The Ultimate Guide to Home Schooling

    Learning to spell

    Advice on how to work at home with kids, home school ideas, plus free home schooling resources

    As we hurtle into Lockdown 3.0, for a great deal of parents this means dusting off those text books and returning to the home schooling classroom.  With Google searches for “home school ideas” up by 140%* back in March, questions around how children can best learn away from the classroom are still at the forefront of many parents’ minds.

    From educational resources, books and apps, to online tutoring services, there’s a number of ways to approach learning from home now the UK’s schools have closed. But how should you approach home schooling, and how many hours should children be working for during the day?

    Here, we outline a few home school ideas, top tips for parents, and the best free tools to check out when learning from home.

    Home school ideas and tips

    Establish a routine

    Like a normal school day, children need structure to ensure their activities are well balanced. Too much study time, and they’ll become distracted and worn out; too little, and their learning will suffer.

    “Parents shouldn’t feel pressured to fill their children’s days with a full timetable of lessons,” advises headmaster of Edge Grove, Ben Evans.

    “Agree on a regular time for breakfast each morning, encourage your child to be fully dressed and ready to start the day, to get them in the right frame of mind for learning. So, no onesies or pyjamas! This will help towards creating a prompt start to home learning.”

    A bit of experimentation should help you identify what works best for you and your child, says Greg Smith from tutoring service Oxford Home Schooling. “You might find that 30-minute blasts followed by 10-minute breaks help to keep their concentration up.”

    He adds: “Alternatively, you might prefer to work for longer periods at a stretch and then enjoy a longer break. Boring as it may sound, giving your learning a predictable structure and routine does help to make sure you get everything done.”

    Breaks are important, too, so ensure your child is getting the right amount of relaxation time between ‘lessons’.

    Find a proper working space

    Try to provide a dedicated workspace at home, like the kitchen or dining room table, that’s set up with everything they need to work, suggests Greg Smith.

    Home school ideas

    “A desk is great if you have one, or an area that indicates a ‘classroom’ or space for learning, which is used just as that, to give the necessary separation from home and school,” adds Ben Evans.

    Get rid of distractions

    No distractions means switching off the TV and radio, and ensuring the working environment is a calm space without any interruptions.

    “Concentrating is easiest when you’re in a quiet, comfortable area, so play around with how you study – sitting, standing or lying down; inside or outside; with lots of light or without – and find a method that helps you concentrate,” says Greg.

    Divide up work

    “Sometimes it can be tricky to motivate yourself when faced with a really big or difficult task,” Greg adds. “The best solution is to break it down into smaller pieces, planning out the various stages that need completing before you start. This way, you’ll know what needs doing and you’ll get a good sense of progress as you work.”

    If there’s a lot of work to be done, it’s often hard to resist the urge to multitask and get lots of jobs done at once, but Greg advises avoiding this mindset. “You’re dividing the amount of brainpower you have available for each task, which means you might miss out on important bits of information.”

    Ben Evans also suggests interspersing ‘lessons’ with learning spellings, reading books, outdoor garden activities or sport, music, art and crafts, cooking or drama-based activities, to replicate a busy school day.

    Stick to your usual bedtime routine

    Your child may be less motivated to go to bed on time if they’re waking up slightly later, but it’s important to maintain your usual bedtime routine.

    Young boy sleeping in bed sleep routine
    Credit: iStock

    “It’s an accepted fact that if you don’t get enough sleep, you’ll find it harder to concentrate, learn and retain information,” says Greg. “The trick is pretty simple – get some sleep! Most people between the age of five and 11 need 10 to 12 hours of sleep per night, while 11 to 18-year-olds need eight to 10 hours.”

    Stay in touch with school friends

    Encourage your child to maintain their regular contact and dialogue with the school friends over the phone or video chat, as this can have a huge impact on their mental wellbeing.

    “It’s worth considering that this is a worrying time for many children, who don’t know when they will be returning to school and are looking to adults for reassurance in what is an uncertain world,” says Ben.

    Where possible, maintain dialogue with your child’s school, too. “Schools have a duty to support parents with comprehensive computer-based academic plans, as well as web-based seminars,” Ben adds. “This will ensure that pupils are learning and making progress in all subjects.”

    Free home schooling resources

    The BBC has announced the launch of its biggest education offering to date, in a bid to help parents and children navigate homeschooling. The new initiative will ensure all children can access curriculum-based remote learning, even if they don’t have access to the internet. Television channels CBeebies and CBBC will be cater to pre- and primary school children, while BBC Two will schedule programming to support the GCSE curriculum, with a least two hours of content each weekday.

    Starting on Monday 11 January, each week day on CBBC will see a three-hour block of primary school programming from 9am, including BBC Live Lessons and BBC Bitesize Daily, as well as other educational programming such as Our School and Celebrity Supply Teacher and much loved titles such as Horrible Histories, Art Ninja and Operation Ouch.

    Content will be built around Bitesize Daily secondary shows, complemented by Shakespeare and classic drama adaptations alongside science, history and factual titles from the BBC’s award-winning factual programming units.

    Bitesize Daily primary and secondary will also air every day on BBC Red Button as well as episodes being available on demand on BBC iPlayer.

    Speaking about the initiative Tim Davie, BBC Director General, says: “Ensuring children across the UK have the opportunity to continue to follow the appropriate core parts of their nation’s school curriculum has been a key priority for the BBC throughout this past year.

    “Education is absolutely vital – the BBC is here to play its part and I’m delighted that we have been able to bring this to audiences so swiftly.”

    This TV offer sits alongside a wealth of online content which parents, children and teachers can access when and where they need it:

    BBC Bitesize

    Covering all age ranges and subjects, BBC Bitesize covers everything on the current National Curriculum and breaks it down into easy digestible chunks.

    It’s completely free to use, and features a wide range of resources targeted at different learning styles (visual, auditory, verbal, kinaesthetic), with activities, videos and interactive quizzes.

    Visit BBC Bitesize

    BBC Teach

    You might remember the BBC Schools programmes from your own childhood, but these have since been developed into BBC Teach – a platform of live and pre-recorded video lessons hosted by popular BBC presenters.

    These lessons are generally targeted at children aged seven and over, covering such subjects as literacy and English, maths, science, art, PSHE, dance, and music.

    Visit BBC Teach

    Super Movers

    Also free from the BBC, Super Movers is filled with fun curriculum-linked activities that encourage little ones to get moving while they learn.

    Parents can find topics covering KS1 English, maths, PSHE and beyond, plus some ‘just for fun’ videos that are brilliant for break times.

    Visit Super Movers

    Free language lessons from Duolingo

    Not just for adults, this language-learning app also has content tailored for youngsters. The app starts by testing your child’s fluency and understanding of a certain language, before developing their skills by introducing words and phrases.

    With quizzes to assess their knowledge and progress, Duolingo covers both written and spoken conversation – and is completely free to use.

    Visit Duolingo

    Learn to spell and read with Duolingo ABC

    The hugely popular language-learning app is now also teaching children aged three to six how to read, with its new free app Duolingo ABC.

    The app includes over 300 fun, bite-sized lessons that teach the alphabet, sight words and phonics. There’s also guided handwriting lessons and assisted reading, with real-time feedback when children read aloud.

    Download Duolingo ABC

    Free handwriting practice from Kaligo

    In the wake of UK schools closing, handwriting app Kaligo is now offering a practice-version of its tool free of charge to support children learning at home.

    Designed with neuroscientific research and AI technology, this clever app encourages handwriting practice by encouraging children to trace letters through colourful and intuitive screens, simply using a stylus and tablet.

    Visit Kaligo

    Free science lessons from MEL Science

    Science education company MEL Science has launched a series of free online science lessons, including practical experiments that children can try at home.

    Designed for kids aged five to 16 years, the webinars cover the core science curriculum through hands-on practicals, theory and digital resources. There’s over 200 experiments available to try, all of which can easily be carried out in a kitchen using basic ingredients.

    Visit MEL Science

    *Survey by OnBuy.Com, 19 March 2020.

    If you’re juggling your own work along with the new pressures of acting substitute teacher, take a look at our top tips for working from home with kids around. .


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