Learning

How to survive home schooling and make it fun

With schools out for the foreseeable future, parents all over the country are at home with their children, tasked with entertaining and home-schooling them – with many mums and dads trying to work from home themselves too.

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For parents hungry for help, we’ve rounded up lots of practical tips, advice from other parents, and suggestions for games and online resources, to help you keep your child entertained and continue their learning journey. There’s no one size fits all, or a right or wrong way – the best advice is to pick what works for you and your family - and to take a lead from your child.

Where do you begin? How can you tackle your new role, sustain it for many weeks - even months - hold down your job and maintain a healthy sense of wellbeing? Flexibility is key plus children’s desire for routine and a sense of stability.

Top Tips for Teaching Your Child from Home

  1. Structure and routine: try to follow a daily routine. Encourage children to get out of bed at the same time.
  2. Set a timetable: draw up a timetable that works for you and your child. Mornings are best for lively minds, build lots of breaks into their day, finish by 3pm (or earlier dependent on their age).
  3. Variety: mix up lots of different activities to help keep children interested and stimulated.
  4. Minimise distraction: being at home is exciting so try to keep distractions to a minimum to help your child remain focused. Also try and be really ‘present’ yourself!
  5. Resources: make the most of the wide range of free downloadable resources available.
  6. Set achievable goals: keep children motivated by tracking progress and effort, and rewarding them with stickers.
  7. Fun and relaxed: planning fun activities will help keep your child motivated and help you enjoy it too.
  8. Play: don’t make it all about reading, writing and arithmetic – play is a key part of learning.
  9. Participate: get involved in their learning, whether it’s a game or a piece of work set by school – and if appropriate try to encourage them to work independently.

With school out, perhaps the top tip is not trying to entirely replicate the school day at home – it isn't school. According to a recent Orchard Toys survey, 60 per cent of parents say making learning at home fun can help children learn more. But when you’re entertaining a pre-schooler and trying to home-school a seven-year-old how can you keep it relaxed, maintain momentum and make learning fun?

A couple of days into home-schooling we asked a few parents for their thoughts and advice:

  • Retaining some element of routine works for us, so we breakfast as usual and are dressed and ready to PE with Joe Wicks at 9am. And bedtime is the same as a school night.
  • Keeping one step ahead is critical for me, so I get organised and plan their day ahead – I try and work out the night before what we’re going to do and if there are any home school lessons I download information sent from school.
  • We set time limits and don’t spend longer than 45 minutes on anything, we’re doing everything in bite size chunks.
  • We’ve actually built 'playtime' in, so at 11.15am ish we ring the bell (via google).
  • I’m trying to keep it fun so we’re dancing with Oti Mabuse on her livestreaming sessions, as well as watching Horrible Histories.
  • We’re not afraid to pull back if it’s all getting too much and stressful throughout the day.
  • We blend online and offline, my children are using online resources, pen, paper and books.
  • We’ve given our girls some free time to do whatever they want on their own, which gives us a break as well – or downtime to do some actual work!
  • Exercise and fresh air are really important, we open the doors to the garden and get outside to play with dolls, scooters, bats and balls.
  • We’ve set some rules about being kind, respectful and listening, as it can be quite odd having mummy and daddy as teachers.
  • We’re embracing the chance to teach our children cooking, cleaning, gardening.
  • We’re using video calls to keep in touch with friends as playdates are out.
  • It’s all about challenges in our house. Both the boys have FitBits– we set our five-year-old a six minute run challenge and he loves tracking and beating his own time.
  • My husband and I take a child each, as different ages meant having them in the same room wasn’t working. They’re loving the one to one time with us.
  • I decided not to beat myself up – hundreds of thousands of parents are juggling home-schooling and work

GAMES AND ACTIVITIES

Chances are children will have no idea they’re learning something new, or brushing up on a skill, whilst playing these games and participating in live sessions. Whether it’s teaching them colour or shape recognition, or helping to develop their memory and matching skills, encouraging their observation skills, developing their understanding of the world or keeping them fit – they’ll be entertained and having fun.

FREE DOWNLOADS

  • Orchard Toys has a collection of FREE Things To Do which can be downloaded from its website (www.orchardtoys.com) covering fun activity sheets for spelling, basic maths, telling the time and crafts.
  • Twinkl has made its home learning hub free and each day there’s a new set of daily activities to get involved with (www.twinkl.co.uk).
  • At Learning Resources parents will find a host of complimentary and family-friendly activities including DIY projects, printable worksheets, tips and advice to help keep children learning and engaged. (www.learningresources.co.uk).

NUMERACY

  • Check with your school, as many will have access to sites that children can access at home, for example Times Tables RockStars, MyMath, PurpleMash. .
  • Orchard Toys First Times Tables (£8.30) is a fun introduction to understanding 2, 5 and 10 times tables. A learning resource to introduce young children to multiplication, it also gives parents the tools to help teach their child. Once children have become familiar with the concept of multiplication they can play the flippin’ fun pancake themed game to put their new skills to the test! Age suitability 5-8 years.

LITERACY

  • Rory’s Story Cubes by Asmodee UK Roll the cubes. Make a story. Make it serious or silly, weird or wonderful, short or epic. There is no wrong way to play! With over seven million copies sold worldwide, this fun storytelling game continues to bring families and friends of all ages together, creating unique stories every time.

Age 6+

Price £9.99

  • Sight Word Swat by Learning Resources This easy-to-play activity is perfect for reinforcing what children have been learning during lessons – ideal for family fun at home or as an end of lesson activity.

Ages 4-8

Price £15.50

  • Stories with David Walliams Every day at 11am listen for free to one of David Walliams’ World’s Worst Childrenstories for free for 20 minutes www.worldofdavidwalliams
  • Orchard Toys Match and Spell a first reading and spelling activity/game. Children take turns to find letters and spell words in this fun single player activity or multiplayer game with two ways levels of difficulty. Young children can learn letter recognition, phonetic word building and matching pictures to words in this bestselling literacy game.

Age 4+

Price £8.50

BURNING ENERGY

  • PE with Joe parents and children can join Joe Wickes for a PE sessions Monday to Friday at 9am live on YouTube – if you miss the livestreaming you can always do it on catch up www.youtube.com
  • Froggy Party by Bandai UK Pure child’s play, this interactive game has everything you need in one box and is designed for getting kids up and about. Froggy explains all the rules and leads children through 15 minutes of fun. Froggy croaks commands for over 50 physical activities from running and jumping to flying like an aeroplane and landing on the included lily pads.

Age 4+

RRP: £19.99;

Stockist details: Smyths Toys, Argos

SKILLS

  • Orchard Toys What’s the Time Mr Wolf? a fun board game to develop digital and analogue time telling skills. There are two ways to play this educational game – one by matching analogue times and moving the clock hands, and the second by matching digital times to analogue. Children will have fun posting cards into the 3D wolf.

Ages 5-9 years

Price £10.50

  • Coding Critters™ Bopper, Hip & Hop: 100 per cent screen-free coding toys, the prefect way to introduce your pre-schooler to coding.

Ages: 4-10

Price £40

SCIENCE

  • Primary Science® Lab Set Get hands-on with the wonders of chemistry and science using real science laboratory equipment made especially for kids. Made from robust plastic this chunky, child-friendly equipment looks just like a real grown-up scientist’s and introduces children to the fascinating world of chemistry through play. The full-colour wipe-clean activity cards feature easy experiments that can be done at home or in the classroom.

Ages: 3-7

Price £28

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