How to combine homeschooling and working

Guest post by Murray Morrison, a leading education and learning expert.

Let’s get one thing straight right from the start: it is not your job to replace your child’s teacher for the duration of the school closure. Parents all over the country are piling on way too much pressure to meet their own expectations of what homeschooling “should” be, while also trying to maintain their day-to-day job. Be under no illusions that your main obligation should be to your own work – you are not a teacher, and that’s fine.

Give yourself a break – and remember school will cover everything

When school resumes, the first thing that will happen is that teachers will run over everything from last year, and teach everything that had been planned for teaching during the “lost term”. There is no new learning that is meant to happen now that won’t be taught – so there is no pressure on families to exclusively cover this new content.

That said, getting your children to read what the school sends, and spend time practising, reading around the subject (and making notes where they can) will be positive – it means that when the material is taught in class, it will be easier to absorb. That’s going to be useful when the teaching next year is necessarily compressed.

Find things to occupy them so you can do your stuff

Self-directed learning will be a great stand-by: not only does it make for better, longer-lasting learning for your child, but also it gives you time to focus on your own work. The key thing is to make sure that work is done in a structured way with tangible outcomes that you can check periodically. Don’t let them just “read some notes”; instead ask them to make flashcards, make a video or write an essay. Technology comes in very useful here – especially if there is interactivity: Tassomai helps students practise knowledge through personalised quizzing while parents can see exactly how much has been done; other softwares teach through videos that track engagement.

EdTech can really be your friend when it comes to getting your children studying under their own steam: BBC Bitesize has fantastic learning games for all age groups, and a few minutes browsing YouTube will yield plenty of excellent learning channels for occasional use through the day.

Make the time you spend together happy, enriching, positive time that school cannot offer

When it comes to working one-to-one with your children, if you can take a few hours off for it, I’d recommend parents spend their time doing activities that schools cannot provide. There are a wealth of “enrichment” activities that schools struggle to support, but parents can do fairly easily. There are obvious options like craft projects, story-writing and baking which allow you to be creative and discuss words, ideas, maths and science. But you could also try some gardening projects or – with just a few materials like cardboard and tape – tackle some STEM projects like making beautiful 3D shapes, building bridges or constructing gliders.

Use technology where you can to make learning effective and powerful

My advice to parents is to spend a little time seeing what technology platforms are best-suited to solving your most pressing needs as parents: you want education technology that occupies your child’s attention so you have time to do your own work; you also want products that have a solid evidence base underpinning them, so you can be confident that their use will be beneficial. Check sites like Edtech Impact and Edtech Evidence Group to see which products can be trusted to have a real learning impact so that you can focus on your work and make the time you spend learning with your children as wonderful as possible.

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