The spread of the coronavirus has caused schools in the UK to close indefinitely to most pupils. While vulnerable children and children of key workers such as NHS staff can still attend school, most children will need to stay home until further notice. So the chances are, you’re likely to have your children at home with you for the coming weeks, or possibly even months. But that doesn’t mean they have to fall behind on their education. There are plenty of ways to help your children learn at home and engage with educational materials.
We know that as parents, you have a lot on your plate and helping your children continue learning can feel like a daunting task, especially if your hands are already full with working from home, looking after little ones or managing your household. But don’t panic, you can still help your children stay on top of their education without having to become a full-time teacher.
In this article, you’ll find homeschooling advice from our team of teachers, and learning resources you can use to encourage children not to forget about their education. By implementing this advice, you can fit home education around your work schedule, so children can keep learning while you keep earning.
Related: Discover our homeschooling primary maths resources for children in years 1-6 of primary school.
What You Need to Know About Homeschooling During the Coronavirus Crisis
Homeschooling during the pandemic is a little different to regular homeschooling. The spread of the novel coronavirus means millions of children no longer have access to regular education, but that doesn’t mean parents and carers are expected to drop everything to become homeschooling experts.
You’re Not Expected to Become a Full-Time Teacher
No one is expecting you to dedicate all of your time to homeschooling your children. And no one is expecting you to suddenly become a perfect teacher.
These really are unprecedented times, so coronavirus homeschooling should be about doing what you can when you can. Whether you have several hours a day, or just a few hours a week, every little helps when it comes to helping children learn. By making sure children at least remain familiar with the national curriculum for their year group, you’ll make it easier for them to return to school and achieve academic success whenever schools reopen.
You can also give children learning resources to complete independently. These resources are a great way to keep children engaged with education, and you can work alongside them or carry out household activities while they complete learning activities. You can find more information about learning resources in the “Homeschooling Tips” section below.
Homeschool Schedules Don’t Have to Follow the School Schedule
Creating a homeschooling schedule can give your children a much-needed routine in this time of uncertainty. However, your schedule for at-home learning doesn’t have to follow the school schedule.
It may not be practical for children to spend seven hours learning at home — you may not be able to dedicate that much time to homeschooling, and your children may not be able to focus for that long at home. For children not used to home learning, it can be difficult to concentrate on completing lessons and learning activities in an environment they usually associate with playtime or downtime.
Remember Children May Be Feeling Stressed or Upset
The Coronavirus crisis is stressful for all of us, including children. The uncertainty of the pandemic, the disruption to their usual routine, and social distancing can cause children to become stressed and upset. They may worry about what’s happening, and they may feel anxious not knowing when they can get back to school to continue learning and seeing their friends.
So try not to be too hard on children when it comes to homeschooling, and remember to check in on how they’re feeling. It’s a good idea to talk to them about the coronavirus, and explain why schools are shutting down. Keeping them informed can also prevent them from becoming overly frustrated about self-isolating, as they’ll understand why it’s important.
Homeschooling Tips for the Coronavirus Quarantine
It can be difficult to know where to start when helping your children continue learning at home, so here are some top tips to help you create an effective homeschooling routine for your children.
Create a ‘Learning Zone’
Children can struggle to focus on their education when surrounded by their toys, games or spaces they usually associate with relaxing and downtime. So it’s a good idea to create a dedicated learning zone where children will complete educational activities, or receive lessons.
Ideally, they will need somewhere they can sit comfortably and write, draw or use a laptop to attend virtual lessons. This could be a desk set up with paper, notebooks, pencils and pens. Or, if you don’t have a desk, children could use the dining table as their home learning space.
With a separate space dedicated to home education, children can have a clear boundary between learning and downtime. This can improve their focus, and help them fully relax when the school books and learning resources are put away for the day.
Make a Home Learning Schedule
Creating a home learning schedule is hugely important as it can give children the routine they’re used to during school terms. Schedules should include how long children will spend learning each day and what subjects they’ll be focusing on. Once you’ve created a home learning schedule, print it out or write it up so children can see what to expect from the days ahead. Set schedules can also reduce children’s anxiety and uncertainty about the challenging times ahead.
We’ve already mentioned that your home learning schedule doesn’t have to be the same as children’s school schedules, but it’s a good idea to stick to a learning timetable that covers five days a week. Even if children spend just a little time each day learning, this can help them stay engaged in education, and for little ones, this can further cognitive development. And at the same time, making sure children still have a weekend is also important.
Check School Websites
Many schools are offering learning resources or online lessons so children can keep learning from home. So before you jump straight into homeschooling, check your children’s school websites and learning portals. If schools offer home learning resources, virtual lessons and schedule ideas, this can take a lot of the pressure off of you.
Use Engaging Learning Resources
By using learning resources and activities, you won’t need to actively teach your children. Instead, children can complete activities while you work or carry out household activities. All you need to do is supervise them.
Activities and resources such as worksheets, PowerPoint presentations, educational games, and interactive videos, can be enjoyable and educational. They can help children keep up to date with the national curriculum, keep them entertained, and stop them from worrying about current events.
You might be able to find learning resources on your children’s school websites, but if not, there are plenty of resources you can download online. For example, at Master the Curriculum, we offer a range of free primary maths resources you can download in an instant. Whilst schools are closed, we are offering a range of premium resources for free. These can be found in our mixed objectives category where our maths activities can be found. They cover all of the objectives for the maths curriculum for Years 1 – 6 and include answers for easy marking. Our resources are categorised by year group, so you’ll find age-appropriate resources for children aged five to eleven.
Don’t Forget to Have Fun
If we know children, we suspect that many will be thinking of Coronavirus school closures as an extra-long summer break. They’ll be expecting to wave goodbye to education for the foreseeable future and spend the self-isolation period playing with toys or games.
So if you’re going to successfully get your children to include home learning in their days off school, it’s important to make education fun. With enjoyable learning activities, children are more likely to engage in home learning, and partake willingly! And watching your children have fun while learning can make the process of homeschooling more enjoyable for you too.
Younger children may also view this as an exciting period during which they get to have fun with you. And there’s no reason why homeschooling can’t be an enjoyable, bonding activity.
This time is stressful for us all, and making education engaging and entertaining can help children relax and focus on learning, rather than unfolding events and self-isolation.
Take a look at Facebook Pages such as Working Without Worksheets, where there are many practical ideas posted linked to learning. You can also join the linked group where a lot of discussion takes place around practical learning and you can also post your own questions and what you have been doing at home.
Remember Downtime is Important Too
While education is important, remember children need downtime just like the rest of us. Allowing your children a break from learning at the weekends and after home lessons or learning activities gives them a chance to relax, play and process information. Playtime is also hugely important when it comes to developing children’s imagination.
Encourage Children to Keep in Touch with Friends
Children in quarantine will naturally miss their friends and classmates, and social interaction is a huge part of education and development. While playdates and meetups aren’t a possibility during the Coronavirus quarantine, encouraging children to keep in touch with their friends using technology can keep their spirits up and help younger children continue developing social skills.
Children can chat using video chat software such as Skype or FaceTime, messaging apps, or good old fashioned walkie talkies. They can also keep in contact by playing against each other on video games, or even better, online educational games.
Consider Active Games for the Whole Family
With children cooped up inside, they’re going to get restless, so think about ways to get creative and active with home education. You can come up with your own learning activities to get your children moving or look online for active educational activities. Getting the whole family involved in active learning games can get children excited to participate.
You could stage a quiz with a twist. For example, ask questions relating to children’s school syllabus, but before children can answer, they have to complete 10 star jumps. This activity is a good one for families with more than one child, as children can race to complete an exercise and give their answer.
Alphabet yoga is another fun activity for younger children. You could get your little ones to get into a pose resembling a letter. Or they could strike a pose resembling an object that begins with a certain letter from the alphabet — for example, you shout “A” and they pretend to be an aeroplane!
If you don’t have time to organise an active activity yourself, interactive videos can get children up and moving. You can find a range of interactive maths videos for primary school children on our YouTube channel.
Master the Curriculum provides primary school maths learning resources created by teachers. We offer worksheets, interactive maths videos, teaching slides and vocabulary cards. All of our resources are designed to be enjoyable and suitable for different year groups and abilities. And to help parents keep on top of their children’s education during the Coronavirus school closures, we’re offering many of our resources for free. Just create a free account and start downloading valuable learning resources for your children. You can also join our Facebook group for updates on free resources.