In the current climate of uncertainty where each day we become more isolated from each other whilst we wait for the latest government guidelines regarding how we are to cope with the Coronavirus pandemic, it’s not just working from home that many of us have to get used to; for many families up and down the UK, after the schools have closed, will now have to manage their children and their education at home until further notice. This can be a daunting task at first, but teaching your children at home alongside your own working from home can be done successfully.
I’m Eve and I’m a Content Creator here at EKM – you’ll see my face in the Support Centre and hear my voice on The Ecommerce Success Show podcast regularly – but many moons ago, my family was the first in the Northwest to teach their children from home. In 1981, my parents made the decision to educate myself and my siblings themselves and despite it being a very unusual occurrence at the time, they had great success at it. Neither of my parents were teachers, tutors or had ever worked in the education system, but armed with a collection of books, I was educated at home all the way up until I was 16, where I then went to college, and later on, university.
With all of this in mind, EKM has asked me to write up how some of the principles of home education can be used today and how you can manage both your business and your family quite successfully from home. Of course, there will be some differences – in 1981 there were only four television channels with children’s programs broadcast for a limited time twice a day and there was certainly no internet, but today you have the advantage of having all of the world’s knowledge at your fingertips – the real key is finding the best resources to suit yourself and your family.
The Main Difference
The biggest perspective you have to master is that there’s a very big difference between home education and school, and this is something that your children are well aware of. In the school system, children are spoon-fed subjects according to a curriculum, whether they like it or not. Because of this forced education, many children grow up to hate learning on the whole. Your children are already well used to going to school to be educated and returning home to have fun and relax. The key to success here is not to try and duplicate school at home. It simply won’t work; there’s too much to distract them and it’s not something that they’re used to doing regularly. Instead, once you’ve worked through any leftover homework they have from school using the usual methods, you can really begin teaching your children at home.
A key part of my own home education was the study of three basic subjects – reading, writing and maths. Once you have mastered these three subjects and can do them well, you can teach yourself anything. With this in mind, assess your own children’s capabilities according to your own standards. Can they read well, write legibly (without spelling, grammar or punctuation mistakes) and add, multiply, divide and subtract numbers? If not, you need to identify the key areas that they need to improve on and work on these during their project, whatever it may be.
Home education is a series of projects
In its most basic sense, to teach your children from home successfully, you need to set each child a project which is based on something they’re already passionate about. It’s easier for them to learn about something that they care about than for you to force them to learn something they don’t want to. Dressing up their home education as a multi-faceted project allows you to incorporate the basics that you feel that they are lacking in, whilst letting them explore their favourite subject.
Identifying your child’s passion
You know your children better than me, and you’ll know if they’re having a phase of dinosaurs, tractors, horses, aliens, monsters or whether they’re obsessed with Minecraft, Instagram or a specific channel on YouTube. Ask them what they want to be when they grow up. Work out what their passion is at the moment, and create your project around it, really emphasising that they will spend the day or the week ‘doing their favourite thing’.
What kind of project should I set?
The kind of project you set depends on the age and aptitude of your child and how much you want to incorporate the basics of reading, writing and maths. Projects can consist of a combination of:
The length of the assignment depends on the age of your child, but written assignments are especially useful for teaching not just writing skills, but research too, especially if you know nothing about the subject they’re interested in – so in effect, they’re teaching you.
Models and Dioramas
Remember making dioramas at school? Models can include things constructed from items around the house, from toys and blocks, to Lego, plasticine and clay. When I was younger, my mum used to get books full of ready to construct cardboard models. These can easily be downloaded from the internet now, and there’s a whole host to choose from. My favourites were a series on animal dissections, you could see (and build cardboard versions of) all of the organs without any animals being injured in the name of science.
Charts and Diagrams
These are a helpful way to teach maths as your child will need to work out numbers and percentages to create their chart. Diagrams can be useful for teaching children about biology (in the case of my animals model above) or machinery, such as tractors or cars for example.
This doesn’t mean playing with bunsen burners and chemicals! For older children, experiments can include projects such as creating their own ecojars, coding their own website or creating their own filtration system. Projects that include experiments like this can also include lots of reading and research too.
Research and Reading
Of course, when I was a child, I relied on encyclopedias and library books, but now Wikipedia reigns supreme. Some children are quite happy to read books, so you could recommend your favourite book from your own childhood for them to read, especially if it’s a classic like The Swallows & Amazons and ask them to write a brief review about it.
You can easily teach children about art by showing them the work of different famous artists. Get them to choose their favourite style and encourage them to create their own version. This is a good way to teach them about portraits and self-portraits, cubism and modernism, as well as who some of the famous paints were and their chosen styles.
Setting your project
When you have decided on the project, set a time with your child to complete the task, and what is classed as completion. Is it a model, a written assignment, a diagram or all three? Note this information down and hang it in a prominent place in the house, such as the fridge.
When it’s time for the project deadline, sit with your child and make space in your schedule for them to talk to you about the project. It’s important that you listen at this point, as you will need to praise them for the right details, but also constructively point out any areas that they struggled with and how they could work on these to get better. The results of this will help you determine the guidelines for their next project.
Home Education Do’s and Dont’s
- Sit all of the children in the same room if possible. Instead, assign them different places in the house to work from separately.
- Force them to learn something that they are not interested in.
- Leave them unattended whilst they are studying. When you have your own breaks, let them know that it’s break time and lead by example, returning to your own work when the time is up.
- Allow them to play music, listen to the radio or watch TV. Instead, if they have headphones, allow them to listen to music that way so that the rest of the family is not interrupted.
- Restrict internet access where possible to encourage them to use their imagination.
- Do praise good work and ensure that you give positive constructive criticism when projects are completed.
- Give them an allocated time to present their project or ask any questions along the way.
- Stick to breaks and meal times at the same time every day – routine helps to create a more productive atmosphere.
There’s a whole wealth of resources available for free online that you can use to help educate your children from home. Pinterest is a very useful place to download model templates and other crafty projects, whilst over on Twitter, Dig Deep Education regularly post links to useful resources, and Usborne is currently offering a discount on all of their books.
Instagram and YouTube star Joe Wicks is broadcasting a live PE lesson on his channel every morning at 9am, and if you have Alexa in your house, there’s a whole range of children’s activities which you can use.
Finally, it’s worth looking at websites like Carol Vordeman’s Maths Factor, Sir Linkalot for English skills and when it’s time for some colouring-in, illustrator Quentin Blake offers a range of free downloads.