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Ask the Experts Q&A: Learning at Home and Home-Schooling

We know these are uncertain times for parents and it can be difficult to know what ‘home-schooling’ we should be doing. We have been in contact with lots of our parent and teacher experts to ask for their advice and top tips.

Posted on Wednesday 08th April 2020

There are so many different ways you can organise ‘learning at home’ and the important thing is to find what works for you and your family.

Should we be ‘home-schooling’? If so, how much of your day should be ‘home-schooling?’

  • “Do not put too much pressure on yourself to set up “school/preschool” at home and let the children lead the activities as much as possible, they have such brilliant ideas!” Jess, Parent and Consultant for a mental health charity


  • “On home learning … don’t overdo it. If you have kids like mine then they’ll be grateful for having something to do (it keeps me busy and my mind off the news and happy mummy =happy kids), but be alert to when you need to switch up or even throw away your plan. I have also found my 8yo son has learned loads just from us talking.” Kate Williams, Kate at Blackbird Cottage, Childminder 


  • “This depends on each child but should not be the same as a school day for any child. It would become too overwhelming for both child and parent. Short bursts of learning and lots of creativity. Remember, learning isn’t just about full stops and capital letters. Learning is about ensuring our children grow into responsible, caring and compassionate people who are kind and empathic.” Beverley, Teacher and Parent


  • “Do as much as you can manage and don’t worry about what you can’t. Some days you will do lots, others you won’t and that’s okay. I personally am doing half a day to juggle work.” Gemma, Parent and Teacher


  • “Supporting learning at home doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to be ‘teaching’ your children! Supporting learning at home, to me means that you are supporting their wellbeing and making learning fun and meaningful through real-life experiences such as cooking where you are measuring ingredients, cleaning where you are learning crucial life skills, playing in the garden to develop fine and gross motor skills, spending time together reading and sharing stories to develop language skills, video calling loved ones to develop use of technology and so much more. It is a very uncertain time that we are living in and spending and enjoying time with your children is the most important part of this. Children will watch how adults cope with stressful situations and it will shape their own responses to stress in the future! Enjoy it… have fun, play, cook, be silly, read books, sing, dance, journal and inevitably your children will learn!” EYFS Teacher Nursery School, SENCO and Inclusion Lead

What should they be learning? How do you decide what activities to do?

  • “Children are continuously learning through their play and their interactions with others. Remember, it is good for children to occasionally be ‘bored’. Screens and TV can be used to support learning and give you a break. Try to at least tick off these 3 things every day. 1) Get Outside (observing social distancing rules). 2) Read to your child, especially at bedtime, to offer calmness, routine and reassurance. 3) Talk, talk, talk – what better way to develop your child’s language and communication skills.” Janine Medway-Smith, Nursery Practitioner


  • “Have fun with the learning. Don’t try and teach them anything new just let them go over what they have already learnt at school. Get them to write a diary or re-write a story using different themes. We do PE in the morning and try and do maths and literacy before lunch as that’s the best time to work. In the afternoon we do something fun like baking, crafts, etc. Just be flexible. We also read a story together. We are currently reading BFG, just a few pages a day.” Laura Kelly, Trainee Early Years Teacher and Parent to 3 children


  • “Create a family topic to learn about together. Be creative with learning it doesn’t have to be sat down behind a desk.” Katie Keating, Childminder


  • “I have an 8yr old and an autistic 4 yr old at home, so we are still finding our feet just like everybody else! We’re trying to use this time to do activities that we maybe wouldn’t have had time for before – we have concentrated on using the resources that have been waiting for ‘a rainy day!’. We’ve dug out the science kits that were gifted and never really used, and finally got round to playing the board games that we never really managed to get into. Having all this time together is a total luxury, the most valuable way to spend it is connecting with each other.” Ellie Latham-Mollart, Childminder


  • “The younger the child, the more time they need for free play, art and craft time and opportunities to choose their activities. Have access to boxes or trays of art materials which will save you setting loads of things up if they aren’t interested at a set time. Low mess options include chalks, colouring pens, crayons, stickers and plenty of paper. Older children may also like access to empty boxes, sticky tape and child-friendly scissors. This will also help your child to gain independence and you can get on with working from home. Schools may be sending loads of work home but if you are working from home too and have children of different ages, cut yourself some slack. Love and cuddles are as important as number bonds right now!” Jodie Lopez, Parent, Former Teacher and EdTech Consultant.


  •  “Keep it simple and fun, for example, for maths use the things they like, such as lego or play dough for counting, adding, subtracting etc. For writing, try writing letters to family members, postcards to friends, blogs, joke books, lists for younger children or anything you feel is meaningful and fun. For younger children try chalking outside or using buckets of water to write big. Try and read every day too. Children can learn by baking, playing, sports, crafts, sharing a book and talking about it. It doesn’t always have to be worksheets.” Stacey Hughes, Teacher and Parent


  • “Personally my two love themed or topic work – today is the Zoo, we have watched some of the Secret Life of the Zoo, made lego animals, painted some loo rolls to make penguins out of, made maps of our zoo and menus for our zoo restaurant. Just work with what you’ve got – especially for arts and crafts we will all be generating a lot of recycling waste! Try and stick to your kids interests so that you don’t have a battle on your hands and weave in the literacy and numeracy wherever you can.” Gemma, Parent and Teacher


  • “Take advice from their teachers. If in doubt, make the learning practical and purposeful. Baking, learning to tie laces, preparing a meal, weighing out ingredients to make buns. It is all learning.” Beverley, Teacher and Parent


  • “Remember, you are not their teacher and you don’t have to take on that profession! Be kind to yourself! Be guided by the child and your own needs (work commitments etc). As a rule of thumb, read every day (remember there are lots of free online books and audible books at the moment), if they are younger children, talk about how the words are made up (phonics). Do a bit of maths each day, remember though that this can be through activities such as planting and baking. Dominoes and many other games are amazing at developing number sense, don’t underestimate them. But remember, if you don’t do these every day, but you had a lovely day making ‘instruments’ with junk modelling, then that’s okay.” Pamela Hanigan, Teacher and Dyslexia Specialist, and Rachel Gelder, Teacher and BDA Practitioner

Do you follow a routine? Do you need a timetable?

  • “Routine is key. You don’t need to be regimented like a school but children thrive on routine and knowing what’s coming next. Get the children involved in making the schedule.” Katie Keating, Childminder


  • “An agreed timetable between you and your child can be useful, but it must be flexible and fun. Use a now and then for activities so you both know when a task is going to end. This will help keep your child more engaged and save your sanity. If you or your child is becoming distressed, walk away from it and come back to it at another point.” Stacey Hughes, Teacher and Parent


  • “A timetable can be good as it can take away the pressure of mum or dad trying to get the child to take part in learning. It gives structure and a purpose.” Beverley, Teacher and Parent

What should we be doing to reward learning at home?

  • “Rewards are good but try and reward effort rather than how many they get correct. Reward through praise as you go and reward with time together rather than technology if you can.” Stacey Hughes, Teacher and Parent


  • “Treats can be a good thing. These could be a treat day once this is all over, a movie night, or a sticker chart as they complete certain aspects of their day. Children all like (even when they fight against them!) boundaries and routine. Pamela Hanigan, Teacher and Dyslexia Specialist, and Rachel Gelder, Teacher and BDA Practitioner.


  • “Recreate the achievement part of the week, maybe a recap of the week every Friday from everyone’s perspective, make certificates or have a mini raffle of prizes (parents can be awarded too) and a wish for the next week. Keep the communication high and the community spirit alive.” Katie Keating, Childminder


  • “Rewards are helpful but try not to use bribes or conditional love, such as “If you do this, you can have this…” It can then become tricky as the child may ramp the rewards up and you as a parent may feel the need to give more to get more.” Beverley, Teacher and Parent

And a final thought from Pamela and Rachel …

“Be sensible and realistic. When everyone is cooped up together, things can get fraught. Try to keep things in perspective and if things are getting too much, take yourself for time out, even if this is in the bathroom!”

With thanks to Jess, Kate W, Beverley, Gemma, EYFS Teacher, Janine, Laura, Katie K, Ellie, Jodie, Stacey, Pamela and Rachel for all of your advice.


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