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Learning at home advice from our experts - Beccie Hawes

At TTS, we have been reaching out to our educational experts and asking them to share some of their top tips and advice to support you at home. We hope this will help and give you some ideas to try.

Posted on Thursday 02nd April 2020

Here is advice from Beccie Hawes, an inclusion and advisor and parent.

A little bit about Beccie Hawes

Beccie Hawes is Head of Service with Rushall Inclusion Advisory Team. Beccie’s team works with a number of different schools offering support, advice and challenge regarding all aspects of inclusive policy, practice and procedure.

Beccie is also mum to Alfie Hawes, who has written several blogs for us at TTS about his own experience of life in school.

How much of your day should be ‘home-schooling’?

  • It is important to strike a balance. This depends on you and your child. Discuss and agree from the following options: getting it all done in one go or short bursts with breaks. Consider what works best for their age, concentration span and enthusiasm level.

What things should they be learning? How do you decide? 

  • You may have work from school and this can provide a helpful starting point.
  • Rather than discrete teaching opportunities think about what they might be learning from the activities that you offer and build upon these. This will make everything feel more natural. For example: if you are making a cake together you are already weighing and measuring, reading a recipe, exploring the language of instructions via the recipe (first, next, then…), telling the time, working cooperatively, combining ingredients, developing descriptive language as you describe and talk about what you are doing. You could then add further opportunities to this by exploring where ingredients come from, adapting the recipe, making a photo story of how you made the cake to share online.

Any activity ideas you could do at home?

  • Keep it as fun and practical as possible. Don’t forget about baking, cooking, drawing on the path with chalk, drawing around each other on large paper to create body silhouettes and decorating (you could be an astronaut, a caveman, a pop star, pirate, mermaid…anything you fancy), junk modelling, stone painting, origami, playing shops/post offices….Although you might feel like you are playing you are learning so much and developing language.
  • Revisit jigsaws, word searches, crosswords, sudoku, dot-to-dot puzzles. These build lots of skills. For example: A simple word search supports spelling, reading, visual tracking and pencil control. Many of these sorts of things are free to download and print online.
  • You could ask a member of the family or a friend to become a virtual pen pal and exchange emails.

Do you need a timetable?

  • It is important to provide structure and routine as this can promote a feeling of safety and security. However it should be flexible and allow for some spontaneity. It may be worth timetabling the ‘school’ part of the day but the timetable could be developed in partnership with your child so that they have some control and ownership. This may well make them more likely to comply with worktime.
  • If you are having a timetable add visual pictures and clear timescales. This will help children to know what they will be doing, when and for how long.
  • Build motivators into the timetable (this could be something like iPad time or a session on the trampoline in the backgarden). Children will then have something positive to aim for after work time.

What are your top tips for keeping children happy and healthy while at home?

  • Try not to recreate school in its traditional sense.
  • Try to be honest about the extraordinary situation that we are in but keep it positive. To achieve this, limit the children’s access to social media scares. Remind them about the number of people that are recovering and talk about limiting risk and staying safe. Talk about what you can do and what you are doing as a family to keep each other safe. Keep discussion reassuring.
  • Make time to laugh together and enjoy each other. Board games, party games, film nights, jigsaw challenges, indoor treasure hunts, fun in the garden, and computer game challenges. Anything that you can do together that will be fun.
  • Allow them to contact friends and family outside of the home using age appropriate virtual experiences. Video calling can be supervised and will keep connections outside of the family going. This can provide valuable respite.
  • Allow boredom. It is fine for children to have D-NIP (do nothing in particular) or PIY (plan it yourself) time. This often sparks creativity.
  • Don’t over plan their time. Allow for some choice and flexibility.
  • Provide a vehicle for children to share their worries without speaking. They could have a ‘worry’ book, post notes in specially created ‘care and share’ box or make worry dolls. It is important that the worries are shared and discussed not just recorded.
  • Use positive language, ‘We are safe at home!’ reframes ‘We are stuck at home!’
  • Draw as much attention to positive behaviours, positive efforts and kind deeds. Use specific language stating exactly what you loved and saw them do. ‘I loved it when you did XXXX. It was a really kind thing to do and made me feel XXXXX.’

Any tips for parents and their own wellbeing?

  • Gin!
  • Don’t try to be the teacher.
  • Give yourself permission to take time away from your children. It is okay for them to have time to themselves. You don’t need to structure everything and shouldn’t feel guilty about what you feel you are not providing.
  • You don’t need to sit with your children endlessly whilst they home school. It is okay to let them have a go at activities independently.
  • Don’t get taken in by social media. It will be full of people showing their ‘best selves’ – pictures of happy children doing amazing activities and super duper home schools. In reality, this is probably 30 seconds of bliss before the Pandora’s box of chaos opened.

Remember to breathe and remind yourself that you are human. There is no right way to handle this situation, there isn’t a manual. You are doing your best and you are enough!

With thanks to Beccie Hawes for writing this blog.

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