Homeschooling while homeworking: some ideas

Homeschooling while homeworking presents a major work life balance overload. Don’t expect too much of yourself and take advantage of any resources on offer.

working mum holding baby

Young happy mother going through home finances and communicating with her baby son.

Homeschooling while working is hard. While schools are sending over work for all ages, some parents of younger children are talking about the next weeks as an opportunity to spend time together and do things that are educational in the wider sense – reading together, watching films, baking, playing…

It sounds idyllic, but if you have to work around all of this that can be a big ask. Baking is great, but when are you going to get your work done, particularly if you are a single parent with no-one to swap shifts with?

The truth is that everyone is feeling their way in this new normal and there is no right way to do it. The important thing is to work out what might suit your family situation and your resources and to be aware of where you can seek help.

Literacy

There are a lot of online learning materials available, whether formal learning or learning in its wider sense. The National Literacy Trust, for examples, has set up a free online Family Zone which it says is a one-stop shop bringing together literacy resources and activities in one place.

That includes reading and writing activities, book lists, videos, audiobooks, apps, competitions and reading challenges, curated for early years to early teens. New activities and resources will be added regularly. There is everything from videos to help parents read and play with younger children  to a guide to building a reading den, author videos and draw-along sessions with illustrator Rob Biddulph.

Older kids

For older children, the Unbored.net site has a large range of activities on offer. Even if it is only to punctuate the homework sent from school or to augment it, the activities are fun and imaginative.

They include, from the book that sparked the website, everything from farting games, how to interview and how to turn your home into a spa to how to make blogs/computer games and how to disguise yourself.

Here’s a selection of some of the ideas:

  • create your own games. This includes video games using free or cheap online tools like YoYo Games’ GamesMaker or more complex ones which require the kids to learn Java or ActionScript. But the section also covers board games. The book talks through all the steps, with the planning stages being key, and suggests places to go to find a game-making community, such as ludumdare.com.
  • writing with invisible ink using lemon juice and a cotton bud, and disguising every aspect of yourself, including your walk, voice and handwriting.
  • making foodie face masks using fruit, oats and honey, flannels, a hairband and a towel
  • making a no-sew stuffed animal using a sock, hairband, uncooked rice, glue and sellotape.
  • building an obstacle course in your house or the garden.
  • doing garden science and making seed grenades for use in guerrilla gardening.

Then there’s always writing and performing plays, putting on fashion shows, making a magazine, doing crazy experiments, writing a comic novel or setting up an online business. Who knows, the next few months could lead to an explosion of creativity rather than tipping you over into a nervous breakdown.

Teenagers can be difficult to motivate at the best of times so even if you limit the more imaginative activities to one a day or so and organise some sort of routine generally it could help you and your kids get through the next few months and remain sane.

Chunk it up

Professor Helena Gillespie, a former teacher and online educator at the University of East Anglia, says: “Learning online and independently is a skill and children won’t learn this overnight. Primary age children particularly will need help and support in learning to do this. So small bites is best, half an hour then a break and a biscuit, then get back to it for a maximum of two hours.

“Having said that, it’s best to try to get into a routine for everyone as soon as possible, so talk about this as a family and make sure that working parents are not trying to call their boss when the kids need help with their work.”

Her other tips include:

  • Agree spaces to work and tidy away at the end of the day. If possibly keep a work-free space to retain boundaries and some kind of work life balance
  • Build up learning hours gradually and set hours for working and hours for learning so you can let your work know when you will be available for calls
  • Consider how your children will keep in touch with their friends
  • Be prepared for tired and stressed children
  • Be gentle and kind with your children and yourselves.




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