Schools are officially closing on Friday 20th March until further notice. While this is a necessary measure to contain the virus, it will take a toll on our children’s education and be difficult to manage. If your children are not of school age yet, it is business as usual except for a few toddler groups and outings. But for school-aged children this is a completely new challenge.
As some US states have shut their schools a little earlier, there is plenty of material being made freely available, which will help parents out if schools don’t teach online or give out activities.
Note, this is not like sitting down at school, these are fun lessons about specific topics, projects and educational games and videos.
Plan your child’s day – like in school
There are free worksheets, but a lot of material is online and if you have more than one child and limited screens (and also want to limit screen time), make a schedule. It can be a little looser than at school but sticking to a routine is important for children and it will help you manage their energy and concentration levels. You know your child best (and it all depends on the age) so choose the order of activities based on their behaviour.
Ideally, a day will involve some quiet activities such as reading, writing and maths, following by some more relaxing time of colouring, singing or PE. Make sure there is time to settle down again (lunch for example) before going from a high-energy “physical lesson” to a quiet and focused one. Remember, physical education is about getting rid of some excess energy, but also about motor skills, so think about slaloms, gymnastics, an egg race etc.
Each day should have a good mix of mental stimulation and physical activity and involve some fun subjects or activities. Depending on the age of your child, one activity can last up to thirty or forty minutes (split into smaller sections for very young school children). Remember that individually, your child will learn more in a shorter time span because the lesson focuses on them alone, no other students, no taking turns, and no distractions from other students, so the total teaching time can be shorter than a school day.
Parents rejoice! A lot of content has been put online for FREE to help you, because we aren’t all teachers. Most of this is for younger children, and teenagers will probably be given work from school or keep working in their books, reading set literature etc. It is also a good time to teach them about independent study, which is often overlooked in our exam-focused education. The Smithsonian has a number of projects and topics freely available from biology, geography, history and more which is interesting and stimulating for older teens- we have more links for teens below under “more resources” as well. But the younger ones need more hand holding.
Resources for school starters to Y6 and up
Biology – Brookfield Zoo on Facebook is posting a new video every Wednesday
Music and Art
UK Parliament for fun resources on politics and UK history
A list of games, activities and crafts for teens and tweens have been put together by the Smithsonian in a useful Google Doc.
There are also some free or reduced classes to learn to code! It may not be part of the normal curriculum (or it may be in some cases) but now is the chance to let you child see what they are interested in outside the normal classroom as well.
Now may also be the time to introduce your teenager to the wonderful world of TED talks. There is a specific channel called TEDEd which is full of brilliant short, 5-minte videos.
If you want to practice languages, go to BBC Languages and you can choose from around 40 different languages.
And finally, here is a resource for you, to give you ideas on how to improve your child’s maths, literacy and social skills at home: Adventures in Learning is a YouTube channel for parents full of great ideas and strategies. And if you need ideas for Special Ed, the website BreezySpecialEd can help!
Getting away from the screen
Reading and writing can be done with pen and paper, letting children practice letters, find words around the house (on food boxes, in their rooms, on clothes), tracing letters or copying words, slowly understanding what is around them.
Maths could be taken off the page by helping with recipes, calculating percentages for the older ones, having them make a budget for the family, calculating the size of their room and so on, or you can follow their school book.
Art and physical education are, of course, also best done without a screen.
You can also include some practical elements to the lessons by having them plant seeds (or replant vegetables) and taking care of them, drawing a map of England/United Kingdom/Europe/the World and colour in where they have been, marking their mode of travel as well and reminiscing together about what the weather was like, what you saw and did and if it was different from home.
This way you can alternate between the activities online and screen free time.
Balancing more than one child
One child can get all the attention – but what if you need to balance two or three schedules?
The trick is to give them a mix of activities which allows them to work together at times (like they would in school) and separately at others, because they are at different levels. But you will need to set up a schedule so you don’t lose track.
Breaks can be a good time to let two play and focus on a tricky subject with the third.
Physical education is a good time to be together as it’s likely to get rowdy and no one can focus on maths when others are running around.
If one is reading in one room, another can be using the screen to work on something online.
Don’t feel that you have to replicate a school environment. This can be stressful for you and your children. Instead, create a schedule so you both have some structure and think of the tasks as activities as opposed to lessons. We hope these tips and resources prove helpful. If there is anything you’re looking for in particular, you want some further advice, please do not hesitate to share a comment below and we’ll do our best to help.