Homeschooling 101 - Tips on how to survive your new role as teacher!
Updated: Jan 2
Now that self-isolation and social distancing are the name of the game, we suddenly find ourselves in a new role: that of a teacher! It's not been easy, but having just survived week one of homeschooling our primary kids, here are our tips, tricks and ideas for bringing some order to your new dining room classroom.
Make it fun!
Thankfully our older kids (years seven and 12) have had work set for them via their own school channels (phew!), so if you too have older kids, do check with them that they are having work set. If they say no, then check directly with the school - not that we don't trust you, tweens and teens...
But our primary kids have not had a lot set by their schools as of yet, so we've been winging it and, despite early fears and panics, it's been going pretty well. The key? Fun! For history we've been watching Horrible Histories together and then setting a related task (we got Mr Seven-year-old to draw a portrait of Queen Elizabeth I and find out some facts about her), for Science we ordered Horrible Science kits via Amazon and made bouncy ball eyeballs, and for English we wrote stories and letters about anything and everything.
We did a life skills lesson that involved a game of 'matching pairs' (pairing a huge pile of socks!), and cooking lessons that saw us make super easy cheese biccies. Geography was going through old photos of holidays and picking out our fave places, and then coming up with plans for future holidays and looking at where to go on maps.
We've also relied on all the amazing online live classrooms that have popped up on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. We've had a tour of a World War II bunker thanks to Western Approaches HQ, been busy with English lessons and spellathons via English with Holly, taken a whirl around Hopefield Animal Sanctuary, and, along with millions of others, suffered aching muscles thanks to PE lessons with Joe Wicks, The Body Coach.
Do build Lego constructions, play board games (we've got a whole guide with the best ones for families), make a scrap book (we've been cutting out interesting stories from the newspaper to document these weird times), plant stuff, grow stuff, create a time capsule, watch documentaries (the Planet Earth ones are superb and we also love Horrible Histories), teach them to use the washing machine, draw, turn toilet rolls into pencil holders and whip up your own slime. It all counts as education in our book.
Set achievable goals
Whatever you do, don't over-schedule stuff. Of course, by all means put together a loose timetable so that a routine is set, but if little Maisie doesn't want to write a poem at 10am and wants to pair socks instead, let her. Choose your battles. A lot of us are working from home during all of this, so when timetabling things, make sure they're tasks that the little ones can manage fairly independently, and that activities you need to be present for don't clash with your important conference call. Manage expectations (for them and you) as you go along: it's all a learning curve. Our week one timetable worked in some parts, and not at all in others. We've put together a new version for week two, so we'll see how that pans out. Get through this with the motto 'nothing is set in stone'.
Have some rewards stashed away
We have to say, we're pretty proud of how our kids have got on with it all this week, and they've produced some rather cool bits of art, fun stories and awesome projects, so we've rewarded them along the way for their endeavours. When and what you reward them with is entirely up to you. Ours work well for sweets, extra screen time, extra TV time and pocket money. Us? We're working on a 'large gin for mummy if we get through the day' kinda reward scheme...
Don't sweat it if you CAN'T homeschool
When this is all over, kids the length and breadth of the country are going to be all over the place with where they're at from an educational point of view. Teachers (the real ones: kudos to them!) are going to know this, and when school does resume, things will get back on track soon enough.
If homeschool just isn't working out for you and yours, then just give it a break (or trick them into doing tasks - as suggested above - that have some kind of sneaky educational value). In the grand scheme of all the craziness right now, no education for a wee while is not going to be a major catastrophe. Mental health and harmony are wayyy more important than times tables right now. Don't beat yourself up if Laura down the road has her five-year-old sitting a GCSE when your own little treasure just wants to play Guess Who all day. There's no right or wrong to any of this, only what is right for you and your family.
We're all in this strange ol' boat together, and a lot of our homeschooling ideas have come from our mum friends and from the likes of Instagram and Facebook. Talk to your friends and find out what activities they're doing, and add their ideas to your own homeschooling repertoire. Sharing is caring.
Also reach out to check your mummy mates are okay... some of them may be getting overwhelmed with it all and suffering from feelings of inadequacy in the face of their friends posting perfect homeschool pics all over social media. Talk, talk and keep talking: set up WhatsApp groups to not only share activity ideas and talk about successes, but also to give parents the opportunity to admit they might be struggling.
There are going to many wins, but also plenty of fails along the way. Most of us are not teachers, and with the best will in the world will not be natural to this at all. And that's okay. The most important things right now are to stay home, stay safe, keep calm, and get through this without losing your sanity. Much love to all, and don't forget to message us your own homeschooling tips too!
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