Suddenly Schooling at Home

Suddenly Schooling at Home

by Susannah, 20 Apr 2020

Millions of parents around the globe have had to rise to the challenge of supporting their children learning at home during the current pandemic. If you’re doubting your ability to succeed in this, please don’t! You were your child’s first teacher - teaching them how to walk, talk, eat and stay safe.

One of the main ways we can manage this situation with calm is to think carefully about avoiding potential flash-points - those moments when it could all get far too stressful for you and your child/children.  Here are some of the strategies that I have learnt over the years as an educator and as the parent of two home-educating children:

  1. Transitions are important and every family is different. Some schools will be setting work, like a list of tasks, for each lesson.  Others will create projects and others still will provide online classes.  Unless the school provides a set timetable of online lessons, one of the main challenges might be following the ‘school day’ routine.  How strongly you feel you need to adhere to school times depends completely on your family.  In ours, I am not too concerned if my teenager doesn’t start working until later in the morning and finishes later in the afternoon - after all, this is how many teenagers would prefer to do things.  Why interrupt the natural rhythm if there’s no harm?  Transitions from ‘home’ activity to ‘learning’ activity can be tricky with all age groups.  Creating some routine around this might help.  I always find that it’s easier to get children working if they’ve just eaten.  In our house we aim for an hour of work at a time straight after a meal or snack, followed by exercise or free play.  We invariably stop all structured activity by 5pm.  Whilst they are sitting at the table letting their food go down, it’s much easier to establish a settled environment for focused learning rather than attempting to call them away from playing.
  2. This is a perfect opportunity to establish shared housework.  Whether you are having to work from home or not, the list of domestic tasks needing to be done (especially when there are people at home all day) is endless.  It might be most helpful if you write a list of tasks that need to be done and then get your children to say which ones they are happy to do/help with.
  3. Encourage wider reading, if at all possible.  The books and articles they read outside of set tasks are just as valuable in expanding vocabulary and conceptual knowledge as the resources used by schools. It’s a fantastic moment in time to explore their own interests that are not specifically related to the curriculum.  Many books are available freely if you have access to the internet and libraries are extending their online services.
  4. Actively teach organisational skills such as making lists and using calendars for deadlines.  These habits do not come naturally to many people and yet they can make life a lot less confusing and stressful.
  5. Talk about their learning - and yours, too.  In our household we often share what we’ve learnt during the day - the value of this opportunity to articulate learning cannot be over-emphasised.  Working through tasks on your own, particularly going through a list, can be a waste of time unless the learning is somehow ‘extracted’ from that process.  If your child is not able to speak about what they’ve been learning (as opposed to what they’ve been *doing*) then it’s time to dig a little deeper - learning should be made obvious to children and the learning purpose of every single task set should be evident.


The last point I want to make is that it’s OK not to know the answers to your child’s work!  Yes, even in year four when they ask you to explain modal verbs or when your little one corrects your synthetic phonics.  However, taking an interest in what they’re doing and being prepared to either look things up or contact the teacher for clarification will be invaluable - even studious teens may be reluctant to do these things for themselves.


I really hope that you come to love this precious time with your youngsters.  This is a moment in time that they are likely to remember for the rest of their lives.  With so much stress and fear surrounding them, any little ways we can reduce their anxiety will be repaid many times over as they grow to be resilient, capable young people.