Tips and Advice for Home Learning
New to home education? Get some helpful tips and advice for home learning from one of our fantastic Teaching Packs members, Sarah Burns.

So, you’ve suddenly found yourself plunged into the world of home education? I’m guessing you’re probably feeling a bit daunted at the moment and wondering how on earth you’re going to manage!

For most of us, the decision to home educate is an active, long term choice., and my children have never been to school and would be in year 2, year 1 and nursery age.

However, for those that have found themselves suddenly plunged into home educating due to school closures, I wanted to share some tips that work for me in my own home education set up.

Know when your children are at their best

Like adults, children work better at certain times of the day. I know that my children are always at their best first thing, so for us as soon as breakfast is done we get the formal work done and dusted. If I attempted it after 1 pm I know I’m going to meet resistance and it’s just not worth the argument. My children are particularly early risers, and it might be that your own children are better in the afternoon. Whichever it is, work with it.

It might be that you use the children’s best time to focus on any work that the school have provided, and you’ll probably want the children to keep on top of maths and English. There’s plenty of resources online to help children, and it’s often grouped by school year to help you locate age-appropriate things.

Focus on their interests

Long term home educators usually already have an eye on how they can work their children’s interests into home education, so this is something a lot of us are adept at. However, running with your children’s interests is the best way to hook them in.

For a time my oldest was really interested in a particular football player. We therefore did a project on him. We covered so much in this project including the geography of his home country, other countries he’d played in as well as his current club. We looked at his childhood and compared how my son’s might be different as well as writing lots of facts about him and looking at data. We covered a wide range of curriculum areas doing this, and my son was engaged the whole time.

We have done similar with interests in flags, fairies, different animals and the such and it’s been a great way to keep them focussed and occupied, while also learning.

It pays to be prepared

One of the best tips I think I can give is to have some things prepared. If you’re doing a project on something, then it pays to have information and worksheets to hand. We are currently doing a Vikings project, and I’m using the information from Teaching Packs alongside a book I have, and I’m making sure that as we progress through the pack, I have things ready for the children to do. For instance, colouring pages for the front cover of their project books, maps to show where the Vikings invaded from, writing frames and lapbook cutouts. It doesn’t take a huge amount of time to prepare, but it does make a difference, and it helps to keep a lesson flowing if you’ve not got to stop to print something off.

Remember, not every minute needs to be filled!

One of the biggest things is to remember that it’s OK for children to be bored! They don’t need every minute of the day scheduling for them, and I find that watching out for those natural lulls in energy and giving them a break to do something else works really well. They always come back to their work 20-30 minutes later, much more refreshed and better focussed.

It’s OK as well to just be and enjoy something like making a cake, playing a game or sharing a story together. Not every minute needs to be covering a learning goal and objective. You’ll be amazed at just how much children learn from reading and playing.

Try and maintain some contact

This is going to be a big thing for us in the Home Education community as well – so much of our week is built around meeting up with others and sharing work, and I regularly host sessions at home for the children on different topics.

We have had to postpone these, so we are now looking at other options such as Skype or Zoom. One of our groups is a monthly speaking and listening group where we choose a theme, and each child produces a project to present to their peers. This is such a wonderful group, and the wide range of projects we see is fantastic. Maybe look to collaborate with some friends and have a weekly Skype session to share what you’ve learnt. It’s not the same as being in a room and face to face with someone, but it might help to maintain those contacts with other people during this time.

Most of all don’t stress

Don’t worry! Children are adaptable and they’ll soon settle into a new routine. If school have provided work or subjects to study then make use of those. There’s plenty of home educators who will be more than happy to share details of where to find resources or details of YouTube Channels that have some great educational content available. Already content creators are pulling together details of organisations offering resources at this time.

Sarah is a home educating mum and blogs about the activities she does with her children and the resources she uses on her site Let Them be Small. You can get in touch with Sarah on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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