How to homeschool through Coronavirus: words from a seasoned home edder

In 1996, at 11 years old, I left school for good. My family moved and I began my own homeschooling journey, which got me through GCSEs, A levels, and finally graduating with a First Class degree (via the Open University).

In 2006 my son was born. He is 13 now, and has never been to school.
In 2008 my daughter was born. She is 11 now, and has never been to school.

And now, in 2020, the whole world is suddenly forced into joining our fabulous world.

There are so many things I want to tell you all.

Don’t worry. Enjoy it. It’s easier than you think. Don’t replicate school at home. Prioritise. Choose joy. Keep boundaries. Stay active. Read lots.

My list could go on. But the reality is this enforced ‘homeschooling’ cannot and will not be a true reflection of home education in normal life. Because life is not normal right now.

In normal life, home edders meet up regularly in groups to walk, learn, or just hang out together. You don’t have this option. In normal life, home edders do not have the pressure of tests and standards to meet, because going to school in the future is optional. You may not have this luxury. In normal life, home edders have at least one parent who wants to be homeschooling their kids.  You might not want this at all.

Yet here you are. Here we all are. So how can you make this work? Well, the possibilities are almost endless. You could do everything from unschooling to hiring in online tutors for every subject. The following are my suggestions, based on years of experience in child care, tutoring, youth work, fostering and home educating. For ease I have split my advice up by age groups. But one of the huge joys of home education is the ability to tailor it, so take everything here as an idea and a springboard, and mix it up to fit your family.


Preschoolers: 3-5 years

This one is the easy one. You’ve heard it said that play is children’s work. Now all you need to do is believe it! Encourage play in all its forms:

  • Creative play, like these great No Mess art ideas.00000IMG_00000_BURST20200210121807207_COVER_2
  • Imaginary play – build a fort under the table, play cars, put dollies to sleep
  • Physical play – rough and tumble, roly-poly, skip, dance, jump, tickle, chase and laugh
  • Nature play – walk as often as you can, play in the garden, look for birds, bees, flowers and trees, make use of the National Trust’s generous offer of free entry to many outdoor spaces
  • Music play – get out the intruments or improvise with pots and spoons – get loud and enjoy it
  • Story play – read books like there’s no tomorrow – the more the merrier

Try to keep your patience. Yes, it’s hard. But it’s way more fun than getting stressed. Try to not mind the mess in the day. Clean up at the end and relax while the kids are in bed. Try to keep your boundaries. No means no. Get that clear now and the rest of your days will be so much more peaceful. Try to say yes as much as possible. Live life to the full.


Early primary schooler: 6-8 years

Okay, now we can add in a bit more structure. One of my favourite quotes for homeschooling this age group is “structure time, not content”. Put a loose schedule in place, something like this:

DSC_02527am: Wake and get ready for the day
9am: Go for a walk/play in the garden
10am: Learning time
12pm: Lunch
1pm: Play time
4pm: Screen time
5pm: Dinner
6pm: Reading time
7pm: Bath & bed

You don’t need to set particular learning goals or tasks. During learning time just let them choose something they are interested in, and as long as it has educational value, it will do them good. It could be baking, art tutorials, researching a topic, doing a work book, reading, building, playing with instruments. Don’t forget they still need lots of play time at this age, and lots of time outside is good for every age. Make time to read to them, even if you are working from home. It’s so good for them, and it’s so special for you too.


Older primary schoolers: 9-11 years

Here is where you might start getting nervous. Breathe. You can do this. At this stage my days looked something like this. We had some set work amidst our flexible lifestyle, and here are some great resources we used around that time:

  • Language:  Duolingo is free and fun, and focuses mainly on vocabulary. We also used Michel Thomas and Paul Noble books and audios, which were great for conversational learning. Also check out your DVD collection – many Pixar and Disney films have other audio options, and watching your favourite cartoon in the language you’re learning is a great way get your ears tuned to the language and pick up some vocab too.
  • Maths:  Kahn Academy has some great videos, and is also free to use. Life of Fred is costly, but if you think home ed might be something you’ll do for the longer term then it’s really worth the money.
  • English:  A Kindle is a great way to access free classic books which can be read together or alone. Writing a journal, writing stories and writing letters are great ways to keep English skills going, and about all we did at that stage. There’s also a great website called Brave Writer which offers short courses that could be perfect for short term home edders.
  • History:  Historical fiction is an easy and engaging way to learn about history. Apart from the obvious Horrible History series, other series we have enjoyed include Roman Mysteries and My Story collections.
  • Science:  This is one of the trickier subjects to do at home, without investment. One website we liked at this stage, which offered science amongst other topics, was Education City. They do offer a 21 day free trial, so it’s worth a look. We also liked playing Anatomix.
  • Geography:  Games and story books are great ways to get in some geography. We especially liked Geografunny, The Boy who Biked the World, Around Europe Snap and Atlas Adventures.00100lrPORTRAIT_00100_BURST20200212152715216_COVER

This age is also a great time to zone in on the subjects your child is really interested in. After all, if they have a love for something particular, chances are they will end up working in that field. So why not give them some extra time to invest in following their passion. We have done this in different ways – sometimes dedicating a whole day each week just to doing the thing they really love. They learn so much, and enjoy it too – bonus!


Secondary schoolers: 12-16 years

Things can get a bit more serious now, and people often ask how I can teach my kids things that I don’t know. The truth is, I can’t. But we live in an age where information is at our fingertips. Even if your libraries are closed (sadness!), books and the internet are a great place to learn a lot. Help your kids to filter out the junk and teach them how to search for good information. If you don’t have good books at home, then order some from Amazon. My teenager does several online courses at the moment, but the things he doesn’t learn from them he learns from books, documentaries, conversations, good quality science and history magazines, and the internet. He knows WAY more than I do about most subjects. He also has quite a full schedule of work these days. Unfortunately most of the good quality resources for this age are expensive and/or require long term commitments, so it’s harder to find things that work for a temporary homeschooler. If you’re in this situation, and don’t have enough homework set by your school to see them through, try supplementing with these suggestions:

  • Set a project for your teen to complete, that lines up with their interests. For example, I’d set a project to illustrate a set of Greek myths for my art-loving history-geek son, or a project to create an elaborate wedding cake for my bake-off aspiring daughter.
  • Find or buy a set of documentaries/TV programmes which interest your teen. Simon Reeve does some great travel documentaries that are packed full of geography and culture; David Attenborough, of course, has fantastic nature programmes; even series like MasterChef, Bake Off or The Great Pottery Throw Down can be very informative and inspiring.
  • Teach some life skills. Academics are not the only thing we need for adulthood – try using this break from traditional school to let your teen take more responsibility around the house, and perhaps learn some new skills too. Do they know how to do the laundry? Cook a couple of meals? Wash the dishes thoroughly? Empty the bins and get them out for bin day? Clean the bathroom? Vacuum the house? Wash the car? Make a budget?
  • Invest in some good books on topics your teen is interested in. Amazon delivery may be slower than usual, but there is still so much available. And again, investment in a passion will always pay off, even if you’re only on this homeschool journey for a short while.

00100lrPORTRAIT_00100_BURST20191225144017528_COVERRemember, even at this age being outside remains important. Your child may be missing regular sport activities, and keeping active will help keep them fit and healthy. As long as guidelines allow it, try to get outdoor activity in at least three times a week. A long walk, basketball in the garden, kicking a ball on the field.  Do what you can, when you can – it’s really worth it. And another secret – you can still read to your kids, even at this age. I do, and we all love it!

 

 


You can find out more about home education in my older posts. Check here for all my home ed related posts. Here are the ‘days in the life‘ series. Here are some posts about resources. Here are some posts about whys and hows. If you have any questions, please do feel free to comment.

Lastly, try to enjoy this unique gift of time with your children. Many times people have said to me that they could never homeschool, because their kids would drive them crazy. This makes me sad. If that is you, then I urge you to re-evaluate. I think, on reflection and giving it a chance, you’ll find out just how much you not only love your kids, but like them too.

%d bloggers like this: