by Rebecca Brooks
AUK Education Policy Advisor

With children home from school, and activities everywhere cancelled or curtailed, the days can seem very long.

Home educating adoptive parents are used to filling up their days with activities, so we have collated some top tips from home educators on ways to keep your family busy while building in some learning to every day.

  • Most of our children do better when their days are structured, so try creating a general plan for each week. You could display this visually for the whole family, especially if family members are working from home. Your general weekly plan should include everything that is likely to happen at roughly the same time each day, like getting up times, snack and meal times, and bed times. You might also want to add planned down times for free play, social media and screen time where appropriate, as well as planned outdoor time if you can. If you are keeping in touch with family members by video calling, plan these calls out too.
  • With activities restricted, consider adding ‘special events’ to your weekly plan, such as watching a film together with popcorn, or having a pamper evening, or running a family games tournament, to give you all something to look forward to.
  • Fill in the gaps in your general plan with activities for each day. It’s important to find a balance between providing structure and avoiding control battles, so involve your children in deciding which activities they will do on each day, including any work that has been set by their school. If you, as the parent, know what you want to achieve during the week, your children can perhaps have some control over when each activity is attempted.
  • Although you may be concerned that children are missing out on their schooling, remember that there are many useful life skills that can be learned out of the classroom. What expertise do you have in your own home? Perhaps you can engage your child in something you already know, like car maintenance, IT skills, creative crafts, gardening, or cooking and baking.
  • Look for opportunities to practice literacy and numeracy skills in a real world setting. Writing letters, reading recipes, planning a weekly shop, reading a bedtime story to a younger sibling, and other daily activities can all be good practice and don’t feel like lessons.
  • Make a commitment to learn something new together, like some words in another language. It may be less threatening for your children if they see you as a fellow learner rather than feel you are assuming the role of their teacher.
  • Remember that play is learning, especially for our children who may have missed out on vital early experiences of play. Sensory play, including water play, slime, playdough and salt dough can be entertaining even for slightly older children.
  • Many home educators engage in ‘delight driven’ learning, focused on the interests of their children, and presented in a variety of ways, including lapbooks, videos, blogs, stories, and photo albums. Home education blogs and websites in the UK and US offer free lapbook templates for download, like these which offer a different approach to project-based learning. Pawprint Badges is a UK website with free ‘challenge packs’ designed to support uniform groups, but which can easily be adapted for use in the home. Topics include Knight Adventures, Gardening Challenge, Recycle Challenge and Den Day Challenge, and lovely stitched badges are available to buy as a reward for completing the challenges.
  • Make the most of your garden, if you have one, and walks and areas of interest in your local neighbourhood as long as you are safely able to leave home. Consider devising a ‘fitness challenge’ for the duration of the school closure. For example, see how many star jumps your children can do in one minute on day one, practice daily, and measure their improvement over time.
  • Play games together that support educational development. Orchard Games have an excellent range.
  • Read to your children, or commit to read something together.
  • Choose a broadly educational TV series to watch daily together as a family, such as a natural history series, Horrible Histories or similar.
  • Finally, focus on taking care of yourself and your family. The most important thing is that your family remains as physically and mentally healthy as possible, so be prepared to allow education expectations to become lower if it means everybody stays safe and well.