The COVID-19 pandemic has caused some parents to withdraw their children from school. The global health crisis is frightening. But as Sir Ivor Novello wrote: there’s a silver lining/ through the dark cloud shining. This is a rare opportunity for parents to take personal charge of a child’s education. Countries such as Italy and the Republic of Ireland have already closed all schools. A school shutdown is probably coming in the United Kingdom. This begs the question: how can parents home school their children if they are not used to doing so?
There are several strategies that you can employ to help you children’s education during a school shutdown.
Schools will try to assist you. Most schools have an intranet. They already set homework and allow pupils to access resources on it as a matter of routine. This will simply be enhanced during any school shutdown period. Use the parent portal or the pupil portal together with your child to find out what tasks have been set, what the submission date is and which study resources are available.
One of the snags can be that the change from the school environment to being at home is not conducive to learning. This combined with the fact that parents are normally much more familiar and will not have the detachment of teachers makes for a challenge. Setting of ‘school hours’ will help as will establishing at an early stage the rules about doing work and creating a ‘school’ area even if it is only a desk.
It is frequently tricky to see a pupil’s desk under a mountain of stationery, loose pages, books and sugary snacks. Suggest a decluttering spree. Decluttering a study space space and removing distractions to create a calm and functional study corner can boost self-discipline and help to focus the mind. It is also worth pinning printed copies of the home schooling weekly schedule in the child’s bedroom and the kitchen (inevitably, utilising the fridge door).
A weekly timetable is invaluable when scheduling study, recreation, and rest. The first task should be to select a scheduling platform that your child enjoys using: a timetabling app, an Excel or Word document, a beautiful daily planner with a handy ‘to do’ list or even a wall chart. Creating a timetable for the week and scheduling colour-coded study sessions will help to prioritise study time. It is worth buying for your child a notebook, as writing down daily tasks and ticking them off on completion gives them a sense of satisfaction.
There are numerous online resources for all subjects and levels. BBC has an extensive education section. Here you can find articles, video clips and programmes on all subjects. If your child is studying for the GCSEs, search the Bitesize guides, where you will find many fantastic course summaries, videos, and quizzes which make revision straightforward and fun.
There are numerous educational YouTube channels. Concise lectures cover a multitude of subjects and specific topics within the curriculum. You can find the curriculum that your daughter or son is supposed to be following on the school’s intranet and encourage them to watch a relevant YouTube channel. For pupils preparing for public examinations, there are plenty of past papers available online.
English, Maths, modern languages, religious studies, history and geography are easy enough to do at home. The sciences are trickier – it is hard to run an experiment without a laboratory! However, watching videos of experiments and then using past papers to answer questions on lab practials helps to process and memorise the material. Watching educational videos without making notes or tackling topic-specific questions afterwards does not help with retention or recall of the material.
Long before COVID-19 arrived parents have chosen to home educate for all manner of reasons and if you look on line there are almost certainly local groups offering support and ideas. While mixing is discouraged in the current circumstances where it is desired these groups offer sports gatherings, joint lessons and opportunities for parents to build knowledge and have questions answered by those with experience. You might want to look at Education otherwise and Home schooling websites.
This is the time to encourage children to read all (or a couple of) those tomes that they never had time to read. A whole bookshelf could be consumed within a week. Share and discuss your favourite books with them.
With younger children, spend additional time reading to them and listening to them read aloud. Reading can help them improve their spelling, punctuation and grammar and assist them by raising their vocabulary level.
The great thing about home schooling though is that it is not in the classroom! Hence otherwise routine activities can be turned in to learning opportunities. Speed/time/distance on exercise journeys, cost of shopping/change offer practical maths ideas; returning goods or making a complaint email, analysing the news or writing a daily journal for English etc. Also don’t feel constrained to isolating the subject as for example language, history and geography can be usefully rolled together in the practical setting.
Life is about how you react to it. COVID-19 is scary. But it presents an unexpected opportunity for home schooling, and a chance for parents to spend more time with their offspring.
It is said that the only thing permanent is change. In these blog posts I reflect on how schools and universities transform education by inventing social trends and then embracing them whilst breaking with the past.
Educational Strategists & Advisers on UK Secondary and Higher Education
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