FE Voices

Steve O’Hara, Director of Education at Exemplar Education
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Steve O’Hara, Director of Education at the UK’s biggest home-learning provider @ExemplarEduc explains how to get the best out of our children when home-schooling them.  

Coronavirus has changed the way billions of people work, learn and live. Our daily lives have been hugely disrupted with millions of us working from home and not being able to see our loved ones. Over 1.5 billion children globally are now turning to online learning, with Mum and Dad suddenly having to play the role of teacher, as well as parent.

Lockdown is overwhelming for the majority of us and if you are a parent or guardian, one of the hardest things is likely going to be the responsibility of home-schooling your children. Juggling working from home, looking after the family and giving some sense of structure to the day is no mean feat, and understandably home-schooling might not be first on the day’s agenda.

However, teachers are not expecting you to be a one-stop learning shop with an encyclopedic knowledge of the curriculum. Stop trying to do the impossible. Since lockdown began companies and individuals have been offering a plethora of resources and activities for free to try and ease the burden of home-schooling. These include learning maths online, P.E lessons via YouTube and many more activities to keep your children entertained. As a parent you can devote time to activities that will strengthen your children's skills so that when they get back to school they will excel.


For example, children that are good readers usually do better in school. You need reading for history, geography, science and maths, not just English. Ensure that your child is reading every day. If there is a book list from the school, encourage them to read books on this list. But if not, any reading is going to be beneficial. Try and make reading at the same time everyday so that there is structure to the day - get your child to create their own timetable for the week. This means that the days will be organised, but your child will have a sense of responsibility having done this themselves. 


It is also a good idea to start with home-schooling early in the day. If you let your child watch tv or play outside, it will be harder to get them to sit down and concentrate on something that probably isn’t their first choice of activity! Lessons don’t need to be long, fifteen minute bursts of max concentration is far better than one hour of distractions and potential arguments. After these fifteen minutes, encourage your child to go outside for some fresh air for ten minutes as this has been proven to help with concentration.


Make sure you set up a workplace for your child outside of their bedroom. It is important for them to have a space they can return to after home-schooling that is fun and relaxing. Furthermore, going to sleep needs to be in a relaxing place, not the scene of an argument or reminded of the stress of schoolwork.


For lots of children, having Mum, Dad, Granny or Grandad teaching is very exciting. Make sure you show an interest in their work by getting excited in what you’re teaching them. If it is a subject that you are particularly knowledgeable about or interested in, that will show when teaching your child. On the other hand, if you are teaching a subject you found hard, don’t say that you struggled. Lots of children think that their parents can do everything and saying ‘I can’t do maths’ or ‘English was my worst subject’, will likely make your child think that they can’t do it either. 


It is important to stay upbeat and positive when home-schooling your child. Lockdown is tricky for everyone, including our children. It will be extremely different for them not seeing their teacher or their friends and not having ‘normal’ lessons. Whilst it is important that you are teaching and your child is doing the online classes and the work packs that their teachers have sent to them, it is important to have a level of flexibility and understanding that this situation is different for everyone and it will take time to adapt. 

Steve O’Hara, Director of Education at Exemplar Education

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