Homeschooling 101: Activities if your child’s school closes

Whilst the UK Government are maintaining that schools will remain open, it is looking more and more unlikely that this will be sustainable. 

I’ve already seen a number of recommended timetables going round Facebook and Instagram and laughed. I was once that naive too. They come under the category of  “whilst men make plans the Gods laugh”. 

Be realistic and kind to yourself. You’re more than likely already juggling the balls of work, school, childcare and shopping without COVID-19 putting its oar in. I’ll be honest when we were both working and Issy was in school this would have sent me into a complete meltdown.

Remember, home schooling doesn’t have to take place between 9am and 3pm. Fit it into your schedule. If you are juggling work and home schooling, save those activities where the children can be unsupervised for times when you have important meetings and deadlines. Don’t feel guilty about getting some snacks and putting on a movie for a couple of hours. If you want to add an educational element get them to write a movie review or re-tell the story.

I’m hoping schools will be providing some guidance as to what they want you do but if not here’s our favourites.

reading

Reading is a gift but so many kids are put off reading by school reading schemes. This is a golden opportunity to allow kids to read their own material. It doesn’t have to be for long; 10-15 minutes makes a huge difference. It doesn’t matter whether it’s books, magazines, comics, newspapers, fiction, non-fiction just let them read something that they enjoy without having to analyse it or identify a fronted adverbial.

We use Amazon Kindle and our local library had BorrowBox. 

writing

It’s safe to say that Issy hates writing and I’ve had to learn patience and little and often. It’s coming together now and I was utterly amazed when she sat down the other day and copied out 3 pages worth of lyrics from Aladdin completely unprompted.

I try and incorporate writing into everyday life by getting Issy to write shopping lists, a daily journal, book reviews, movie reviews, letters, stories and copy writing. She’s even written a few stories about the adventures of our motorhome, Rosie. One lovely idea I read about recently was to get your children to write letters to the residents of the local nursing home so they get something whilst they are quarantined. 

Another big hit with Issy is nonsense stories. These work best if there are 3 -5 of you and are a great activity if you have more than one child. Each person takes it in turns to write a sentence and you just keep going until everyone loses interest. We wrote one with family friends, Fizzy and John. Whilst the story was never going to win a booker prize it was written with love, laughter and lots of literary licence. It’s an experience that we will always look back on with fondness.

I try and give Issy a purpose to her writing. She has written letters to Blue Peter, poems for her Pawprint badges, science reports as part of her Crest Award, and recipes as part of her project work.

Blue Peter Badges www.bbc.co.uk/cbbc/joinin/anout-blue-peter-badges

Crest Awards www.crestawards.org

Maths

Maths is like marmite; you either love it or you hate it. In our house we love it! A lot of our maths looks nothing like the maths you would see in a classroom. It’s fun, hands on and relevant. Issy struggled with decimals but as soon as I said think of you use hundredths every day when dealing with money she got it instantly. With fractions referring to parts of a cake or pizza just made her hungry so we looked at them in terms of chapters in a book.

Most of our maths is done through play and practical experience. For all those doubting whether you will use maths in everyday life. You absolutely will! Issy comes shopping with us, weighs fruit and vegetables, looks at the price of items, works out best value, estimates the cost of a shopping basket, works out the cost of a meal, works out her change, plays banker in monopoly or scorer in uno, darts or mini-golf and converts currencies.

When learning new concepts Issy needs to visualise things and we frequently use lego, cards, dominoes, dice and art in our maths. Issy’s fitness watch has been one of our go-to maths tools see Fitbit maths: How Issy’s fitness watch became my go to maths tool?

Corbett Maths http://www.corbettmaths.com

Khan Academy http://www.khanacademy.org

Physical Activity

If your children are anything like Issy they will go stir crazy within an hour or two so physical activity is really important. On an average day she gets between 10,000 and 12,000 steps so sitting still is not her forte. Our normal home schooling day comprises of a 20-30 minute lessons followed by 10-15 minutes of physical activity.

If you are on total self-isolation then this may be a challenge. If not get out into the parks and go for a walk, walk the dog, do some geocaching or even follow a treasure trail. Follow the rules of social distancing and good hygiene. The boost to your immune system and sanity of getting some fresh air and sunlight will be immense.

If you are on total self-isolation then here are some of the ways that we manage to get some physical activity in small spaces.  Kidzbop (a song and dance based you-tube channel), BBC Sport Supermovers (song and dance based learning covering key stage 1 and 2) and sensory circuits have literally saved me on more than one occasion when it’s been pouring with rain and we’ve been confined to the motorhome.

Other ideas are Joe Wicks schools workout (https://youtu.be/-TGEdzRzSbw), Scavenger Hunts (find 10 items beginning with “S”, find an item that starts with each letter of the alphabet) and games like Simon says.

Kidzbop https://www.youtube.com/user/KIDZBOPKids

Treasure Trails https://www.treasuretrails.co.uk/

Geocaching https://www.geocaching.com/play

Socialisation

Whilst the idea of self-isolating is to prevent socialisation this just means that you are going to have to get more imaginative with the ways in which you socialise.

Whilst Issy doesn’t have unsupervised access to WhatsApp she does have it and an e-mail. We’ve already had a request for Issy to prepare a video diary each week and swap it and I think it’s a great idea. This is the one time when I will be encouraging Issy to check in on friends, family and neighbours via WhatsApp, Skype or Messenger.

We’ve seen examples of neighbours getting together and singing songs, playing musical instruments and eating together on balconies. Maybe have a think about how you can incoporate these ideas into your daily life. 

Arts and Crafts

I’m not particularly artistic but Issy loves it and we always have a small set of paints, paper, pens and pencils with us. If you have kids that don’t like writing drawing and painting is a good substitute to develop the motorskills required for writing.

If you are stuck for ideas Pinterest really is your friend and each pawprint badge has an art and craft section. This year we’ve done origami rats as part of our Chinese New Year activities, designed a book cover as well as lots of painting and drawing.

I’ve just discovered mini-books which are really easy to make and I’ve been using them to make little  literacy reference guides. The idea being that Issy will fill them in as we learn and they will be specific to her. 

Pawprint Badges www.pawprintbadges.co.uk

Dressing up and fashion shows

Before she went to school, Issy didn’t wear normal clothes; her everyday attire was a princess dresses and wellington boots. Then almost overnight that wasn’t cool anymore.

Left alone with a box full of Issy sized clothes and look what she can do and it’s a very useful skill when you only have limited space in your backpack!

Lego

Who doesn’t love a bit of Lego? Issy has buckets of it all over the world and I use a lot in our maths, science and literacy teaching. She loves watching Lego Masters and seeing all the new ideas.

If your children love playing with Lego maybe look at one of the 30 day Lego building challenges

Puzzles

We travel everywhere with a puzzle book and I also use crosswords and word searches as part of Issy’s everyday learning whether it’s spellings or topic based puzzles. She also likes things like cracking codes and su doko. 

Most of our puzzle books come from pound shops, The Works or free from restaurants. Where I’m looking for specific topics Twinkl or Ducksters.com are good web-sites.

Board and Card Games

We’ve always played lots of board and card games. In fact I don’t think you can call yourself a member of Burrows family if you haven’t sat round the table at Nana and Grandad’s playing UNO, Rumikub or Triominoes. The battles are fierce and if you win, you’ve worked hard for it! All joking aside these are great family activities and can be played with children of all ages.

Some of our favourites are UNO, Rumikub, Triominoes, Dominoes, Bananagrams, Where on Earth? Connect 4, Shut the Box, Card Games (Go Fish, 21s, Solitaire), Monopoly, Snakes and Ladders and Chess.

life skills

Both Doug and I grew up in houses where learning life skills were an important part of our upbringing however this doesn’t seem to be the case now.

This is the time to teach cooking and baking, general housework, using basic appliances (oven, microwaves, washing machine, iron), shopping, budgeting, gardening, emergency procedures, basic DIY, car/bicylce maintenance and first aid.

Resources
Web-sites

Here’s a few more general web-sites

BBC Bitesize www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize

Covers all education levels from nursery school to GCSE. We use it in all our subjects.

BBC Sport Supermovers www.bbc.co.uk/teach/supermovers

Aimed at Key Stage 1 and 2, this is learning through movement. You don’t need a lot of room (we’ve been know to do it in the motorhome on a rainy day!) They have videos on everything from Times Tables to French and Spanish. This is a real hit with Issy.

BBC Teach http://www.bbc.co.uk/teach

This is an umbrella site which will provide links across all of the BBC Teach sites including Bitesize and Supermovers and well as subject matter.

Open University Open Learn www.open.edu/openlearn

Designed for older children and adult learning, both myself and Issy have completed course on Open Learn. These are free short courses available to all and are a perfect opportunity to learn a new skill, spark a new interest or revise old skills. I’ve completed courses on everything from Basic French to Music Theory.

Twinkl www.twinkl.co.uk

This is used by most schools. They are offering one month free access to parents in the event of school closures. Please use the code UKTWINKLHELPS at www.twinkl.co.uk/offer

Crash Course (www.thecrashcourse.com)

A web-site linking to a You Tube Channel showing videos covering pretty much every subject from Anatomy to World History. These are a whistle stop tour of each subject but they are good way of giving Issy a basic understanding of the subjects covered.

Duckster: Education Site https://www.ducksters.com/

An American site with lots of information and games mainly aimed at Primary school children.

Applications

All these are available on Android but I’m not sure what the deal is with Apple. 

Duolingo – Modern languages – Issy and I learn French, Spanish and Mandarin between us.

Wordscapes – Word puzzles

Little Professor – Mental maths program

Skyview – Astronomy app showing what stars, planets and satellites are in the sky above you.

BBC I-Player

For those of you worrying about home educating your children hopefully some of the ideas in here will help you out. 

One last thought this is going to be a stressful enough time as it is so one of the most important things we can do is have fun. Some of the most stressful times in my life have also lead to the most precious family memories and in time we will all laugh about the time the world shut down because of COVID-19.

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