores Time. Once they have completed their chores, they are free to relax.
Involve your children in small things that help the house to function well. Even when they were little, our girls loved to help me unload the dishwasher, or wash the pots.
Be kind to yourselves
Neither you nor your children will automatically fall into a home educating routine in the next two weeks! Most home educators who have removed their child/ren from school went through a stage called ‘deschooling’, where you all work to slow down and find your family’s rhythms. This doesn’t and can’t happen overnight and can take months. So don’t expect to fall into a rhythm straight away.
Just know that the more you can take the pressure off yourselves and your child/ren, the less stressful you will all find this period of enforced home edding.
Remember that children learn all the time
Children learn really naturally. Through baking or gaming or reading comics or creating or simply through play. Yes play! Play is the foundation for every child’s learning. How much learning did your now-older child do through play and role play and craft and baking when they were pre-schoolers?
That hasn’t changed! Give them time and space in their daily lives to be creative and to have fun with their learning this next few weeks. That time isn’t wasted.
Honestly. Have some fun! Your children won’t necessarily remember the details of this time in the future, but they will absolutely remember if they felt scared or worried or upset. So have some fun together!
Build dens. Play board games. Run out in the fresh air (at a safe distance from other people!). Play with food (‘Play with your food” run by Our Kitchen Classroom on Facebook has some great ideas!). Make models out of rubbish or recycling. Do face painting.
Just have some fun!
For those who are working from home
We both work from home. Every week we have set classes when we are teaching online that cannot be moved or interrupted.
Our girls know that they need to wait 25 minutes before they can ask Mum or Dad a question!
Our older girls are old enough to bake or cook or go for a walk whilst we are teaching.
They also have scheduled tasks that they need to complete during our working hours. I try to stick to three-hour working stretches at most. This is ample time for them to complete any bookwork or online work that they need to do.
Remember that schools (especially primary schools) are not learning/working solidly from 9am-3pm every day! That would be exhausting and impossible for most children.
Our youngest, who is 8, understands the 25-minute rule, but at times she struggles to wait. So I have emergency activities on hand that usually involve colouring or simple craft.
Novelty items or activities also work very well for her. If it’s new and intriguing, she is happy.
And if all else fails, she goes on her Kindle Fire until I can sort her out!
There is a huge home educating community here in the UK. It is supportive and knowledgeable and willing to help!
Educational Freedom is a fab Facebook page (and they ahve a website too), full of resources, support and advice.
Some home edders have set up a number of Facebook groups specifically for families that are temporarily home edding during this COVID-19 lockdown. You can find the groups here:
These are some resources that I’ve spotted around and about on social media this week. We’re tapping in to some of them this week and especially making the most of resources that are currently being offered for free or at discounted rates.
Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden (@cincinnatizoo) are doing a live stream on Facebook every day called ‘Home Safari’, which will include a walk around and spotlight on one animal.
This is a blog post about zoos that are have live streams running.
And here is a blog post detailing free virtual tours of museums and educational sites around the world!
For those of you who love to sing, a male voice choir leader in Bridgend in is going live on Facebook every day on their newly created Facebook page @CoronaVoiceChoir and you can watch and sing along from the comfort of your own home! They are planning to go live every morning from 10-11am (GMT) starting Thursday 19th March.
The producers of the West End version of ‘The Wind in the Willows’ have made a filmed version available to stream online for free or a donation.
@PaperDollsByCory is sharing his whole collection of paper doll colouring pages via his Facebook page. His art is great for printing and colouring and our girls have had many hours of fun doing this!
Julie Bogart at Brave Writer is offering some of her writing resources free until the 30th April. We have