With all UK schools closed until further notice, except for the children of key workers and children who have been identified as vulnerable, thousands of parents will have to introduce some form of learning in the home.
To help parents navigate this challenging time, Senior Lecturer in Education at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) Ben Wiggins has shared some of his top tips for implementing a successful home-schooling programme and also highlights some potential pitfalls to avoid.
While some parents will find educating their children particularly difficult due to pressures such as caring for relatives or working from home, it is hoped that the advice can still be useful, especially to those with no previous experience of teaching or home-schooling.
Mr Wiggins is self-isolating due to an underlying health condition and is using these techniques himself as he currently home-schools his eight-year-old daughter. He also has nearly 20 years' experience as a Primary School Teacher and is the current leader of the Primary PGCE Teacher Training Programme at UWE Bristol, which was ranked as one of the top five universities for Education in the country by the 2019 Guardian University Guide.
Top tips for home-schooling your primary school aged children:
- Preparation. Even if your school sends you a learning pack try to know what it is you are going to be doing the next day. That way your day will flow better and you won't look like you are just making it up. Share the timetable with your child so they know what they are going to be doing and when
- Structure. Establish a definitive start and end time to the day. Try to get your children to view this as 'school time'. Plan in breaks just like in school and remember, the younger the child the shorter your teaching sessions need to be
- Play. If you have very young children remember to play with them too. You can also incorporate activities such as cooking, DIY projects and gardening into your schooling as they also provide learning
Pitfalls to avoid:
- Don't try to do too much. Remember to get the difficult things out of the way early and leave afternoons for more fun activities
- Try not to get cross if your child doesn't understand. It is difficult to educate your own children because you are so invested in their progress. However, learning takes time and is a messy process so don't worry too much if they don't 'get it' first time
- If your child doesn't understand what you're saying, don't just repeat the same explanation louder and more slowly, try to think of another way of explaining it
- Try not to criticise the way your child does something. Parents can get very defensive about the way they learned to do something but teaching may have changed since then so try to be open minded. Who knows, you might learn something too
''It's important to remember that you're not going to get this right straight away so whatever happens, reflect on it and try something different the next day if things didn't work. If you really don't understand something, email your child's teacher. Things will have changed a lot since you went to school so you shouldn't be embarrassed about asking for help. For example, the teaching of detailed grammar and phonics is fairly new and something most parents will not have been taught themselves,'' says Mr Wiggins.
''Teachers are industrious and creative so I'm sure it won't be long before your child's school shares some interesting and engaging ways for you to educate your child over the coming weeks. In the meantime, try your best, ask for help if you need it and try to enjoy yourself.''