A teacher’s guide to home schooling

Self-isolating and social-distancing. These two verbs weren’t even in our vocabulary a few weeks ago and, yet, here we are now, growing surprisingly accustomed to these new activities. Adults and young people, of all backgrounds and with varied resources and abilities, are united through what is possibly one of the most daunting of concepts related to our rekindled connection with our homes: home schooling.

Erica Morgan, an English teacher at Penair Secondary School, shares her classroom techniques and top tips for teaching children and teens at home:

Provide ‘warm ups’ and mental ‘refreshers’ throughout the day. Sing some songs, run ‘quick-fire’ quizzes, solve anagrams, play Boggle, get up and dance, list all the foods you can think of beginning with P, rub your stomach and head with different hands in opposite directions…

Provide opportunities for home lessons to be as creative and visual as possible. Create mind maps, storyboards, illustrations, diagrams, posters and flashcards to record notes and ideas. Make the most of coloured pens and highlighters to aid creativity and consolidate knowledge.

Encourage your child (or children) to present knowledge in different formats. For example, they could create a leaflet based on an educational video or devise a crossword based on a web article. Key ideas about a science topic can become a song and key facts about an engineering topic can be presented in images and symbols.

Leave a piece of work and return to it the next day. Twenty-four hours later, prompt your child to look at their work with fresh eyes. What can they remember? What hasn’t their brain retained? What have they done well? How could they improve?

Ask your child to teach you. If they can teach you well enough for you to learn something, they will be developing their skills in selecting, evaluating and explaining information.

Challenge your child to justify their ideas. Ask them why they think something. Demand they provide evidence. Throw some ‘what ifs?’ their way. Enjoy the debate!

Talk to your child and ask for their learning suggestions. Get them to plan some lessons – chances are they will have some genius ideas that you’ve been desperately trying to think up.

Include rewards, for yourself as well as for your child. A well-timed cup of tea or a kick around in the back garden could be good for everyone’s mental health.

Don’t be too rigid with your day if you feel it is doing more harm than good. We are all having to adapt to the new situation we find ourselves in and that might mean adapting the ‘school day’. Routine is good, but if you could offer the same strict timetable a school can, you wouldn’t need school in the first place.

Don’t pay attention to any of this advice or any other guidance you read if it doesn’t feel right or if it doesn’t work for you. The fact that you are reading this article is a sure sign that you are doing something right for your child – you are taking the time to think about their learning, after all. We all know that every child is different and that everyone, no matter how young or old, has a different learning style or a different passion that will get them fired up and ready to learn. You’ll learn what works as you go, just as they will.

Good luck, home-teachers, and do let us know how your experience is going and what is working for you.