We’re eleventy-billion weeks into lockdown now and home schooling is well underway. A few weeks ago we pulled together some ideas and resources that might help inspire (read here) and although lots of them are still relevant, the reality of lesson demands, the working-from-home juggle, the military-precision supermarket trips and constant snack and meal prep means that there have been a few adjustments… So here are some discoveries we’ve made along the way with a few tips that might make your days a little easier. We’re only talking about Primary school kids here. If you know our back story, you’ll know that we have two boys born a few months apart. They’re now both 7 – one is in Year 2 and one in Year 3 so this is really about our experience of home schooling the boys. We’re not focusing on the rigours of senior school (we guess you’re not here for that anyway!) or the free flow of nursery. We’ll add a blog on the younger years soon so stay tuned.
And trust us, we don’t have this thing cracked at all! But anything we can share, we figure is worth it.
1) The Routine
Each school seems to be doing things a little differently at the moment. Some have Zoom calls, some have very structured lists of work to complete while others are sending suggestions and asking you to just do your best – no pressure. But after some weaving in and out of routines, we’ve been following a few simple paths that seem to be working most of the time.
- Kids learn best in the morning. Get through as much of the learning as you can before lunch. On days when we’ve mixed things up, the afternoon lessons have been a bust, scrapped to start again another day.
- The afternoons are better spent with craft, free play and dare we say it, screens.
- Unless it’s genuinely working for you, don’t try and replicate the 8.45 to 3.15 school day at home. There’s no doubt in our mind that teachers do an INCREDIBLE job. But in most instances they have 30 kids in the class. There’s very little one-to-one time, there are lengthy break and lunch times, loo breaks, assemblies, sports days - you name it. The actual amount of time that your kids are doing the nuts and bolts learning is probably no different to a morning of learning at home. Yes, while they’re at home, they’re missing out on all that other stuff, but from a lesson point of view, we can pretty much cover it pre-lunch.
- Teacher Training Days – everyone needs one sometimes. If you do, cut yourself some slack and take it!
If your child does any hobbies that can be replicated over a video call, and you’re in a position to continue them during lockdown, then go for it. We’ve found that seeing and learning from a dance instructor, music teacher or similar is a great way to make them feel connected to their normal routine. Genuine joy right there.
3) The power of the screen!
Ok, hear us out. We know it’s not OK to plonk your child in front of the TV from sunrise to sunset. But there are some great ways the TV can be a friend to you and your child. And not just by switching on Garfield. We recently signed up to Disney + (this is not an ad btw) and they have an amazing edit of nature programmes. This week, we’ve softened the blow of PowerPoint presentations about food chains by watching Dolphin Reef and African Cats alongside. The narration is fun and playful and just what you’d expect from Disney. And of course, let’s not forget the wonderful David Attenborough. There’s no need to sign up to Disney + if you’re not already planning to do so. iPlayer has loads of his incredible documentaries – a guilt-free hour or two of screen time if ever there was!
4) PE Lessons
Joe Wicks is great, there’s no doubt about it. He’s provided an amazing service during this very unique time and kids do need to exercise. BUT, not every child likes PE. There, I said it. PE lessons have always induced moaning. If they included football and bike riding it would be a different story, but right now, they don’t, so moving PE from school TO HOME, was not met with enthusiasm. We’ve discovered some other options which have a higher success rate over here. So if you’re looking for something online (and shorter – the Joe Wicks classes are pretty long!) , these could be for you.
The Black Panther HIIT workout for kids
Avengers Training Academy – Spider-Man HIIT workout
They’re all part of the Get Kids Moving Channel - you can find them all here:
These are just some of the options we’ve found. Search and there really are loads of others from Pokemon Fitness to online ballet classes.
The simplest things really are sometimes the best. If lockdown has done nothing else for us, it has ignited a passion for drawing. When lessons are done we’ve found that the humble paper and a pencil has proved super popular. And if an actual lesson legitimately includes drawing, bingo! All credit must first go to the amazing children’s author and illustrator Rob Biddulph who has been uploading bi-weekly how-to-draw videos to YouTube. Many of them are based on his characters, and they are genuinely great. We moved from them to watching some tutorials by Quentin Blake. There are some to be found via the new Harry Potter hub too. And with a little confidence built, the afternoons often involve a sketchbook, concentration and imagination. No screens needed. Well, sometimes the TV is on in the background but you take the wins where you can 😉
Draw with Rob by Rob Biddulph
6) Lego challenge update
Even for a child who loves Lego, the rigorous schedule of our 30 day Lego challenge wasn’t to be. Any appeal that the structure offered at first, wore off quickly. Luckily, the Lego building didn’t so it’s evolved into the Lockdown Lego challenge with maybe a couple of challenges a week. Lego is so great for imaginative play, developing fine motor skills, problem-solving and more so we’re sticking to the fun and removing the pressure.
7) Life skills
How about learning to use a computer keyboard properly? Kids love tech and their worlds are surrounded by it, so it seems reasonable to tap into this where it makes sense. We’ve set up a couple of tasks to be written on the computer which has been a massive win. They get to do work on a screen (like a grown up!) and we know they’re starting to learn a new skill. We’re absolutely not suggesting this replaces handwriting, but it mixes things up a bit. The kid-culture expert Emma from The Playful Den recently talked about the same thing and set her kids a Secretary School for the day. No harm in trying something a bit different and going a little off-piste from the school curriculum. You can even try some touch typing
8) The Covid Time Capsule
The suggestion of this has been popping up all over social media and schools have been promoting the idea of them too. There are lots of downloadable sheets online that kids can complete but you can also just figure it out yourself - collate some of their drawings that they’ve done during lockdown, take pictures of their rainbow windows, gather their crafts, get them to record a message – whatever you fancy. It’s quite cathartic too and makes it feel like there will be an end to this time, which regardless of any positives it has brought, and any changes-for-the-best it might prompt when we’re out the other side, we all want to be over so we can get back out there, see our loved ones and know the fear has passed.