Home-schooling is becoming an increasingly popular choice for parents all over the UK and internationally, and having worked both in schools and with children in their own homes, it is clear that children are able to access a well-rounded education whatever the setting! These tips aim to give some practical advice to those who are either currently, or considering, home-schooling their children.
Although it is a legal requirement in the UK for all children to be educated, the government doesn’t insist on children following any particular curriculum. I would strongly suggest however, that children being home-schooled do roughly follow the National Curriculum, or the curriculum that is widely taught in the student’s home country. By following a curriculum, those teaching your child will be able to see at a glance what subjects should be taught, and will have easy access to units of work that are age-related and span over the course of the full school year.
When a student is being home-schooled, it can be very tricky to assess how they are performing as there are often no other children to compare their academic skill set against. It is for this reason that I highly recommend regular assessments, using freely available resources such as SATS papers for English and Maths.
Regular assessments in all subjects allow those teaching your child to keep track of development, and evaluate their teaching at the same time.
Assessing your child also gives them much needed practice of completing work independently and quietly. This will put them in good stead for when they sit GCSEs or A-Levels, as they may not otherwise be used to working in exam-like conditions.
I think that it is extremely important that whoever teaches your child at home is either a qualified teacher or someone who has experience of working with children and has specialist subject knowledge. Teachers have a repertoire of teaching and learning strategies that they can put in place for your child, and will be able to plan units of work that are appropriate for your child’s age and stage. Also, those who have worked in an educational setting before will also be able to gauge how your child is performing compared to other children of a similar age.
If your child is being home-schooled temporarily, hiring a teacher for your child will also ensure a smooth transition back into the schooling system, as they will often be able to work in conjunction with your child’s previous teachers to discuss what units have been covered as well as discuss ways in which your child learns best, what motivates them and areas they need to really focus on.
Home-schooling your child needn’t be expensive. There is no need to bulk buy text books or spend a fortune on resources. A jotter for each subject, whiteboards and pens and a quiet and comfortable place to work are really all it takes to begin home-schooling. Of course, it makes sense to invest in a quality Maths and English textbook that cover the entirety of the curriculum, but the same skills can be taught to a child using online resources or free materials (TES is one of my favourite websites for accessing free and reliable resources and planners for my students).
Be mindful however when thinking about which reading resources to use. If your child is a confident, fluent reader, then by all means use novels and texts that you already have in the house.
If your child still needs practise of sounding out words and hasn’t yet been taught phonics, I would recommend reading schemes such as Oxford reading tree, Big Cat or Dandelion Readers. These schemes follow a pattern of teaching your child CVC (consonant, vowel, consonant) words, before slowly building up to more complex phonetic sounds.
One of my favourite aspects of home-schooling is that I am able to plan responsively to the interests and needs of my student. Working with an individual student can be a real luxury as it allows for planning to be more spontaneous. For example, if my student discusses a recent trip they have been on, country they have visited or new hobby, I am able to take this information and incorporate it into our daily lessons. Working like this allows the student to become engaged and motivated in their learning, and it creates a real enjoyment for learning.
I recommend that all educators find out their students interests, likes, dislikes, hobbies etc. before beginning home-schooling, as this will not only give you a starter for ten, but allow you to build a positive relationship with your student straight away.
It is thought that in a classroom environment, children in KS1 do approximately 1.5/2 hours solid independent work throughout the day. The remainder of the day consists of group work, talking and listening exercises, games, assemblies, play times etc. For this reason, when home-schooling your child, there is no need for them to be working from 9am-3pm.
Home-schooling is much more intense in that your chid is receiving full attention from their teacher at all times. I would recommend one hour of literacy per day and one hour of maths per day, using the remainder of the day to develop social skills through extra-curricular activities.
Learning is also able to become much more “hands on” and taught in a purposeful way. For example, if you are learning about weights and measures, why not try your hand at baking in the kitchen! Alternatively, if you are learning about money, take a trip to the shops. Most Maths topics lend themselves to practical, day to day tasks, which makes for fantastic learning experiences for children.
As mentioned above, children who attend a school are given hundreds of opportunities a day to develop their social and emotional skills. Play times, lunch breaks, PE lessons, talking and listening in group exercises – the list goes on.
These skills are a little trickier to teach when home-schooling a child on their own. It is therefore of utmost importance that as well as developing academic skills, your child must be exposed to activities and situations that will develop their abilities to work with others.
Sports clubs are a fantastic way of allowing your child to feel part of a team, but the list of activities you could enrol your child in are endless! Many of my students enjoy horse riding, drama, tennis, chess, debating – all of which develop its own unique set of skills.
In amongst the planning of Literacy, Numeracy and extra-curricular activities, it is easy to forget about subjects such as Geography, History and Modern Studies. Luckily, these subjects can be taught in interactive ways with regular trips to local museums and areas of local interest.
Very often I find that students enjoy “topic” work – choosing to study one particular area of History or Geography for a period of time. This way of working lends itself to personal research, where your child can be given autonomy of creating their own fact file, poster or presentation on their chosen subject – a great homework idea!
Whether your child is being home-schooled on a temporary or full time basis, it is a fantastic opportunity for your child to receive one-to-one help and learn in ways that are engaging and tailored to their needs. Wherever the setting – with a dedicated teacher, thoughtful planning and purposeful learning, your child will flourish both socially and academically.