How much learning time do I need to organise?
An hour or so of focused time is plenty. Lots of the school day is taken up with lunchtime, break times, assemblies etc so focused learning time where a child can freely concentrate on an activity is fairly short. Read this blog here to see what I mean. https://monkeymum.blog/2015/09/13/time-is-precious/
Does it have to be school hours?
Nope! That’s the beauty of homeschool! You can set your own hours and days and schedule based on your family’s needs and your child’s most focused hours. My son is always most focused just before bed so I’ll save any focused learning for then.
You don’t need to spend a full hour reading and writing or doing maths each day like they will do in school. Just 20 minutes a day is plenty.
If you have older kids, let them help you choose the rhythm of the day or get them creating their own. Discuss with them what they’d like to learn about and how much time they want to spend doing that. Allowing them some ownership and control over their own journey means they’ll feel much more freedom and you’ll be nagging them less.
Make sure you schedule down time as well as focused learning. It’s important for everyone to rest - including yourself. It’s also worth noting that outdoor and creative activities are just as important as academia. Check out my own daily rhythm at the bottom for some ideas.
What if I can’t get them to do work?
Then they aren’t in the right frame of mind to learn specific skills right now. Your children will respond much better when you relax a little. It’s okay for them to spend the whole day drawing or baking if that’s what makes their heart sing. When they’re happy and well rested you’ll find it much easier to get focused learning in. Follow their lead and let them do more of what interests them, then they’ll be much more responsive when you introduce new topics.
Are screens okay?
Of course! There are so many great online resources out there. Think carefully though about how much screen time you’re happy with and what purpose you’re using them for. It’s also worth noticing what sort of mood your child is in once they come off of the screens and make adjustments where you see fit. Screens, if used too much or for the wrong reasons can make our kids moody and that makes things harder for us as parents so try to find a balance where everyone is happy. Avoid using screens as rewards too. This makes screens become a “forbidden fruit” and our kids will start to want them more and more.
As always, if your kids are using social media and messenger apps, ensure that you’re fully aware of who they’re in contact with and what they’re doing on there. Here’s a great link to internet safety advice https://www.saferinternet.org.uk
What about the SATs?
It’s not completely clear yet, from the Prime Minister’s announcement yesterday whether SATs will go ahead, but given that GCSEs are cancelled, I’d say it’s extremely likely that SATs will be too.
Should I explain the situation to my kids?
It depends on their age and whether they are asking questions. They might be wondering why they aren’t going to school anymore. It’s best to be as honest as possible without scaring them. A simple explanation of “there’s an illness going around at the moment and it’s making lots of people really poorly. It’s a new illness that doctors don’t know much about right now, so we have to stay home for a while. You are safe here.”
At this time, it’s a good idea to protect your children from the news (even kids news like Newsround) What they don’t hear won’t worry them, and it won’t worry you either. Kids feed off of our anxiety, so catch up on the news when they go to bed.
Should I ease into homeschooling gently?
Yes it’s a really good idea to take the pressure off yourself and go slowly. It’s okay if the first few days are spent getting your head around the situation. Let the kids play games, draw, bake, read etc as you all get used to your new set up. You can increase focused learning time slowly.
Do I need to prep anything?
Not specifically. You just need to think outside of the box and observe your child.
When I say observe, what I mean is spend some time watching them without interruption and listening to what they’re talking about. Get a real idea of what they’re interested in and you can use that to help you inform some activities for the next few days. It makes life much more relaxed when you follow your child’s lead.
It’s a good idea though to get a daily rhythm or schedule together so you have some structure.
I’m working too, how do I manage it?
If you’re self employed or working from home, you might be able to choose your hours. Schedule some downtime for the kids so that you can work. Be smart with your time management. You could do some social media posts while you have a bath for instance. Or put a film on for the kids and use that 1.5 hours to work. It’s also perfectly okay to tell your kids that you have to work and they have time to occupy themselves, but they must not disturb you.
If you’re going out to work, and you’re relying on other people for childcare, don’t worry too much. You could get your kids to pack their own “learning bag” to take with them, and let them choose what they do throughout the day. There’s no need for your childcare provider to feel under pressure to create specific learning times. Learning happens everywhere! In baking, you’re weighing out ingredients, reading the recipe, adding up, sequencing, turn taking and loads more, just in one activity.
How do I keep siblings working together happily?
Firstly, manage your expectations and try to notice what the mood is like between them. They don’t have to be on top form all of the time, we all have off days right?!
When they have a squabble, don’t feel that you have to jump in straight away to sort it out. It’s okay for kids to experience conflict. If they need some help with their disagreement, don’t jump to conclusions or blame. Instead sportscast. Tell them exactly what you see happening. If they’re old enough, ask them how we could solve the problem together and if needed offer some solutions to reach an agreement. You don’t have to be in charge, or be the boss. This is a great opportunity for your children to practise communication and compromise instead of compliance.
Also be mindful that your kids might want some time alone. That’s okay. They could go to their room, or have a designated space at home where they won’t be disturbed by siblings. If younger siblings try to invade the space, gently guide them away and explain that your older child wants to work alone right now, and they’ll be available to play soon.
What about the school’s requirements?
Your child’s school should be in contact soon, if they haven’t been already. They’ll likely have some online passwords and codes to use and perhaps a work book.
It’s important that you follow the school’s guidelines and do some of this work, but equally, if your child isn’t interested or not feeling it, don’t push it. Just keep offering it to them later on.
If you choose to do your own thing, it’s a great idea to keep a diary or take photos regularly so you have some evidence of the work your kids have been doing.
Do I need to “mark” their work?
No, you’re just creating more tasks for yourself. The thing with marking is that it only shows your children what you think of their work and that they must rely on you to tell them if they’re right or not. It’s much more valuable to our kids to be able to assess their own work. If they can check their own answers and correct them, that’s a fantastic skill. They learn that it’s okay to make mistakes as well as independence.
Will my child unlearn things?
No. If a child has truly mastered a skill, it is impossible for them to unlearn it. A baby does not unlearn how to walk or speak (unless there’s medical reason for it). If your child appears to have unlearned a skill, it’s more likely that they just haven’t practised it in a while and need a reminder or that they didn’t quite master it in the first place.
For more support and guidance, head over to my free community Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/325556288090329/?ref=share or for more personal support, my home learning membership group https://www.facebook.com/groups/522765661976409/?ref=share