Dr Lynn Revell offers advice and guidance to parents and careers embarking on home learning during the lockdown.
I home-schooled my son for four long years. And like most of the parents who are learning at home with their children during the lockdown we didn’t chose to opt out of the system, but for complicated reasons we found ourselves stuck at home with a 12 year-old boy who needed some kind of education. Even though I was an experienced teacher nothing could have prepared me for the challenges of suddenly having to relate to my son as a pupil and it took time for us both to realise that this was a new relationship with new rules.
It’s a cliché to say that every parent and child that learns at home has different needs and issues, but there are some ideas that are useful for everyone who tries to educate their own children.
The number of children who are home schooled grows every year, the latest figures suggest that before the lockdown there were at least 60, 000 children learning at home and so we know more about the difficulties and the benefits of teaching your own children. The points below are just some of the observations from research into how parents and carers can cope.
- Don’t worry if you have no training as a teacher. Research shows that about 85% of parents who home school have no training.
- There is no ‘normal day’. For some routine and schedules work best but for others spontaneity and flexibility is the key to success.
- Embrace the weirdness. Schools have structure, hierarchies and rules and regulations. You could try and make learning at your kitchen table feel the same as learning in a classroom but why would you want to? This is a strange time and it probably (hopefully) will never happen again, so why not make the most of it? If your children want to learn about something that’s not on the curriculum why not use this time to indulge them? My son loved the ancient Greeks and so we read stories, wrote scripts about Athens, watched films and made shields in the back garden.
- Take the day ten minutes at a time. When I started home-schooling I became an expert at drawing up colour coded timetables for the week. They made me feel organised but we were both demoralised if we were unable to stick to the allotted slots on the timetable and so I dramatically down sized my expectations for us both. Ten minutes doesn’t sound like much but it’s enough to make a difference and if it’s going well you can always keep going.
The Faculty of Education has recently launched an online resource: Advice and resources for schools, parents and teachers offering a free selection of materials including webinars, podcasts, learning toolkits and resource banks for all to use when educating young people.
Dr Lynn Revell is a Reader and Director of Research in the Faculty of Education.