“Help, I have to homeschool!”
With TCK families across the world facing school closures in response to COVID-19, UFM Worldwide has compiled some articles, helpful tips and recommended resources. We pray that you will find these useful as you navigate these difficult times, keeping your eyes fixed on Jesus.
This first issue is aimed at parents of primary-aged children. Future issues are likely to have a different focus as we aim to address relevant topics for all our TCK families.
Where do I start?
You may have been given online work from your child’s school, or free rein to do as you please… If the latter is the case, take advantage of it!
In order to adapt to home schooling, experts generally agree that children need a period of ‘de-schooling’ and do not readily transition to parents trying to replicate traditional school at home. So don’t go overboard on printing and producing formal lessons, at least early on!
It may be a new thing for your child to see you as ‘teacher’ so:
1. Start gently
Don’t expect lots of formal work to begin with. Do what school requires of you, but don’t initially try to supplement this too much!
2. Get back to nature!
While possible, go for a walk, a picnic or into a garden, and use these as learning opportunities. Take photos and use them to help you draw/ paint later. Or take photos of birds, wildflowers and trees and use a field guide or app to try and identify them at home.
3. Get moving
Play hide and seek and outside games, go for bike rides if allowed, do skipping challenges and use that trampoline. A small indoor ‘rebounder’ (tiny trampoline) is good for all ages and can be folded away if space is an issue.
Read to your children, with them, listen to them read, listen to audiobooks together, let them see you reading, instead of on screens.
Letters to grandparents or others who are self-isolating. Write journals and diary entries, instructions for craft activities, recipes, as well as imaginary stories, plays or poems.
Play board games and card games. Play Lego and all those games they thought they had grown out of – set challenges e.g. Make people without using people parts etc.
7. Discover a new hobby
Pinterest has ideas and YouTube has lots of demo videos, and you can order most craft supplies online, or finish off those half done projects that are still in the cupboard, or use the materials to make something else entirely.
8. Create, build and engineer!
Use household objects – raid the recycling bin and make a junk model, or make something with minimal adult input. Let the ‘working out how to do the project’ be part of the learning.
9. Make a joint art project
Use the back of a roll of wallpaper to draw a map of your area, or a town/country/holiday scene and fill in the details bit by bit, allocating each family member an area. Spend a little while each day building up a detailed picture.
10. Cook and housekeep together
Divide up the household chores, if you don’t already, and give children rubber gloves and ownership over the cleaning of an area to virus-eliminating standards, making it a fun challenge. Let them follow a simple recipe without adult input.
11. Volunteer together
E.g. do some shopping for someone who is self-isolating? Get your children to help make the lists and tick off the tasks.
12. Don’t hover over your kids all day long
Healthy neglect and space for trial and error, and imaginary play is a really important part of your child’s development!
How do I structure the day?
Children thrive on routine. In fact, so do most adults! So it is a good idea to decide early on how your day should be divided.
- Write on a black/whiteboard or print off an age appropriate timetable blank from Twinkl.
- For younger children, print or draw visual symbols for activities like: break, lunch, table time, outside time, quiet play, family devotions, household tasks, games, bedtime etc. – print or draw these on individual cards that can then be stuck on the fridge with blu tak in the order you plan for that day. These are easy for a child to follow, easy for the parent to rearrange, and can be removed and stored safely as you do them. In this case, you are not setting strict times for the tasks, but keeping order and routine!
- Do make sure to include quiet play or reading time that is respected by all. It is especially important to maintain personal space when the family is confined together! Even as little ones begin to grow out of daytime naps, giving them a quiet play time in their cot is a good habit to continue.
- Take the opportunity this unprecedented time affords to start a good habit of family devotions, if you don’t already do this. Build that into your timetable so that it does not get overlooked. These uncertain days should be a time when as parents, we demonstrate our reliance on our Rock, Christ Jesus, to our children. Read, pray, sing (you can follow along with your favourite songs if you don’t want to sing alone!) Pray for those around you, mission workers and unreached peoples, using available resources.
- It is probably a good idea to schedule the tasks that cause a bit more stress earlier in the day, with the promise of fun stuff later, or to intersperse the difficult tasks with more enjoyable ones. A lot of this comes down to your children’s learning styles, which may differ widely within families, (a subject for a future issue of TCK Talk!) so this may differ from child to child, and from morning birds to night owls!
- Maintain loving authority over the timetable! You, the parent, not the children, are in charge here!
Social media is awash with new suggestions for resources and many paid-for platforms are currently offering free resources in response to the current school closures. Those in this list are a selection that have been recommended by home schoolers in UFM.
Free / inexpensive resources:
- Bibletime lessons – Each story has a follow-up sheet at 5 different levels from preschool-16.
- Crossway have made the Big Picture Bible crafts book available as a free download.
- Seeds Family Worship have been sending a code for free downloads to missionary families who email them. Great for learning Scripture.
- Keys for Kids has devotional programmes and story series to read and listen to.
- Twinkl is full of resources up to KS4, some of which are free.
- The School Run has free resources for up to KS2.
- Easy Peasy all in one homeschool – US based free lessons for all ages.
- Homeschool 4 me – free resources and useful links – great recipe section.
- Freddie’s Mummy UK – Loads of links to free sites.
- Hoffman Piano Lessons – basic free lessons with payment option to go further.
- Art for Kids Hub – some lessons free on You Tube, subscriptions available.
- Artventure – Library of video lessons for children to learn to draw and paint – free 48 hour trial.
- Creative Bug – free trial for craft skill video classes.
- ChatterPack – website with lots of resources for children with special needs, but also a useful section on their blog for the current crisis suitable for all. Among the ideas, there are virtual tours of real places and online library access.
- World Family Education has grouped links according to subject. Mainly US websites, but not all.
- Scholastic has put together a free pack for home learning.
- Khan Academy – US based, free online courses for lots of subjects.
- PE with Joe Wicks – Live daily at 9 am UK time daily during the school closures!
- Apps to keep kids reading if you run out of books at home!
- This reading mama – great section for struggling readers.
Fun and games
- Lego projects
- Quiver App – colouring sheets to print off with a QR code which brings them to augmented reality!
Interactive sites for children
- BrainPOP has free access during school closures.
- Tynker is offering free coding courses for children during school closures.
- Outschool have live online classes for a small fee.
- Key Stage Fun has paid for apps that teach skills like times tables, spelling etc.
- Science Videos – Primary
- Malmesbury Science & Tech – Practical demos for GCSE and A Level, interesting for KS3 too.
- Cambridge Science Lectures – highly recommended by UFM home schoolers
What if my children won’t cooperate?
Maintain loving authority with your children. Ann Benton, in her ‘Putting Parenting to Bed course describes the triangle of communication, discipline and relationship and warns against either authoritarianism or permissiveness, instead finding a balance of loving authority. This is a balance of truth and love.
Communication is key. Explain clearly what is going to happen and why, making sure your instructions are short and within their abilities to carry out. Don’t aim too high! Ask your children to repeat back to you what you have said. Listen carefully to their replies and expect them to follow your instructions, watching until they do. Catch them doing something right and give descriptive praise all the way.
If children challenge your authority, do not laugh at their silliness, take it seriously. Give clear warnings about what sanctions will be imposed if they repeat their actions and above all, say what you mean and mean what you say! Children will very quickly learn that whining and procrastination bring sanctions not rewards! Go easy on physical rewards for good behaviour. Results may be forthcoming, but with no inward desire to do right. In school this may work for a class of children where the teacher requires a certain behaviour without heart change, but a parent wants to see children behaving because well behaved children are happier children and will learn to self-correct, making it easier for them to submit to the Lord in turn! Descriptive praise is better than a sticker on a chart! If you lose your temper, say what was wrong with that attitude, ask their forgiveness and start afresh.
For much more on this, see Ann Benton’s DVD and workbooks on ‘Putting Parenting to Bed’ or her book ‘Aren’t they lovely when they are asleep?’.
Will their education suffer?
Luke 2 v 52 tells us that the Lord Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men. In other words, He grew intellectually, physically, spiritually and socially/emotionally. Our education system places a lot of emphasis on intellectual growth and good health, and some on social and emotional health. Spiritual growth is arguably more important, and when schooling at home, can be given its rightful place. Far from suffering, their education will balance out!Children are natural learners, and changing the method of input from book learning to practical tasks is often very beneficial for their learning. Teachers would love to be able to do more hands-on learning in school but for practical reasons this is not easy! At home, we can do as much as we please. Having taught several children who had to repeat the academic year in my Year 6 class, and having seen them blossom while doing exactly the same level of work for a second year running, I can attest to the great benefits of reinforcing what they have already learned, and giving them space to follow their interests.
I don’t have specialist knowledge or teaching experience!
Actually, you do! You know your child better than any teacher could, and you have been educating her/him since s/he was born! Teachers are specialists in educating lots of people at the same time, but home education means you can use your knowledge of your child and choose the approach that works best for them and you.Education happens when you show a child how to plant seeds, weigh ingredients and answer a question with, ‘I don’t know, but let’s see if we can find out!’ As the questions get harder, you are leading the child to other sources such as books, the internet or other people, and your child gains the knowledge by herself. Don’t be alarmed if your child does not show much interest in learning when you first quit school. See the comments on ‘de-schooling’ in the first section for more!