Welcome to another Let’s Learn post. I have to admit when I started this series of blog posts I didn’t expect I’d be writing home education tips for care givers of children during a global pandemic! These are the kind of other-worldly situations we’re finding ourselves in now though. The latest announcement of all schools being closed across the UK (with some amazing spaces being kept open for children of parents who can’t work from home/self isolate or vulnerable children) was expected but still shocking. The streets, restaurants and play parks are eerily quiet yet the supermarkets are bursting at the seams. Everything feels so different, so big, so strange.
As adults, it’s hard to come to terms with such uncertainty and change. We’re the big decision makers and therefore have huge things to worry about such as our health, rent, bills, work, childcare, extended family and friends, our community, the world… but children will be feeling weird too. Sure, a lot of youngsters will be happy to have the novelty of not having to be in school but the harsh reality is that for a lot of families and children, the routine and services provided by traditional schooling placements helps save mental health and physical well being.
As most of you know, we home educate our youngest son as it’s the right decision for out family. We have an older son who is thriving in sixth form mainstream education. This post isn’t about home education being good or bad, or our choices around it, it’s about trying to help those families who may have been thrown into suddenly having their children at home during the hours they’d be educated elsewhere and possibly panicking a bit about what to do during those hours.
My first piece of advice is please try not to panic. We’re all concerned about how long schools, workplaces and social activities will be closed for and how much our lives will have to change but education is something that can be done in so many different ways. You don’t have to be a teacher, you don’t have to be qualified in childcare or be an amazingly creative person to help your child to learn.
Secondly, please try not to worry about your children falling behind academically, even if you feel you can’t do much with them whilst you’re self isolating due to illness, working from home commitments or lack of inspiration/confidence. Your children will be supported upon everyone’s return to school. Teachers and TA’s will be armed with knowledge, experience and care to help every child still reach their potential when all this disruption fades and things slowly return to normal. Home education classes and social gatherings will resume. Play dates and social fun will become a choice for most people again. Stepping away from the traditional school setting has really opened my eyes to it being OK to take things at a different pace or learn in different ways. Going through GCSEs with my eldest son and having significant health problems with both my sons also taught me the same. If your child thrives on routine, try to figure out a daily timetable the suits you as a family. If this isn’t relevant to you, don’t feel forced into creating a school at home environment. Experiment with what feels best for you all with least stress possible.
I’ve put together a small list of some things I think may help those families not used to tackling education at home or indeed long periods of time together with their children at home. I hope some of you find this helpful!
As a home educator, I use the subscription-based website Twinkl regularly. Worksheets and activities are searchable by Key Stage, School Year, subject or just generic search terms. A wide range of crafts, self care and colouring sheets are also offered alongside traditional school-type worksheets. They have generously given everyone a free month trial of their Ultimate package. Visit www.twinkl.co.uk/offer and enter the code PARENTSTWINKLHELPS or UKTWINKLHELPS to set up your free month of Twinkl Ultimate. Please note the website and the codes are both twinkl, NOT twinkle.
Reading Eggs, another subscription-based resource we use as part of our home learning are offering a few of their book titles absolutely free on Amazon Kindle. Please click the link to be redirected for downloads.
Letterbox Lab is a monthly science kit subscription service. A fab box of themed science goodies is delivered straight through your letterbox thanks to it’s compact packaging. We always have fun and love learning through experiments with them. They are a small family run business who are still accepting and sending orders during these trying times. There are other online subscriptions for science and craft boxes out there if you have a Google, I just have personal experience with Letterbox Lab. Please remember to pop a message to check yourself if the company is still able to post out their goods before subscribing, as situations are ever changing.
Our local library is offering 5 free eBook or audiobook rentals over 7, 14, or 21 days and are also hosting Facebook Live parties for social groups such as Baby Bounce And Rhyme, which have had to be cancelled at the venue due to social distancing but can still take place remotely via lovely, hardworking staff. Please check what your local library is offering via their websites or social media. Reading together, or encouraging your children to read alone if they are able to, is a fantastic way to escape into a different reality for a while. Feeding imaginations encourages creativity, which can be a great help in situations filled with frustration, solitude and boredom.
Screens are often seen as the natural enemy of education but they have so much potential to help learning and fun. Netflix have some great nature documentaries for children, which can be accompanied by tasks set by yourself afterwards. Suggestions such as; draw and label your favourite animal from this documentary, write about or create with crafts a particular habitat you’ve learned about, further your knowledge by researching an animal/habitat you’ve watched and make a fact file etc can all lead to hours of unintentional but rewarding learning.
Youtube has some fantastic educational channels such as Brightside, Braniac and Life Noggin. It just takes a little research and care to make sure what your kids are watching is safe and age appropriate but there is a lot of good content out there on YouTube. BBC Bitesize has content for children age 3 – 16+ which is always worth a look, too.
Does your child have a love for Minecraft? Set them a challenge to build a pyramid as it would have looked in ancient Egypt! Make a model town with materials similar to what London looked like in 1666 and see how easy fire would have spread in the Great Fire Of London! Can they research volcanoes online and then build their own, full of lava? How about researching sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous rocks then seeing what they can find in Minecraft to match each category? There is a lot of potential for learning in this game if things are looked at in different ways.
Pen-pal writing is another great way to stay in contact with people through social distancing. We are lucky enough to have a wonderful pen-pal of a similar age to my youngest son who he loves writing to and receiving letters from. It’s a tradition of years past that has been forgotten by many. Why not connect with a friend and get posting? If you have a nursing home in your area, perhaps they may accept some letters posted in for people who may not have any family to connect with. Remember you can connect with family and friends via services such as Skype, Whatsapp and Facebook Live, too.
Lastly, look to nature.
Yes, we’re self isolating or social distancing but if you have a garden space and can stay away from people, use it. Take a small stroll if it’s safe to. Look out of the windows to the sky, research clouds and weather, take pictures and print them, paint what you see both day and night. Try to get good sleep. Be kind to each other and mindful that as much as we’re frustrated, bored, stressed and worried as adults, our children will probably be feeling those big, hard to deal with feelings, too.
I hope some of my suggestions may be of help to some of you. It’s important that we all try to pull together and be the best we can be during these difficult times. If you have any other ideas or suggestions I’d love to hear about them in the comments!