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The idea of home schooling, especially in these uncertain times, can be a very daunting one. It is difficult to juggle normal family life with this new expectation placed on you and your child, and there are likely to be speed bumps in the road as your family goes forward with it. However, there are some hints and tips that can make this task easier and you and your child can succeed with it.

Tip One: Routine

Children thrive on routine. It offers them security and stability which, especially in these uncertain times, is very important. If a child knows what is going to happen and when, it makes transitions easier, for example the movement of one subject into another, as these will come to be expected. It will help them to feel safe, and allow them to settle into their learning more easily. Once you have agreed this with your child, it would be beneficial to outline a visual timetable to reinforce your routine and to support your child during their learning. They will feel pride in themselves that they are meeting expectations, and their confidence will grow.

Tip Two: Having a Home-schooling Workspace

Having a designated area for your child to work in allows them to separate their ‘school’ area from the rest of their home and establishes that area as a place of learning. It doesn’t need to be a big space. In fact, a desk with the necessary resources on it is likely to be enough. Even the end of a coffee table will be enough if you do not have a kitchen/dining table. Don’t clutter up the space with too many things as this is likely to prove a distraction for your child. To help the space feel like their own, your child could personalise it in their own way, for example by putting a sticker with their name on it, or a label that they have made themselves. This personalisation will give your child ownership over their space, and, through that, their own work. It is important for them to have this to encourage their independence and resilience, and allow them to progress with their learning.

Tip Three: Pace

Going too quickly or too slowly for your child will cause them, and you, unnecessary stress. They are likely to become upset if they feel rushed or moved on too quickly as they will be not confident enough in what they have been taught. Alternatively, if the learning goes forward too slowly, they might become bored and frustrated. Allow your child to explore ideas in their subjects in their own time; and, where possible, in their own way. If this means taking another day on a certain objective, then this is all right. This helps the learning to become embedded as your child gets to grips with each new idea at the appropriate pace for them as an individual. If something is proving difficult, strip It back. Once your child is feeling secure in the basics, they will have the building blocks necessary to move on to the next steps. At the appropriate pace, children can develop their confidence in their learning securely, allowing them to move forward when they are truly ready to do so. Remember it is not a race and your child does not need to finish all the work that has been set. I’m sure your child’s teacher doesn’t expect your child to complete everything. Your teacher is making sure your child has enough work, but often the resources are more than any child can get through.

Tip Four: Take breaks!

Schools allow snack breaks and play times in order for the children to let off steam and recharge their batteries. Plan these times into your day so that your child is not sat too long at a desk or a screen. Allow your child to have a water bottle with them as they learn and give them healthy snacks at regular intervals throughout the day. This will help them to focus and help prevent headaches. Let them play out in your garden to get some fresh air and to enjoy themselves. If you don’t have a garden, let them play games in the home away from their workspace so that they can have a proper break from their learning. You can use these times to both engage with your child in a way that doesn’t concern schooling, or to give them some independent space to unwind, as necessary.

Tip Five: Keep Active

There are numerous sites online that provide exercise and unwinding activities for children to mirror. Doing these first thing in the morning and interspersed throughout the day gets your child moving, and can help them to build up their energy or relax as is needed. You can also allow them ‘movement breaks’ outside of their normal play times. These could involve simply standing up and doing something physical in place for a couple of minutes, such as doing jumping jacks or running on the spot. This will help them burn off some energy and then be able to focus on their learning when they return to sitting at their workspace.

Tip Six: Vary your Activities

Within your child’s learning, ensure that they have varied activities to complete from day to day. Repetition can be helpful in ensuring your child learns a new skill, but too much of this can cause the child to become bored and frustrated. Give them different ways to learn the same skill. For example, rather than relying on worksheets for each new objective, let them explore the idea in a practical way, such as using physical resources in their counting or playing at running a shop in the house to support their understanding of money. Having new things to do within their learning of different skills and knowledge will help children to remain engaged and interested in their schooling.

Tip Seven: Go Online

Following on from the previous tip, there are plenty of resources online, many are free, to help with your child’s learning and school day. Not just examples of worksheets, but educational videos and calming music/images to help your child to learn and to focus. There are also websites online which outline the expectations related to your child’s year group as to what they should be learning that year, for example in maths, sometimes with supporting resources or website links attached. Use these to help guide you to teach your child if you need to. Your child’s teacher will be providing a lot of resources, but when your child is stuck on a topic, these websites can help you explain the concepts.

Tip Eight: The Core

English, reading, maths and science are the core of schooling. If you are feeling overwhelmed with the number of subjects that children will go through during their school week, then focus your attention primarily on these. These subjects give children the transferable skills necessary to succeed in others when they go back to school, such as reading and comprehending a piece of text in history. Play times will provide the necessary exercise for your child, and some time spent creatively each day (such as painting or playing an instrument) will be enough for them to be going on with if necessary until they are able to go back to school. You can also put more practical elements into the core subjects if you would like to, such as doing some drama during your literacy time.

Tip Nine: Be Clear

Communicate with your child often and don’t overload them with instructions. Talk things through with them to ensure their understanding, set fair boundaries and make your expectations clear. Bitesize, a little given to the child verbally at a time, is better. Many children benefit from visual and audio cues, such as pictures on a visual timetable or clapping patterns they can imitate to get their attention, your child will be used to them from their time at school. Use these cues to your advantage so that your child always knows what they need to be doing, whether that means working independently or listening to your input. This will help them to meet your expectations and reduce unnecessary upset for both of you as you both know what the other needs and expects.

Tip Ten: Don’t stress!

During this time, it is very easy to feel overwhelmed and pressured regarding your child’s learning and progress. So, perhaps, the most important piece of advice that can be offered is to try not to put undue stress upon yourself. If your child, or you, need time to unwind, then allow yourselves that time without worry. If your child makes a mistake during their learning, simply go over it with them again. You may need to look at other ways of teaching it if a certain method doesn’t seem to be working. It is normal for children to make mistakes, so don’t worry when it happens. Equally, if you happen to make a mistake, don’t upset yourself over it. Correct yourself and move on. If you are able to do this, it lets your child know that mistakes are nothing to be afraid of, and are, in fact, often how we learn.
Be kind to yourself and your child, unless you are a qualified teacher (and even then, your child probably won’t let you teach them), you were not trained in home-schooling. Everything you do will be the best you can do in the moment. Be kind to yourself and have fun where you can.

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