You don’t need me to tell you that this is a testing time for parents and children. The schools will shortly be shutting up shop and it will be up to you to make sure that in the months ahead your children’s education doesn’t suffer as a result.
The good news is that home-schooling provides an unparalleled opportunity to annihilate any weak areas and to focus on the attainment of specific goals – whether in terms of examination practice, preparation for target schools or simply enhancing skills.
What’s more, because one-to-one learning is tailor-made, it’s brimming with potential for boosting knowledge in a wide range of subjects and unearthing hitherto undiscovered talents. The Internet can help you do this; it offers a vast array of online platforms and resources to help you turn your home into a one-pupil school. By the time your child goes back to school, he could be the smartest cookie in the class.
With over ten years’ experience as a private tutor, I am well-versed in devising home-ed programmes and I would like to offer some tips to help you capitalise on this opportunity to nurture your child.
- First, remember that every child is unique; that they each have their own way of learning and assimilating knowledge. If you don’t know what your child’s is, find out. This will ensure your child learns fast and you don’t waste time. Tailor your home-ed to suit his or her needs and learning style. For example, if your child has an all-important physical activity, structure the tuition to work round it.
- Space saving. Anybody working from home – and that includes your child – needs a dedicated work-space. Set one up, making sure it’s conducive to your child. A comfortable chair, biggish desk and plenty of light are all pre-requisites.
- Initiate a routine. Flexibility is key, here. Evidence suggests that cramming everything into five days is not necessarily that productive; it can often be better to spread activities over the seven-day week – in my experience, little-and-often is usually the best way to go. It will also depend on 1. above. Not all children benefit from beginning the working day at the same time. Experts say that 10am works well for 10 to 16-year-olds when students are ‘more awake, alert and ready to learn.’ Younger kids might be ok to start as early as 8.30, while A Levellers seem to prefer beginning their study period as late as lunch time – so find out what works for your child and stick to it.
- It’s good to talk. Work with him or her to find out what their thoughts are about the educational challenges ahead. Encourage them to open up to you – especially about any weaknesses or stumbling blocks across the panoply of subjects. The sooner you know what these are, the sooner you can address them.
- Experts are back in fashion – thanks to Dr Chris Witty and his colleagues. Don’t be afraid to ask them for advice and help. Remember, your child’s school is responsible for preparing you for distance learning, so contact your child’s class, subject teacher or head for resources and advice. If something isn’t clear, chase them.
- Go surfing, The National Curriculum website (https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/national-curriculum) is a mine of information, while BBC Bitesize (https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize) – which follows the National Curriculum – is easy to use and great for all levels up to GCSE.
- Nurture their inner culture-vulture. Though we can no longer visit exhibitions and theatres, the internet offers some virtual alternatives to stimulate your child’s creative and artistic juices. Visit an online museum with your child and they can stroll through the British Museum or the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC. They could listen to a Ted Talk on a topic they’re studying in Science or History. Theatres have filmed productions and it’s possible to grab a screening online. You can even scan through the entire works of Leonardo da Vinci courtesy of the world-wide web.
- Get dirty in the garden! Children – like all of us – benefit from getting close to nature. Planting flowers and communing with the soil can provide much-needed therapy in stressful times and double up as a biology lesson. The garden offers a whole other world of beauty and exploration. Let your child milk it.
- Make your child’s education explosive. Science in the kitchen – provided it’s monitored by an adult and follows health and safety procedures – can be enlightening. It can even explain how volcanoes work: according to one home-schooler who’s been at it for years, you just combine playdough, papier-mâché and sand, then add bicarbonate of soda and vinegar. Next, stand back and watch it erupt. Want more ideas for scientific experiments? Check out Pinterest. And while you’re in the kitchen, why not make time for a cookery lesson?