Your home-schooling questions answered - and remember, we can’t do more than our best
PUBLISHED: 06:00 23 March 2020 | UPDATED: 15:47 23 March 2020
Many parents today will be faced with the task of helping to ensure their children continue to get an education - and for some while also juggling work.
The coronavirus crisis has closed our schools - except to vulnerable children or those of key workers - and mums and dads find they have a new role, no doubt added to an already long list of responsibilities.
But they are not in it alone, and, while school buildings may be shut to many, teachers are certainly still hard at work - at site or at home.
What resources can I use?
Schools will have set tasks and a timetable for homeschooling - and don’t worry, you are not expected to replicate the school classroom at home.
Some schools use Google Classroom, where parents can access timetables, but there are a variety of online platforms used by different schools, another being GO 4 Schools.
As well as what educational institutions provide, there are plenty of free online resources. Here are a few:
•Twinkl - lesson plans interactive activities and resource packs
•BBC Bitesize - daily content for primary, secondary and post-16 students
•doodlemaths - helps to grow maths ability and has a free edition
•White Rose Maths - maths resources and videos
Suffolk teacher Sam Stott, who teaches nine-13-year-olds, encouraged families to enjoy the tasks, be creative and share what they’ve done.
She said: “The kids have the potential to thrive and remember they are extremely resilient!”
She said parents should remember that half an hour of one-to-one is far more intense than a classroom lesson, adding remember to take breaks.
“Kids will soon lose interest or get exhausted if parents keep on so maybe finish the day at 2.30pm - it’s up to parents. But make sure they don’t peak too soon.”
She added: “Have fun and listen to your schools. Teachers have been working long hours throughout the whole week to devise timetables, prep work as well as organising work at school and teacher timetables.”
Each day should include a PE task, she said, as well as time for reading.
This was echoed by Geoff Barton, former headteacher of a Bury St Edmunds secondary school and currently the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL).
“Build in time that’s just for reading because it’s so much the predictor of everyone’s later success in life,” he said.
• World Book Online - free ebooks and audiobooks for children to access at home
Mr Barton said routine was “very important”, but added “there are opportunities to do all kinds of things”.
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Should it all be about work?
Mr Barton said at a time when people are encouraged to stay home, it was important to include physical activity and have time offline for mental wellbeing.
And the homeschool day could include activities like arts and crafts and cooking - something some parents have already said they will be factoring in.
One parent said this could be the chance to teach kids “actual life skills” like budgeting, cooking, laundry and basic mechanics.
A Suffolk mum, whose daughter is 12, said as well as taking the school’s lead, she planned on taking time out for a walk, some dance or mindful activities like colouring or jigsaws each day.
While too much TV would never be recommended, BBC programmes like Numberblocks - maths for younger pupils - are educational and another option.
•Numberblocks - available on BBC iPlayer
Remember, the children won’t be in a classroom, so don’t put pressure on yourself to recreate one.
How are parents feeling?
Many parents will no doubt be feeling anxious, but others are excited at the prospect at having more involvement in their child’s day of learning.
Gina Campbell said she was “absolutely dreading it”, and mentioned technical problems at home.
And Suffolk mum Alexandra said it’s “difficult when you still have to go to work and try and fit homeschooling into the day”.
Parents of children with additional needs have also shared their worries.
Tracy Noble has three children with a range of needs including autism, speech and language delay and anxiety.
She said: “This is going to be an extremely tough time. I’m only going to do the school work sent home as and when they want to. They will not be pressured into doing it.”
They will be doing other activities too, like animal care and treasure hunts.
Mum Shannon, however, said she was “loving it”.
She spent her Mother’s Day morning printing off resources for her girls to create their own homeschool folder. “Twinkl has been a life saver!” she added.
Maybe a teacher in another life?
For those who are struggling with the start of homeschooling - whatever the reason - remember teachers haven’t abandoned us.
And support groups are popping up online - such as Suffolk Home Schooling on Facebook, which has been set up by teachers and other teaching staff.
We tell our children they can only do their best, and now it’s time for us to take that advice.