Home-schooling FAQ – plus 100 prizes up for grabs!

Answering your questions about educating your children at home.

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As a busy parent, you’re probably used to juggling multiple roles. But now with home-schooling added into the mix alongside everything else, it’s no surprise that many parents are feeling stressed out.

So we asked you to tell us your biggest home-schooling questions on social media – and here we bring you the answers from the experts!

My kids are different ages – how do I home school my toddler while looking after the baby?

Emma Bradley, a parenting expert, qualified teacher and blogger at www.emmaand3.com says:

Try to do one-to-one play when the baby naps. This should be the time for imaginative play. Playing shops and using role-play is all-important for development.

When feeding the baby, you could use the time to read with the toddler, and if your baby is happy in a wrap or carrier, that should free up time where your hands are still free to play.

I find it’s useful to plan activities in advance, so think ahead and decide what you’re going to do the night before, and plan it around the baby’s schedule. It doesn’t have to be loads – 20-minute bursts of activity are often enough.

As they’re young, there’s so much your toddler can learn from so include them in your daily routine rather than separate lessons. Encourage them to help with preparing lunch. They could wash vegetables or lay the table, and they are more likely to eat it too if they have been involved.

I find myself getting cross if the kids don’t understand things – how do I maintain my patience?

Jo Holmes, Children, Young People and Families Lead at the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, and a former school counsellor, says:

If you’re feeling cross and frustrated with your children, one way to communicate this, before snapping, is to express this calmly and state how you’re feeling. Tell them you’re struggling right now too and need a few moments. If you do snap, still take those moments and explain to them what you needed to do to calm down.

The key thing here is not to berate yourself for losing your patience. Times are testing and many of us will have flash or trigger points without having the same outlet we had before. However small, that outlet now is at home, as parents we have to find something that focuses on our own self-care. Make a list of things that you can still do to look after yourself, whether you’re a single parent or have someone to share the load with.

If you or anyone else you’re living with really struggles with temper management, then try to talk to someone. If there isn’t a friend or family member to confide in, contact your GP or look for counselling services near you who may be able to offer you support online or through telephone sessions. You can find a counsellor or psychotherapist who can help using BACP’s Therapist Directory.

Alternatively, a support group such as Samaritans could also help. You can find help with breathing exercises to calm you down as well as with peer support on the NHS website and mental health charity mind offers help in coping with anger.

How can I help the kids to focus on what they need to learn? There are so many more distractions at home, compared to a classroom!

Aimee Coelho, a head of Media Studies and English teacher at Millfield school in Somerset says:

I think firstly, you need to stop putting so much pressure on yourself. You can’t replicate the class environment totally at home. The best kind of learning is always when children don’t realise they are actually learning, so try to think of everyday things your kids could do but that they will also learn from.

For older children, that might be working out finances – you could do this by giving them a budget and asking them to put an online grocery cart together that would feed the family for a week. For younger ones, they could do a stop motion story for English, or devise a dance routine for PE.

Some children thrive on routine and structure, others find it restrictive. You know your own kids best, so don’t feel you have to stick to a regimented timetable if that’s stressing them (and you!) out. Their emotional well-being is far more important at this time.

I’m trying to explain things to my kids, but they say their teacher does it differently. How can I stop them getting confused?

Jennie Hughes, a primary school teacher, says:

So many parents say this! Educational methods have changed hugely since most of us were at school, and kids are often taught in a very different way to the way we remember.

But the good news is that teaching a variety of ways to approach learning tasks is now considered best practice in most classrooms. It helps children to understand the underlying concepts behind what is being taught. As an added bonus, it also helps kids to develop problem-solving and critical thinking skills.

Be honest, and explain to them that there are lots of right ways to do things, and you learned a different one because school has changed since you were their age. They might even be interested in hearing more about what school was like when you were young!

Try getting your children to show you their teacher’s way of doing things, then ask them to compare it to yours and explore how and why both methods work. You could even get them to work together and do a presentation for you. Explaining something to others is a great way of deepening understanding of a topic, and most kids love showing adults how it’s done!

If you’re still worried, or if they’re having difficulty remembering how they do it at school, you can also check the school’s website - many schools now post materials online. If you’re really concerned, can you contact the teacher directly? Many teachers are also offering “Ask a teacher” sessions through local Facebook groups because we know you might have questions or concerns.

How can I engage their attention, particularly when we’re working on a topic that I don’t fully understand myself?

Jai Breitnauer, a home educator, says:

We try and do as much ‘child led’ learning as we can. This means we support him to learn through his own interests rather than telling him what to do. We’ve found that when our son is personally invested in a piece of work, we don’t have to try to get him to do it at all. It also means that we can all learn together, if he’s inspired by something we don’t know as much about.

For example, we did a topic on the Blitz, which was his choice. We did some art work based on a demolished church in town, watched documentaries and he made his own news report as if it was 1944. He researched it all. There are some things, like maths, where he needs some encouragement but we find turning maths problems into games is far more effective than worksheets. We’d recommend the David Walliams maths card games sets, or putting kids in charge of scoring when you’re playing board games.

What are your top tips for home-schooling?
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