With most parents in the UK now educating their children at home during lockdown, both little and not-so-little ones are once again having to adapt to a different way of life. Challenges include some children’s lack of motivation to learn, many parents juggling home learning with working from home and, for some families, access to technology – with siblings needing to share a laptop or even a phone to try and complete their schoolwork. We’ve put together 8 helpful hints for happier home learning all round.
We’re also providing free access to the Oak National Academy’s online lessons, so families can learn from home without using any of their mobile data allowance. This is now up and running until the end of the academic year – take a look at their website to see what’s available.
Our top 8 home learning tips
- Just do what you can
Remember to cut yourself some slack. It’s already a difficult time to be a parent, you don't have to become a teacher. What your child needs most is what parents give best – love and support.
- Setting expectations is worthwhile
Perhaps you just want your teenager to get some work done and to submit it at the end of class – however much they manage, or maybe 10 minutes of focus is enough for your five-year-old? Try to be clear about what’s expected from the start – which can save you plenty of explaining, or even arguments later.
- Create a time and place for learning
- Adding a little structure to the day can make a big difference. It doesn’t need to be a strict timetable, but could include a fun end-of-work routine: work’s done, the computer’s away – and it’s time to play!
- If you can, set up a small workstation for your child. Headphones could help with online lessons. If your child is working on a laptop, try to have the screen at eye level, ideally with a separate keyboard. If you don't have a proper laptop stand, you could use an old shoebox.
- Try to balance online and offline time
You could get the children involved in tidying, clearing the table, and even cooking. This is especially useful if your children are sharing a device to work on. And if, like many families, yours is spending a little too much time on Netflix and YouTube, a great idea is to turn off autoplay, so the next video doesn't automatically start playing when one finishes.
- Keep an open mind
While parental controls and limits are an important part of parenting in the 21st century, try to keep an open mind about devices, apps, and learning methods. Perhaps that YouTube video is educational – or maybe that Snapchat conversation is about the work? And if you have a PlayStation or Xbox, but not an extra computer, both Microsoft Teams and Google Classroom can be accessed via those consoles.
- Regular breaks are encouraged
Our partners Digital Awareness UK suggest older children might benefit from the 20-20-20 rule – take a break every 20 minutes, for at least 20 seconds, and look at something 20 feet away. Under sevens only work in stints up to 25 minutes at school so, one-to-one at home, if you only get through 10 minutes of work at a time, that's more than ok.
- Connect with other parents
Often we think we’re the only ones struggling, but that’s rarely the case – other parents can be a great source of support, offering tips and tricks on what has and hasn’t worked for them. It’s hard to come up with new ideas when under pressure. Sometimes, all it takes is a good chat to find a fresh perspective.
- Explore new resources
When we’re busy, we often don’t have time to explore just how much help is available to us. From entertaining videos to mind-blowing podcasts, there are plenty of free resources that you can use for home learning. Check out our list below:
Home learning resources
- This Morning have launched a Homeschooling Club specifically to support parents during this time – it’s full of ideas, hacks and easy ways to help you with home learning and more
- Art fans swear by the YouTube channel ‘Art Club with Olaf Falafel’. Each episode has lots of drawing and jokes and features a specific artist like L.S. Lowry or Picasso
- For those who want to get their children off screens, podcasts are a great option:
- One popular real-world option is ‘The Little Mud Club’, a monthly subscription pack aimed at under sevens. It’s full of prompts to get children outside, whatever the weather
- Schools have frequently recommended the following:
- BrainPop – animated videos on maths, science, and English
- Tynker – a great option for coding lessons
- Creative Bug – features craft lessons on knitting, jewellery-making, and more
- YouTube's ‘Free School’ – educational videos on everything from coral reefs and the solar system to the US constitution
- And the BBC has been showing curriculum content on TV every weekday since 11 January 2021:
- Primary-school programming, including BBC Live Lessons, is on from 9am to 12pm on CBBC
- At least two hours of programming on BBC Two each weekday is dedicated to supporting the GCSE curriculum.