Teachers best advice for parents on home schooling children during coronavirus outbreak

Parents have suddenly found themselves thrust into the role of teacher. (Getty Images)
Parents have suddenly found themselves thrust into the role of teacher. (Getty Images)

School may be out (possibly for the summer), but children still need to be educated, which means parents across the UK have suddenly found themselves thrust into the role of reluctant supply teacher.

But with little but some rusty algebra in their educational arsenal it’s little wonder the strain on the rookie teachers is beginning to show and fears the quality of the home-schooling could have a knock-on effect on children’s learning.

Recent research has revealed three quarters of parents (77%) are concerned the coronavirus pandemic will impact their kids’ education.

The survey by Parentkind, found falling behind or missing out on learning, cancelled exams and lack of socialisation were among the biggest concerns mums and dads currently have for their children.

John Jolly, chief executive of Parentkind, said parents find themselves in a “uniquely stressful period” trying to care for and educate their children while also balancing their home and work life.

“These are exceptional times, with the necessary measures to slow the spread of a potentially deadly virus raising for many parents fundamental questions about family life and how they can best support their child’s learning from home,” he said.

“Parents are fearful of the long-term impact school closures will have on their child’s attainment and socialisation, and they are juggling these worries with their own very real issues of meeting work commitments and paying the bills, without the support of grandparents and others to draw on during this uniquely stressful period.”

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But the nations teachers are here to help. Yahoo UK contacted the educational experts for their emergency tips on easing parents into their new educator role.

Pam Stallard is head of languages at a secondary school in Brighton

Less home-schooling is more

“Remember, your child is in a class of 28-30 at school, and a class of maybe 3 or 4 at max at home. They therefore need a LOT less learning time to get the same amount of 1-1.”

Create your own ‘school day’

“Figure out what schedule works for you - schools often do maths and English in the morning and PE in the afternoon for a reason - but if your child(ren) is better suited to mornings with Joe Wicks and maths after lunch, let it flow according to them.”

Don't be afraid of screen time

“but make it purposeful. If they're on the iPad, make sure some of the time is educational apps or videos. If you're all watching TV, whack the subtitles on and sing along to Aladdin, and pause when you can for discussion on the plot. This will teach them more than you think and is a strategy we use a lot in language learning.”

Teachers have provided their best tips to help parents home school during coronavirus. (Getty Images)
Teachers have provided their best tips to help parents home school during coronavirus. (Getty Images)

Read more: How coronavirus measures may be affecting children's mental health

Patricia Warner from www.shoolexams.co.uk has been a teacher for 40 years

Stick to a structure

“It’s important not to put too much pressure on yourselves and your children in terms of learning during these unprecedented times. However, children respond well to structure and routine so my advice is to implement their learning at the same time every day.

“For younger children aim to start earlier when their brains are most engaged and do short burst of 30 mins before taking a break and before resuming.

“If you can aim for an hour in the morning of two 30 mins sessions, and In the afternoon ‘learn together’ by finding an engaging topic to write, draw, take photos to keep the learning experience as engaging as possible as they children will absorb more when they are interested in the topic.

“For older children, again somewhere quiet is useful without distractions. Maths and English are the core subjects and it’s proven that children over a certain age respond to exam practice papers online. This way also teaches children and parents alike the latest methods’ of learning. Try to get them to spend an hour without a break, it’s important not to lose their skills and understanding in these key areas. Try to use most of the morning for learning and incorporate exercise, science and art in the afternoon.”

Natalie Costa, former primary school teacher and Founder of Power Thoughts

Allocate a ‘home learning’ space

“This way children are able to associate that space with their ‘home learning’. Even if your space is small, children could store their items in a box, which they can easily dip into when they are in their ‘learning zone.”

Learn through every day tasks

“Remember as parents you already are your child’s primary educator. Yes, schools have done a brilliant job of sending home learning and packs, but don’t underestimate the value of learning in every day tasks too.

“Maths can be done via baking, building construction, buying groceries (multiplication and division) English can be learned via imaginative and creative play, watching a documentary and writing a report, reading, telling stories, creative writing...”

Break the learning down

“Younger children will only be able to focus for a certain amount of time, so if you’re able to do 20 - 30 minutes of guided learning (online/worksheets ) followed by a focused activity such as building a puzzle, drawing etc then that’s ok.

“Try and do small bits of focused learning in the morning focusing on the core subjects such as maths and english. Leave the afternoons for creative play, such as painting, crafting, mindfulness activities, reading, baking etc.”

Up their motor skills

“Try an incorporate some activities that focus on fine motor skills (threading, cutting, sewing etc) as well as many opportunities for physical activities such as running outside, participating in online exercise sessions (eg, the Body Coach).

“Little boosts of active sessions throughout the day is also useful to help children change their state, burn off some energy and is a great way to break up the sessions/parts of the day.”

Don’t share and compare

“Remember, just because children are at school for 6 hours, doesn’t mean they are being taught straight for 6 hours. My suggestion is to go with what feels right for your family and don’t get sucked into the comparison bubble if you day doesn’t match up to the colour coded routines and schedules been shared on social media.”

Read more: Online classes and activities for children during coronavirus ‘lockdown’

Krista Cartlidge is a secondary school teacher of Geography and founder of mytimecharity.co.uk

Move on from difficult days

“Take each day at a time, some days will be easier than others. If you can build in some kind of routine that will probably benefit both your children and you. However if it all goes to pot, don't worry about it. You can only do what you can do.”

Take your time

“This is an opportunity for your children to explore learning at their own pace, allow them to take their time if they need it. Lessons normally last an hour because for schools to function and work for the majority there has to be a schedule. One of the most amazing things to come out of all of this is those constraints have disappeared, let their learning take as long as it needs to.”

Turn to online classes for help

“I am a secondary school teacher of Geography, however while all this has been going on I have set up the 'Geography Classroom' on Facebook and YouTube for children between 5-10 so they can cover as much of the KS1 and KS2 geography curriculum in a fun and interesting way.”

Sarah Zeqiri, a secondary English and Drama teacher and teaching advisor for bubble

Set a teaching timer

“To keep the schedule official you may want to set off timers or alarms for the start of each new session perhaps on a phone, Alexa or alarm clock. This has the added bonus of making the alarm the bad guy and any frustration is directed away from you.

“Whatever you do, make it work for you and your family and don't be scared to adapt it as you go. For example, you may want to add in time for any religious practice or medical routines.”

Make a daily snack box

“When at home (or bored), children suddenly develop an appetite worthy of a bear preparing to hibernate and while this may be ok during the summer holidays, it is not ideal if you can't get to the shops regularly or panic buyers have cleared out all the biscuits from your nearest Co-op.

“To curb their snacking, make up a daily snack box for each kid in the house with a mixture of goodies. You could put in fresh fruit, a cereal bar, crisps, raisins or crackers but include the children in the decision making and use it as an opportunity to talk about nutrition. The deal is that this is all they get outside of meals for the day and once it's gone, it's gone.

“Not only will this make sure your kids don't end up just eating all of the beige food you own, it will avoid sugar rushes and crashes. Nobody wants to deal with a sugar-low tantrum whilst trying to do a conference call.”

Exercise for the mind

“Kids are used to having time to blow off steam and run around. Activity that raises the heart rate is not only good for physical health but for mental health too as it releases endorphins, which make you feel happy. Kids are far more likely to be focussed on their academics if they're had time to run around or wear off some of that bounciness.

“No garden? Try a Star Jump Contest or look on YouTube for a workout you can all do together, such as Cosmic Kids Yoga (https://www.youtube.com/user/CosmicKidsYoga).”

Lead by example

“If your kids see you working on a new skill or activity, they will be inspired to keep learning too!

“There are many things that we all wish we had time for and now, due to social isolation, many of us will have time to do them. Did you ever want to learn a new skill? Perhaps a language, knitting or model making. Maybe you have a book you've been waiting to read for ages but just never got round to it, a puzzle you want to complete or Sudoku to master.”

Incorporate some fun into your home school schedule. (Getty Images)
Incorporate some fun into your home school schedule. (Getty Images)

Mya Medina, head of education at Tutor House and former full-time English teacher.

Stay positive

“It can be very difficult for parents and students to adapt to a situation in which the parent must now be the teacher. Students may be reluctant to learn from their parents, when having previously learned from their teachers. As a result, parents must try to foster a positive relationship with their child, as their teacher would with a student. Rather than resorting to shouting, by either party, parents should try to use positive reinforcement as a means of success.”

Let them lead the ‘lesson’

“Parents should not immediately consider themselves experts or try and disrupt the methodology behind student learning. For example, if a student has been taught a certain method of doing sums by their teacher (and this is working for them), parents should try to stick to this method application. Students could feel confused if they learn new approaches to topics that their teacher will have to 'un-teach' them when they return to schools.”

Take a break

“Just like students would at school, there is a clear difference between learning time and playtime. These are enforced usually by the sound of a school bell, or something similar. Parents need to impose a strict separation between playtime and work-time.”

Olivia Shaw, a teacher at Stratford Girls’ Grammar School in Stratford Upon Avon

Set the tone

“I know it sounds obvious but a learning environment that is set up away from the television is really healthy. It doesn’t have to be separate to others working but needs to be calming. Start the day with some stretches or some sort of activity. You are more prepared to work.”

Stick to your school timetable

“For secondary school pupils working to those lessons will really help so you don’t do too much or not enough work.

“If primary, of course change it around but try to do all subject areas and keep to natural break times. There may be more needed working from home and that is okay.”