So you have the list of free online learning sites and a timetable that has been circulating. You’re all set for the isolation and taking on the education at home. But, no one is talking about how to do this, having a timetable is a tiny part of this. I am an experienced secondary school teacher and now a home educator and I usually write about creativity and digital making, there are a few crossover threads here from my experience and I want to share some thoughts. I am not trained in Psychology or Relationships but you can’t work with kids without considering relationships. This is from my experience and knowledge base. Being an ex-teacher in no way benefits being a home educator, so if you are feeling apprehensive about educating at home during the Coronavirus, you totally can do this, and it is more about relationships than teaching.

A lot of these shared resources have come from the home education community, Thank you, to the brilliant and resourceful home education community and ex-teachers helping with knowledge and resources online and current teachers who are preparing work for kids to do at home and psychologists writing blogs and advice. It is a strange situation. We do indeed need to come together on this. It is true that with technology as it is today, there has never been a better time to home educate. What you may not be aware of, is that when you enter the home education arena, experienced home educators will say, ‘Don’t rush into anything too soon, un-school for a bit’. This is because the parent educator dynamic is different to the parent and child dynamic. That relationship is built up slowly for a great working relationship. We don’t really have time to do this, so need to move quicker and I want you to be aware of different ways of doing this. Your child is unique and one way definitely does not suit all. If your child thrives off a consistent routine then yes, pre-pare the work and follow a timetable to the minute. You are catering to your child’s needs. There are other ways to go about this though and it should all spring from understanding your child and actually, I think you will have a much better understanding of your child and what makes them tick after all of this. I see this as an opportunity to build some great bonding experiences together.

So, I’m just going to say it quick and offer some alternatives. I can see some potential issues here. I want to say one thing over and over, adapt to your child. This does not mean let them do as they please. With all the timetables circulating I feel your pressure to conform to this because you think everyone else is doing it. If you follow this and it doesn’t work and there is resistance, and even tantrums or defiance, or you suspect there will be, read on because you haven’t suddenly turned into a teacher, you are first and foremost their parent and always will be, don’t try to be a teacher. All that authority and rigid timetable is to keep order in a large school environment, it is not really about learning. Kids will no doubt be feeling a little strange and uncomfortable with the different situation. Parents coming across more bossy and changing behaviour to focus on education for kids could unsettle them more. So how do we work in harmony with our kids?

How do you even know how your child learns best? What do they gravitate towards naturally? What activities? Are they very active and love games with other people or sitting quietly? Do they love physical activity and moving? Do they love building and engineering and creative problem solving? Observe what they already do at home and go bigger on this and add challenge and new experiences through what they know and love. Stretch and challenge. Here’s where I see potential stress areas; if you are super organised and like order and timeframes and definite outcomes done by a specified time and your child is a bouncy, active, learn through experience sort, you are going to get discomfort and resistance no matter how organised you are. No matter how much time you spent researching and sourcing it and no matter how good you feel about how you are doing the right thing. So if things don’t go as planned, just listen to them, observe, discuss each others concerns, come up with a middle ground. Work together. I feel it’s best to think of yourself as a facilitator, a guide. Remember your not a teacher and then flip into mum, it is continuous.

So here it is, short points that may help you when it gets tricky. 

  1. Talk to your child about this, state your expectations and ask them what they would like to do.
  2. Be positive and build reflection points into the day. You may like reward stickers or some sort of reward system.
  3. Negotiate. How much is up to you, but it is important the child feels heard. You both voice your concerns and ask them for a solution.
  4. Ask if they want to try making a timetable together, re-evaluate it daily if necessary. Perhaps they can help you build a timetable for the next day. Perhaps you will find that your child is a great planner but never had to opportunity to do this before.
  5. Ask your child to prepare and lead an activity. Leadership skills and planning. Kids of all ages can do this. They could make up their own game.
  6. Responsibility. You could get them to organise there toys or resources and keep it in order and be responsible for it.
  7. Tidy up time with fun music. Tidy up blast for one song. 
  8. Films are educational. Watching together is bonding. Extend challenge through asking them what it was about, what so they think the moral of it was, how did a character feel, what are you grateful for in your life, think of a different ending, what was the structure to this story?
  9. Start an activity with them and slowly back off so they can take responsibility for it. When they ask you about it, ask their opinion, or give yours first and then ask them what they think.
  10. You can do Maths and English on the move. Be creative.
  11. They will want screens. Think about using them in a creative way as a digital maker not consumer, give a brief, something outside of the their usual activities. The digital tool is the familiar part in this, now challenge them to come up with something. See this blog about encouraging digital making.
  12. Think about the terminology you use with them. Always great to be positive but steer away from using the same terms all the time. They begin to mean less and less. Instead of ‘that’s lovely’ think about saying stuff like ‘I could see you were really thinking through that problem’ ‘how did you do that’ ‘what will you do next’ perhaps with more positive comments also. Reflect on work and progress as it comes up. Respond in the moment. Always be ready to stretch and challenge. 
  13. If frustration sets in with anything, best to tell them they are working so hard and need a break. It usually sorts it’s self out after a break and a snack.
  14. If your child is totally immersed in a project, leave them. This is the luxury of learning outside of an educational environment. They can go in deep to their learning experiences. Perhaps re-schedule what ever else was loosely planned.
  15. Think about the four C’s in everything: Critical Thinking, Communication, Creativity & Collaboration. It is said these are the human skills that will never be replaced with machines and are the skills of the future. Please see my blog How to Encourage Creativity and Working In-Flow… for more on this and my framework that is based around themes of Challenge, Observation, Autonomy, Uniqueness and Identifying Emotions with kids, in pursuit of 21stCentury Skills.
  16. Play music loud and dance together. Its exercise and bonding. Consider energy levels in the house.
  17. Surprise them with something cool and unusual. A quest, treasure hunt. Making weird gooey substances, an indoor or outdoor assault course. 
  18. Dependent on age and needs, you don’t need to be in the same room as them all the time. Do that cooking or few house chores in pockets of time they are absorbed in something. They don’t want an adult’s eyes on everything they do all day. Think about harmony in your day. They shouln’t be creating more house mess because they can chip in with taking responsibility for their stuff. They are quite used to this at school.
  19. Think of yourself also. Carve out pockets of time for something you want to do. Model taking on projects yourself. If they are having an off day, respond by having a less demanding day, we all have bad days. In my experience if you focus on you and do something interesting yourself, they are more than likely to come to you and ask about it and that’s your doorway back into the relationship. If you feel like you are about to explode, take time out, try not to push your mood onto the kids. No doubt a mood will be because of some sort of situation, disappear for a few minutes (dependent on the needs of your child) and regain your senses or get someone else to step in for an hour. If there are two parents in the house, carve up different slots of time with the kids, share it. I expect a key feature in this situation will be parents trying to do their own work and keep the kids busy.
  20. Lagging Skills. You have some time with your children now. Do they have any lagging skills? This would be a great opportunity to pick one and really focus on it, just that one skill. For example, it could be that they never finish anything. Look at the ALSUP document of lagging skills, choose one you think your kids needs to work on. ‘Tricky’ kids have many, it is not the parents fault or the childs and schools expect kids to turn up with these skills. It takes a lifetime for some people to master these and with many kids it just happens naturally with no effort. I discovered lagging skills when I found the Psychologist Dr Ross Greene and his book The Explosive Child. It is like the bible for SEN kids. You can watch many videos online about his Collaborative Proactive Solutions approach to working with kids. Check out if you find this interesting.

Stay positive, don’t get too bogged down with the responsibility of educating, don’t try to enforce too much and if you do and it backfires, own up to it and have a chat with your child and work it out together. The schools will be providing information on learning and resources too. Do stuff you always wanted to, like learn how to meditate together, do yoga, take on a fitness challenge together, build something really cool. Let them help with a bit of DIY (dependent on age) you are teaching life skills and building a working relationship. Make cakes. There is actually a general rule in home ed land and that is, you can do the main educational tasks in 2-3 hours at home, in focussed sittings. This is worked out on taking all the organisational parts of the day out; assemblies, breaks, registers, organising 30 children, so 2-3 hours is pure learning activity, one to one). Look to the home education community for resources and tips also. If you want to work on a skill with your child, discuss it first, why is it important in the real world, do they think it is important? stay positive though, obviously, don’t come right out with something like you’re not very good at it and need to work on it. Kids self esteem is the most important thing always.

I personally like to think of it all as a creative journey and everything has valuable skills attached to it. You may want to separate learning in to 2-3 hours in the day and fill the rest with creative and life skill type activities. You may want to replicate the entire school day, if that is what your child feels comfortable with. The point is, there are options, your child will guide you on how to work with them, listen and observe. This could have many positives and is an opportunity for families to bond. 

Leave a comment if you have any thoughts on any of these points, or something resonates with you, or it has given you an idea. Do pin so you can reference it later if you need to. Keep communicating and reaching out to people. I think there are a few Facebook groups now in support of the situation. I highly recommend HE UK School Closure Support Forum. It is set up to support you and has many home ed parents in their ready to respond. It is set up by Mike Wood, a highly regarded person in Home Education in the UK. Good Luck and make time for fun everyday if you can.

I am an individual responding to this situation with some insight into home educating and working with children. There are many views on home education alone. I am not speaking for home educators, I am just one voice. Through home educating I have had to think long and hard about an alternative way for kids to learn other than at school. As a home educator I have had to write my Educational Philosophy for the Local Authority to assess. It’s your home and your kids and you are delivering this. Have a think about your Educational Philosophy, nothing too grand, just think how do you want your children to feel as they learn, what sort of thing would benefit them? how does it fit into the whole family?

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  1. Just as I was getting stuck into several business development projects, I’ve been forced back into a full-time role of parent and educator with the children being homeschooled. I’m creative, resourceful and I love problem-solving with my kids but I’m no teacher. And they know it! This article is so helpful in that it delves into the working relationship between parent and child (or rephrase: parent and co-worker). Definitely one to read if you are having to home-school for the foreseeable… Contains plenty of useful insights and troubleshooting tips.

  2. Thanks Ella, so pleased you found it interesting and useful. I think this strange situation is our chance to give our children what they need and we are delivering that. I hope people can refer back to this if they feel stuck. Creativity and being responsive are key. Good Luck

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