With the return to the new home schooling regime, many parents are facing the fact that what initially felt like a sprint to the Easter holidays is now a marathon, with no clear end in sight. Many of us are trying to manage our own daily workload while also overseeing schoolwork with children who are, let’s face it, less than enthusiastic about the prospect.

With home schooling our reality for the foreseeable future, how can parents make sure their children stay busy and engage their brains? We asked the parents amongst the Sovereign Health Care team for their best home schooling ideas. Early suggestions of renaming Mum and Dad ‘Miss and Sir’ during the week landed badly with the team’s offspring, but they’ve moved on from this experience and have amassed some great tips that we thought we’d share:

1. Structure your day

Despite some resistance to doing schoolwork at home, most children will thrive with some consistent structure to their day. While your child’s age and attitude to learning will dictate how much help they need, all will benefit from a daily routine to help them focus, which includes time for exercise and regular breaks.

Create a schedule with your children based on when they’re most switched on to learning. For some, general blocks of time for schoolwork each day will be enough; others will prefer a more structured timetable based on their normal school day. Talk to them about their preference and try out different approaches to see what works best.

2. Include time for more informal learning

Trying to teach a full schedule of studies every day is probably going to make you and your child anxious, so prioritise the core subjects and then mix and match ways of teaching the other subjects.

While it will be more important to keep up with more formal learning in the core subjects, lockdown gives us the opportunity to help children learn in new, fun ways that they would never normally have the opportunity to do. Get outside and hunt for insects as your biology lesson; create a crazy science experiment with baking soda and vinegar for chemistry

Read with your children, especially the younger ones, and don’t be afraid to use the TV to educate. Horrible Histories provides a great learning opportunity for primary school children, David Attenborough’s Blue Planet series is fascinating viewing for the whole family, and dramas like Noughts and Crosses are a fantastic way of engaging teenagers in modern English literature.

3. Be realistic

Most of us are not teachers by trade, and both we and our children are suddenly having to learn in a new, uncharted environment.

Be realistic about what can and should be achieved in a day, especially if you’re juggling home schooling with your own work. If your child can manage a session or two of learning on their own, let them, and focus your time on where they need support and assistance. Work with your child to set daily learning goals that both of you think are achievable and include both formal and informal learning activities.

4. Don’t reinvent the wheel

The last few weeks have seen thousands of fantastic free home schooling resources posted online. Use these to make your life easier and create some variety to keep your children engaged in their learning.

The BBC’s new Bitesize resource in particular provides a wealth of daily lessons for every age group and key stage to keep children busy – from Professor Brian Cox teaching us about the solar system to animations about Tutankhamen and Ancient Egypt.

5. Stay active

One drawback of lockdown is that it can be too easy for children to spend more time on screens, with less of the natural opportunities to run around that school provides. Building time into your day for exercise is important for the whole family and will help with motivation, productivity and general physical and mental health. Joe Wicks’ popular live PE With Joe sessions on YouTube are a great way to start the day and are raising money for the NHS as an added benefit! It may also help to get out for some fresh air in the garden or for your daily permitted exercise session at lunchtime so that you’re building in break times for fresh air and exercise. 

6. Let children lead their learning

Including child-led projects in the home-schooling mix can be really helpful, both in terms of keeping children interested and in allowing them to lead their own lesson so that parents can get on with other things for a while.

One suggestion for older primary school children or teens is to set them a research project. Use the national curriculum to find a topic that your child needs to study such as a country or period of history, and then ask them to find out and report back on ten facts about it. Let your ‘pupil’ decide how they want to report back – it might be by writing down the facts, through pictures or even a poster or PowerPoint presentation. By letting your child lead their learning in this way, and focusing them on something they’re interested in, you’re not only teaching them about the subject in a way that will help them retain information, but also how to be resourceful.

7. Enjoy it!

Our final tip is to make the most of this opportunity to learn with your children. Although we naturally focus on the challenges of home schooling, the current situation also gives us time with our children that we would never have had during ‘normal’ life. Taking an active interest in what your child is studying and bringing subjects to life for them can help inspire a lifelong love of learning and help you feel closer to them. You can also use this time to teach them life skills they would never learn in school.

While these are undoubtably hard times, focusing on the positives of learning with your children has the potential to create shared experiences and lovely memories of an unprecedented experience that they will never forget.

For further inspiration on fun and educational activities to do with your kids, see www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/parenting/g31445865/indoor-activities-for-kids/

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