Top tips for schooling and educating at home:
The first thing to acknowledge is that you’re not their teacher. So it’s OK not to try to be their teacher this term: parents have plenty on their plate and they must keep their own priorities. Whatever you do, don’t be made to feel guilty by the work you’re seeing on social media from mythical super-mums and dads. Nevertheless, there are a few principles worth bearing in mind that can get you and your children through the coming months.
Use what the school give you, but make it part of the bigger picture
You will likely have been given an outline of the curriculum to cover, and a few worksheets. They’ll likely be fairly thin, so it would be easy to blast through them all just to keep your kids busy… Instead, try to make them last and instead lower your expectations as to how much time will be spent on actual schoolwork each day.
Rather than fill the days with “work” as it might be done in school, encourage your children to do some independent work around what they had to cover today – for older children, that might be reading around the material on Wikipedia, for younger children, drawing or craft projects that relate to the work they did.
Keep the lion’s share of the day for activities that will be mentally stimulating and ‘wholesome’ but feel like a treat – you’re far likelier to keep things going this way.
Don’t worry about missing bits or falling behind
Everything will be covered again when your child goes back to school, so don’t wake up in the night worrying about the odd missed bit. But remember that, when schools do resume, everything will be compressed – the revision of last year’s work, the teaching of the missed term’s curriculum and, consequently, all next year’s work too.
So while nothing will be missed, your child will manage next year far better if they have developed the skills to handle what will be the strangest 18 months in modern education.
Look back over the last year’s learning
Where you can support your child in getting ready for what comes next is to get them organised. Over the next few months, if they can look through everything they have done since September 2019 and consolidate their knowledge, they will have a major advantage next year.
Knowledge consolidation is an art – and it can be made into artistic exercises if, for example they write their own knowledge organisers or mind maps; anything you can do to support regular retrieval practice too – flashcards and quizzes can be made manually, or software like mine is ideal for keeping everything fresh in mind.
Build the skills that will help them next year
There’s one area where parents working with their children at home can do better than any school in their setting – and that is in the development of core learning skills. The fundamentals in this area are things like sustained concentration – which can be nurtured with activities like gardening, painting, knitting, puzzles or model-making. Beyond these, number puzzles, logic puzzles and crosswords can be superb for building facility with numbers, structured thinking, memory and vocabulary-building.
Think of this time not as one to spend replacing their school education with something similar – instead approach it as a time to get them as fit as possible for a disruptive year to follow. The given curriculum can form the backbone of their routine, but fill it with productive activities that allow you to live your own life too.
If, at the end of this, your child has a strong understanding of what was taught this year, and is happy and mentally prepared to learn what comes next, you will have done an amazing job.