The most Googled questions about home-schooling children, answered by an education expert

google-on-your-smartphone-1796337_640With the nation still in lockdown and schools set to open on March 8th, home-schooling is still a regular activity in many households.

Home-schooling your child can be challenging for both parties. Your daily routines have been upturned since last March and the normal we once had, seems like a distant memory. Before schools closed in the pandemic, only 60,000 of the 11.5 million in the UK were being home schooled, so it has been a brand-new situation for many people.

It’s more than natural to feel anxious and worried, especially if you need to work from home and are struggling to find a balance. The main thing you can do is to stay calm; you will be no use to yourself or your child if you give yourself a hard time. To show you that you’re not alone, we have asked education expert at The Profs, Richard Evans to share the answers to the most googled questions about home-schooling children.

How many hours a day should I spend on schooling?

There is no expectation for you to be working with your child from 9am-3pm straight! In a classroom setting, the teacher will have no choice but to split their time between 20-30 children, whereas at home they’re getting one on one attention. Productivity can be high in a focused 20 minutes in comparison to a busy classroom filled with other pupils and distractions. At home, the school day doesn’t have to be a strict 6-hour schedule, you will find that activities can be completed in a shorter amount of time.

How do I structure the day?

The best way to start the school day is with some exercise! This will trigger feel-good hormones and boost endorphins for the day ahead. Even though they’re not travelling to school, it’s important to have them dressed and ready for the day by around 9am, this will make it easier to blend back into routine when school reopen. When it comes to planning your day, there is no such thing as right or wrong. It is more than likely that your child’s teacher will be conducting live lessons which will help you decide when to set your activities. It’s important to remember that every individual works differently, some children will concentrate better in short 20-minute sessions whilst others need a longer focus period.

By now, you should have detected what time of the day your child’s concentration span is thriving, plan priority lessons or activities when they are most alert. Younger children will need more supervision but if your child is older, you can set daily activities and let them choose the order. This will encourage them to work to their own timeframe with your support.

How do I limit screen time?

Home-schooling does involve an increase in your child’s screen time. The usual classroom activity that would involve paper to pen activity may now be transferred to a virtual task. It is possible to monitor the amount of time that your child spends on electronics, but it won’t come without a pushback. YouTube videos are great for visual learning, but this can turn into an activity that is longer than intended.

As a family, collectively discuss when screen time needs to be reduced and implement a few days around live lessons to focus solely on off screen activities. Provide them with books and print outs to extend their learning experience offline.

How do I help my child if they’re falling behind?

Your child might still be adjusting to learning without a classroom. Not physically engaging with their friends and teachers could result in learning setbacks. Not all children will learn and develop at the same rate, the term ‘falling behind’ accounts to your child’s own potential rate of progress and not the progress of others.  You should identify the area of the curriculum in which they’re struggling with, it could be the whole curriculum or a few areas. You should then see how fundamental it is to the rest of their work. If the skills are needed to succeed in the subject, for example basic fractions, you need to focus on removing this weakness as they progress in their year group. Once you have this knowledge, speak to your child’s teacher. Working together you can create a joint strategy which can carry on through live lessons and your one-on-one time. They can also point to you the direction of helpful activities and websites.

Should I get a private tutor for my child?

Education is best handled by experienced experts. In many cases, it may become apparent that home-schooling is hindering your child’s educational development. The most common factors that we have seen are lack of teaching structure, lack of subject knowledge and, most commonly, the impossibility of managing a full-time job with full-time homeschooling! If you feel that home schooling is more challenging than it needs to be, it might be worth contacting a tutoring agency. We recommend those with designated education consultants who can pick up the phone and discuss with you whether a private tutor is right for your child.

A private tutor can add much-needed structure and a healthy dose of fresh energy to your child’s weekly studies. They will have the time to create personalised lesson plans that target your child’s specific, individual weakness and the experience to make the learning objectives stick. Modern online private tutoring may be more budget-friendly than you’d expect as the industry has seen dramatic innovations over the past years, with 41% of Londoners using private tuition before lockdown. Lastly, you do not need to invest in private tuition for all subjects. Many families just focus on one subject, such as Math’s or English, which is causing particularly high levels of stress.

What if I don’t understand the subject or task they are doing?

Lockdown learning and the sudden thrust to become a teacher can leave you feeling overwhelmed. If the school and your child’s teacher have set daily work, it can feel like an obligation to get through everything and have extensive knowledge on each subject. The key thing to remember is you’re not teaching; you’re facilitating their learning. If you think back to when you were at school, the curriculum has changed dramatically. Home schooling is about a switch of environment.  If you don’t understand a subject or task, it’s ok to admit this to your child, in fact it might even make them feel at ease. As a parent, you set the example that you don’t need to know everything and there is always space to learn. This will be comforting to your child.

How do I maintain discipline during lessons?

Turning a home environment, one that coordinates fun and leisure, into a place of discipline can be tricky. Children perceive home and parents differently to a classroom full of peers and teachers. You might still be struggling to set the tone for your home school, but the key ingredient is to stay calm. Losing your temper will not only disrupt the atmosphere but will also make your child less reactive to learn. Children tend to follow suit when they know what to expect. Same as in a classroom, a schedule will be a simple tool to accelerate education. If they can clearly see when a break or lunch period is incoming, it will motivate them to complete the prior task to enjoy it. This isn’t a strict schedule but something to base your days around.

How do children get the socialisation they would normally get with their friends at school?

One of the most challenging aspects of home schooling is seeing your child miss their friends. Having time to spend with friends is essential for children’s development and well-being. In lockdown, virtual sessions have replaced physical contact and it’s important your child retains their friendship via video calls. Zoom sessions are great for reminding children their friends are in the same situation. You should also try to recreate your children’s favourite activity at home. Take time to switch off from parent mode and play with your kids. Make paintings, play games and ultimately let them take the lead. Interactive games such as scavenger hunts will allow your child to have fun and create a distinction between school and home.


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