Covid-19 has closed schools around the world and plunged millions of parents head first into home schooling, whether they want to or not. What is the best way to approach this and how can we do it and enjoy it at the same time?
In the UK, home schooling is often called home education. This is because many of us don’t attempt to replicate school at home, but instead work on ways to support our children’s love of learning in many different ways. That’s not to say that ‘school at home’ is inherently wrong, it’s just only one of the many ways that this can be done.
Different children also respond to different types of learning. For some, a clear and defined timetable with structured teaching is really important, whilst others love to choose what they want to do and be entirely self-directed. Most fall somewhere in between. It’s completely fine to trial different ways of doing things with your kids and see what works best for you as a family. However, it is usually better not to try and force children to try to learn things that they don’t want to. Forcing children to learn things can shut down their interest as well as being unlikely to actually sink in.
Being able to be flexible over the style of learning is one of the big advantages home education has over school. If a child doesn’t want to do maths worksheets, but you feel that maths is still really important to continue with, there are plenty of different things to try. Conquer Maths is an online platform which combines explanatory videos with questions on the screen that may be more acceptable to kids than an overwhelming sheet of numbers. Oxford Home Schooling’s maths curricula gently guide children and young people through school-year appropriate material together with the reassurance of a tutor to help your child if they get stuck, and to provide feedback on their progress.
Learning a language in school can be a dry and unrewarding process for some. However, in many countries children learn our language by watching television in English that has subtitles in their own language. Bearing that in mind, and the fact there has never been a better time to consider exposing your child to a foreign language, why not give yourself some space and allow them some guilt-free telly time! Many on-demand services have multi-lingual speech and subtitle options. Children who already have grounding in a language may do even better with both the speech and subtitles in the target language.
If you would like your child to practice or improve reading, try not to worry too much about what ‘level’ the book is at. Supporting a joy of reading is far more important than the book being of a high enough ‘level’. You might consider encouraging the reluctant reader by reading more out loud to them – even teenagers will sometimes agree to being read to – and this can be an opportunity for warmth and connection. Reading out loud can encourage children to see the excitement in a good book, but don’t force it. If they enjoy it, enjoy it together. However, if they don’t, they’ll gain nothing from having it forced upon them. Do so and it’s likely you’ll just end up feeling frustrated.
If you feel at sea, Oxford Home Schooling’s range of home educating options provide a structure which can help children who are used to the school system. They are also effective in guiding home educated children without making them feel restricted. Because everything is prepared for you it takes away from any need, as a parent, to take the time to research or plan, and can open doors to interests that neither the child nor the parent knew they had!
Alternatively, children may find huge joy in discovering things themselves, perhaps through books you may have or the internet. Don’t forget the incredible encyclopaedia that is the mind of friends and family. Those who are lucky enough to have grandparents in their lives can find that they have amazing experiences and knowledge that some time chatting over video calls can draw out – with the right questions!
The importance of movement to children is high too. Incorporate some form of exercise into the day. It has been argued by the educational speaker Ken Robinson, for instance, that dance is as important as maths. That is debatable, but not so that some form of physical activity should be done. We may use maths several times in a day but we use our body from the moment we get up to the moment we go to sleep, so using it well is vital to our health and happiness.
Having said all of this, the most important thing of all is to relax, not worry too much about what you child may or may not be learning, and keep a focus on your mental health. Some educational work can pass the time and be entertaining as well as useful, but these are unprecedented times with our lack of opportunity to go outside. If you can, – I know we can’t all do this – slow down, reconnect and play with your beautiful children and try to let the season of the coronavirus become a memory of love and calm.