WITH schools closing for most kids because of coronavirus, parents are likely to be daunted by the task of teaching them what they are missing out on in lessons.
Here Fabulous brings you the ultimate guide to keeping your kids on track while they are off school – without the arguments.
Age 3 to 7
Start as soon as possible: As soon as they finish school this week, chat with your child about how you’d like to help keep them learning. Ask for their ideas too.
Set up a homework base With your child’s help, set aside a cosy place to do writing, number work or drawing. The kitchen table is probably the best place so you can stay close. Equip it with all your child needs – pencils, rubbers, and rulers. Make it fun by letting your child come up with an idea for a name for their own little school.
Don't insist on a school day: At this age, just keeping kids engaged and interested is enough. Let most of your child’s learning be through play, which is the best way for them to learn at this age.
Keep it varied: Home education exert Greg Smith, of Oxford Home Schooling, says, ‘If you have access, don't be afraid to teach your child outside in the garden for a change of scenery, as it can also help teach them about nature.'
Nurture nature. If getting outdoors is difficult, bring the outdoors into the home. Show kids how to look after plants, or planting seeds in window boxes, says nursery expert, Leonor Stjepic, CEO of Montessori Group.
Sneak in Maths: Saying: “Right, let’s do some sums” is likely to make many children want to run a mile. So look for ways to wrap maths up into everyday life – as you pack the shopping bags, ask: “If the bread is 90p and the juice if £3, what does that make?”
A bar of chocolate which is divided into squares can help explain fractions. If there are five chunks, ask what fraction is left if they eat one.
Remember the three Cs of everyday maths: Cash, clocks and cooking are some of the best way to teach maths, according to Rob Eastaway, co-author of the book Maths for Mums and Dads. There are lots of way to reinforce number understanding in fun ways, like looking at the clock and saying: “I make it half past eleven, what do you make it?” or during a baking session saying, “This cake tin has three rows and four columns, how many fairy cakes will it hold?”
Use Fridge magnets: Try leaving a maths question like 7 x 9=? on the fridge. Leave it there as a mystery waiting to be solved when the kids come down to breakfast.
How to keep them in line – without shouting
When your child is still at primary age, don't stress if they don’t want to sit down and do lessons at home.
Learning through play at this age is just as important as ploughing through a maths workbook.
As long as your child is doing a little bit of reading or mental arithmetic each day, it’s enough for now.
Reframe how you see this period. See it as a blessing in disguise and a way to reconnect to your child through fun and games.
If you have older children, also view yourself as less as teacher but more of partner, helping give them structure and routine when they have to do the work school sends home.
To avoid meltdowns over the coming months, praise children whenever they do what they’re told, or when they follow a routine without having to be reminded.
If you feel the urge to scream and shout, recognise the warning signs, like your voice going up in volume and being hearing a script telling you what your child ‘should’ be doing.
Instead give yourself time to step away for a a breathing space until the calm rational side of your brain has regained control. Remember you always have a choice to lose your temper or not.
Ages 8 to 12
Choose the same time: Now kids are likely to be set work by school, do it at a regular time each day. If the situation allows, home education expert Greg Smith suggests starting after a short morning walk, if the situation allows, just as they did when they want to school.
Set an egg timer: If your child has a school task to do, the first step should be to chat about it with them for a few minutes, says Noel Janis Norton, author of Calmer Easier Happier Homework. Then set a homework timer for the time allotted by the teacher and leave them to it.
Form a family book club: To keep up their reading, set up daily reading session for everyone in your home to settle down on the sofa and read a good book. That way you will set a good example and there’s a better chance your child will get immersed.
Give positive praise: If your child completes their school work without any complaints, immediately offer a game with you – or set up a rewards jar.
Tips and tricks to make the day go smoothly
Most teachers will tell parents how much time they want pupils to spend on their homework, so stick to that.
A visual device, like an egg timer, can show your child when their homework session is over.
Sit nearby with your own ‘homework’ so you can offer encouragement and be called upon to answer questions.
If older children have been told they no longer need to take GSCEs or A Levels this summer, explain that this is the time to explore their next course of study with more freedom and read into it before sixth form or university starts.
The main flashpoint many parents will be facing will be over screens.
Understand your teen’s need to feel connected with their friends.
But also frame screen-free periods of the day as rewards for the whole family – and a time to be together – not as a punishment.
Ages 13 to 18
Get your teen's computer ready: Help teens create a YouTube playlist of lessons for each of their subjects. Give them access to a Skype account for any online teaching that's being arranged and make sure they are set up to get onto their school’s learning portal.
Don't be a teacher, be a partner: Rather than be a teacher, offer yourself as a partner. Studies also show that when students are accountable to someone else they tend to stick to their school work better.
Cut the distractions: Let your teen use noise-cancelling headphones – studies have found that students who revise in silence remember 60% more than those who revise while listening to music.
Hold a film club: Whatever period of history your teen is studying there’s likely to be a documentary or film about it which will help bring the subject to life on YouTube or Netflix. Set up a family film night and watch one they have chosen together, so you can discuss what you’ve learned.
Suggest they do 25 minute bursts: Many experts suggest the Pomodoro technique when studying, named after the Italian word for tomato. The idea is to for your child to set themselves no more than 25 minutes of solid revision, followed by a five minute break.
Suggest your child puts away their phone: A recent review found that students who use their phones in school do up to 14% worse in their exams than those who don’t.
Don’t make them work too long: Expert home-schooler Emma White, founder of Mark My Papers, and independent service which uses teachers, to mark mocks and give feedback, says: “Don't make the day overlong. Remember you will cover the ground much quicker without PE, assembly and the other that schools offer.”
The best online educational resources
The huge availability of online learning resources on platforms like You Tube means it’s never been easier to help kids learn at home. Try these websites to help your child build up a video library of lessons.
- Maths: Khan Academy
- Science: ASAP Science
- History: BBC Bitesize, CrashCourse History
- French: Learn French with Alexa
- English: Mr Bruff Revision Guides
- Geography: Bitesize
Tanith Carey is author of 'What’s my child thinking? Practical Child Psychology for Modern Parents’ published by DK.
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