Dr Sarah Charles

As many children across the UK face weeks of schools closures as the government tackles the spread of coronavirus, Dr Sarah Charles, Head of the Institute of Education @DerbyUni provides advice to help parents and carers with home schooling and learning activities.

As the coronavirus takes hold within the UK, and many schools are closed, an increasing number of parents and care-givers will find themselves undertaking home schooling activities with their children.

While the majority of schools have worked relentlessly throughout recent weeks to prepare and deliver physical learning packs and to set up online learning classrooms, some parents and care-givers will be left wondering how to best support their children in practice. Below are some top tips to get you started:

1. Plan your days, establish new routines

Most children and adults respond to structure and routine. Aim to have a structure to each of your days, building in regular breaks and lunch. Younger children will need activities broken down into smaller chunks of time. Generally, older children will be able to concentrate and stay on task for longer periods of time.

2. Establish the ground rules and the learning environment

Where will your children work – will this be at the kitchen table in their pyjamas?  Set up a quiet learning space where they can leave their equipment. This will help them to focus and be ‘learning ready’ each day.  What time will they start their activities?  You may decide on a later get up time, but avoid letting this overrun and maintain good habits.

Decide on the ground rules, ideally together, before you start and stick to them. Consistency is key.

3. Remember to plan for outdoor time

Learning does notjust take place indoors. Play andlearning outside is vital for children’s development. Being outside also supports positive mentalhealth. If you have got access to a personal outdoor space, utilise this daily– remembering to maintain appropriate social distancing. Gardening can provide a great source oflearning. Examples of gardening basedprojects can be found at https://www.gardenersworld.com/how-to/grow-plants/10-gardening-projects-for-kids/

Alternatively, from making fairy soup to mud painting, the following link will help to inspire learning outside https://www.naturallylearning.co.uk/50-outdoor-activities-toddlers/

4. Vary your daily activities

Learning should encompass all subjects. While children should be encouraged to read daily, aim to include creative activities too, like designing a new board game and provide real-life problem-solving activities. Try junk modelling, taking photos on your device and manipulating them imaginatively.

There are many curriculum sites to support learning. For primary school resources, organised by subject and year group: http://www.primaryresources.co.uk


And for a resource bank up to GCSE level: https://www.teachingideas.co.uk/

5. Utilise online support

You are not alone in undertaking home schooling but many parents have been home schooling long before the coronavirus. Look online for support groups, forums and ideas.

6. Unplug

While many schools will provide online learning activities and there is a vast amount of online curriculum resources, a limited amount of learning in school is actually achieved via online activities. Some children can spend a lot of time on social media and isolation may increase the desire to increase their online presence. Remember to build in downtime from the use of devices, negotiating acceptable levels of use during the day.

7. Champion progress

Identify small steps of progress. Encourage your children to do their best and beat their own times and scores. Swap roles, get the children to teach you something they have learned. This is a great way to establish their levels of understanding.

8. Be reflective

Not all children learn in the same way and this may be different to the way we learn. If they are struggling to understand, try a different approach, for example use different language, use physical objects, play a game.

9. Remain positive

We are in unprecedented times. Children may feel uncertain, confused and bewildered – their usual routines disrupted. Try to maintain a positive outlook, avoid showing your own frustrations/disappointment. Some days you will feel as though you and your children have thrived, others that you have just managed to get through to the end of the day.

10. Keep an eye on mental health

Look out for signs as to whether your child is coping with home schooling. Indicators of stress can include withdrawal, anger, higher levels of irritability and despondency. Seek support as early as possible. Online support and guidance is available from a range of online sources including https://youngminds.org.uk/ and https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/for-children-and-young-people/

Dr Sarah Charles, Head of the Institute of Education at the University of Derby


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