Your Home-schooling Questions Answered

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The most recent coronavirus lockdown has seen parents up and down the country home-schooling for the first time.

It can be a tough job. And if you have no experience to draw on, it can be difficult to know if you’re doing it right.

But don’t worry! Education expert and founder of The Profs, Richard Evans, is here to help.

Below, Richard answers your  most Googled questions about home-schooling.

How many hours a day should I spend on home-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. 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, which will make it easier to blend back into routine when school reopens.

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. Identify the area of the curriculum which they’re struggling with, and 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.

Teachers can also point your towards helpful activities and websites.

Should I get a private tutor for my child?

Education is best handled by 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 you expected, 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 needs, and the experience to make the learning objectives stick.

Modern online private tutoring may be more budget-friendly than you’d expect. 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 maths or English, which is causing particularly high levels of stress.

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

The sudden need 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 you are obligated to get through everything no matter what.

The key thing to remember is you’re not teaching; you’re facilitating their learning.

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 associated with 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-schooling, 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.

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 in order 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. This is because having time to spend with friends is essential for children’s development and well-being.

In lockdown, virtual sessions have replaced physical contact. 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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Iain McDonald

Iain is Digital Content Editor at the "Friend", making him responsible for managing flow of interesting and entertaining content on the magazine's website and social media channels.