Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Tips For Teaching & Entertaining Children At Home



I've written a fair few posts on the subject of teaching children at home since we became home educators 2 years ago, but none of them seem fitting for the situation that the vast majority of the world currently finds itself in.

With millions of schools across the world closed, and no real idea of how long for - there are so many parents who have suddenly found themselves not only grappling to understand this new normal that's been thrust suddenly upon us all, worrying about how to keep their families financially stable and keep a roof over their children's heads, but also with the sudden added pressure of educating and entertaining their children at home, every day of the week. Probably while trying to adjust to suddenly working from home themselves too.

It's a lot to deal with. And before I go any further with this post (Which I'm writing only because of the number of messages I've had asking for it), let me first just say that I don't personally believe that anybody should be worrying themselves about their children's education right now, on top of everything else.

Kids are resilient, and every child in the country (and beyond) is in the same position right now. They are all experiencing this gap in their schooling together, and when school does resume - steps will no doubt be taken to help them get back on track. Any work that has been given to you by your child's school was most likely put together in a hurry, and with the intention of helping you to keep them busy.

Nobody expects you to suddenly become a teacher. Nobody expects you to have the knowledge, expertise or patience to provide your children with exceptional standards of learning over the coming months. Even with the very best intentions, there are going to be days when its all too much - when the children don't want to do what you have planned for them, and there are going to be days when you simply have nothing left to give. And that's ok.

It's important to remember, now more than ever, something that home educators the world over have been talking about for years - that recreating school at home is not only pretty much impossible to do, but it's not necessary.

Children are always learning. ALWAYS. What may look like a simple play doh activity is helping them to develop their fine motor skills which will in turn help with their developing writing abilities. Time spent baking a cake gives them the opportunity to learn about weighing and measuring, and units of time. There are learning opportunities in most aspects of the day, regardless of whether or not you're spending hours of your time desperately trying to provide educational opportunities.

You will get through these months, we all will. But please don't add to an already stressful and anxiety-inducing time by putting pressure on yourself to be Super Mum/Dad/Gran/Etc. And for the love of God, please step away from social media when you find yourself playing the comparison game...now is NOT the time to be spending hours watching how perfectly everybody elses children seem to be behaving, and beating yourself up about all the wonderfully creative activities other parents have come up with. Social media LIES. It's not reflective of real life.

If you find that the best way for you and your children to get through this period is to spend your days watching movies and eating snacks, that's FINE. Do that. Do whatever gets you all through this period of time with your mental health in tact.

How We Home Ed

Ok so as people who CHOSE to home educate (and had time to prepare for it!), how do we go about teaching these three (well, two really...the youngest isn't school age yet so doesn't join in with the educational stuff most days!) little monsters at home?!

I work from home all the time anyway, and so although we're used to juggling work and home schooling - we do usually have the assistance of a regular maths tutor, various educational and social
clubs & the option of escaping to a coffee shop to get work done!

And if I was writing a post about how to go about home schooling children under normal circumstances, I would absolutely be advocating that you take advantage of as many groups and activities outside the home to help out with things as possible!

But unfortunately, the only options available to you right now are websites and apps. Thankfully, there are LOTS of fantastic ones available - and lots of them are offering their services either for free or at massively reduced rates right now to help out, so they're well worth taking advantage of!

So here is a look at some of our favourites

Twinkl

Twinkl is without doubt our most used site for all things home ed, and they're currently offering free access for those affected by school closures using the code UKTWINKLHELPS here - www.twinkl.co.uk/offer 

I use Twinkl by printing out some work for the week ahead every Sunday evening.
The way we usually do things is to focus on maths and English first, and then do a mini topic each week - sometimes I let the kids choose a topic that they're interested in, sometimes I choose a topic for them.

I also find that it's usually really effective to tie in some activities with their own interests - so for example, this week I've printed out some activities for the kids themed around the Police and Guinea pigs (they got some new pet guinea pigs last week and so they'll be only too happy to do some guinea pig themed activities this week!)

I try to make sure that there's a mix of activities for them including some reading comprehension and writing activities for my eldest, some pencil control and letter formation practise for my youngest, and some maths related activities for both of them. I also try to use a mix of educational work sheets and educational games which help them to learn without them really realising that's what they're doing!

After lots of trial and error over the last 2 years, we've settled on the most effective way for us to do things being to lay out all of the activity options for the children each day and let them choose which one to do.

That way everything still gets done over the course of the week, but they feel they have some choice in what they're doing which usually results in them being less reluctant to do it!

On days when they're more geared up for knuckling down, we crack out the work books and plough through some core subjects. On days when they're more reluctant, that's when the Twinkl print out options come out!

PawPrint Badges

Pawprint Badges were something we only started using a few months ago but we are absolutely loving them.
They offer badges similar to those that children would earn at scouts and brownies etc, so might be worth looking in to for children who are missing those sorts of groups.

You can buy the badges online, and each badge has a free downloadable challenge pack that suggests things the children can do to earn the badge.

My kids really love earning their badges, and I find it a great way to encourage them to get stuck in on days when they're perhaps not so keen to be productive!


Tech Based Learning

We  have lots of success using apps and games too, there are so many fantastic educational ones about and these are particularly good to use when you need to get on with other things as they keep the children occupied and engaged - here is a list of our most used ones.

Reading Eggs & Mathseeds - fantastic for practicing reading and maths skills, in a fun and engaging way.

Prodigy Maths - a fun game-based way to practice math skills.

Khan Academy/Khan Academy Kids - Khan Academy is something we use with Tyne and is great for tests and practice but I have to admit, he doesn't find it very engaging.
Khan Academy Kids though is Noah's favourite educational app to use, definitely a go-to for younger children.

Teach Your Monster To Read - This is another of my 5 year olds favourite apps and is brilliant for helping to develop letter recognition and early phonics skills.

Duolingo- a fun (and FREE) way to learn languages, my kids love this and it's done in very bite sized chunks so a nice one to dip in and out of.

Night Zookeeper - this is a game for encouraging reluctant writers, it's one that Tyne really enjoys!

Marco Polo World School - for a while this was Tyne's favourite learning app, he has kind of outgrown it in the last year or so but I'd recommend it for children aged around 5.

BBC Bitesize - this website is ideal for supplementing learning, and has some great videos to explain various things - from fractions to history lessons. You can find resources for most subject areas here, totally free.

I hope this list has been useful. Please feel free to reach out for any advice if you're struggling over the coming months.

And remember not to beat yourself up. You are doing your best. It will all work out in the end.


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