How to structure your day during homeschooling

How to structure your day during coronavirus school disruption
Teacher Jennifer Smith shares her advice on how to help your child learn and structure your day if school education is disrupted again due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
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While schools have now reopened fully following lockdown, there's a distinct possibility that there will be further disruptions over the weeks and months ahead.

Local or national lockdowns could force schools to close again. Individual pupils or 'bubbles' may have to self-isolate due to Covid-19 symptoms or a positive test. Children may also need to quarantine following international travel: worth bearing in mind if you're planning a half-term holiday.

Whether you thoroughly enjoyed homeschooling during lockdown or found it a real struggle, being in a position where your child is off school again could be disappointing and frustrating, but it’s important to remember that nobody is expecting perfection. 

It’s okay to have doubts and make mistakes, but having some structure to your day could help you and your child.

How much work should your child be doing each day?

Nobody expects you to be working with your child from 9am until 3pm. This just isn’t practical, and is likely to end in tears – for you and your child!

During a typical school day, your child’s teacher splits their time between 30-odd pupils, whereas at home, they have one-to-one attention, and fewer distractions. Far more learning can take place in a focused half-hour than could possibly be achieved in a busy classroom at school – even if you’re not an expert home educator.

This means that your ‘school day’ doesn’t need to be six hours long. You’ll probably find your child gets through their home learning in a fraction of this time.

The amount of work your child should be doing each day is largely dependent on what their teacher sends home. The Department for Education has made it clear that schools must provide home learning again if schools close or your child is having to self-isolate or quarantine, but bear in mind that now teachers are back in the classroom, the type and amount of work provided may be different from during full lockdown. For example, it may be more worksheet-based, or reliant on educational websites.

The work sent home will give you a good idea of the types of activities they have been doing at school, and how long they spend on them.

My advice would be to decide which activities you’re going to attempt on which days.

As a guideline, I would suggest aiming for approximately 45 minutes of both maths and English each day, give or take 15 minutes depending on your child’s age and ability.

You could also spend 15-20 minutes reading independently or listening to stories.

These are only suggested times: as a parent, you know best and know what is realistic to expect from your child.

How should you structure your day?

When it comes to planning your day, there’s no such thing as a right or wrong schedule.

Some children may work best if they work in short 15-minute bursts throughout the day, while others may be better suited to a longer, more focused session.

Some will want to get their learning out of the way in the morning, but others may be more alert and ready to learn after a chilled-out morning and some lunch.

If your child is older and beginning to show independence, you may simply be able to give them their daily activities and let them choose when they complete them, but be clear that all the day’s activities need to be completed within a certain time frame.

Younger children will need more supervision, but the amount of work that they need to do, and the depth in which they explore it, will be short.

Even if they're not travelling to school, it’s still good practice for your child to be up, dressed and ready for the day by 9am or thereabouts. (We have tips and advice to help you set up a home learning environment.)

Maintaining a regular waking time and bedtime will stop your days spiralling out of control and help your child to stay in a healthy routine.

Here are two examples of possible daily schedules (click on the images to download the timetables for your family). One is more structured and the other less structured.

 

A teacher's top tips for making home learning work

  • Try not to worry about the limits of your own knowledge, and how you’ll be able to teach your children subjects and topics that you don’t understand yourself. Rather than letting it paralyse you, own up to the fact that you don’t know something, and use it as an opportunity to learn with your child. You might be surprised what they can teach you, and explaining their work to you will consolidate their knowledge.
  • Don’t be too rigid in your approach to home learning. Many new home educators try to timetable the day as it would be at school, but this will lead to burn out and frustration for you and your child, as it’s far too intense. Trying to do too much will only deter your child from learning.
  • There’s an abundance of information and guidance out there for parents, and with so many amazing resources at hand, there’s no reason why you can’t help to keep your child’s learning on track. It’s amazing what mathematical strategies can be understood by watching a well-made, reputable YouTube education video!
  • It’s normal for your child to behave differently for you than they would with their class teacher, so don’t be discouraged if they push back against home learning. Discuss the situation with them, and encourage them to help plan their learning activities. This will help them to feel like a partner in the process, rather than simply being made to do it by Mum or Dad. 
  • If your child struggles with being forced back into homeschooling again, try introducing activities slowly, starting with just one or two a day. You might also want to create a simple reward system to encourage them to complete activities.
  • Plan breaks and free time around the learning activities. Encourage your child to play board games, build with Lego, play in the garden and bake. You’ll be surprised by how much English, maths and science can be incorporated into a good creative play session.
  • Keep reminding yourself that there’s no single right way of doing this. School disruptions are frustrating and inconvenient, but full lockdown probably helped you get a sense of how and when your child learns best. Remember, whether or not they’re engaged in homework, your child will be learning from you, and showing resilience, determination and flexibility will equip them with skills for life.

Year-by-year key maths and English skills advice for school disruption

We all want to support our children in the best way possible throughout this ongoing period of disrupted education, but juggling the barrage of amazing content available online and our own work and home responsibilities can be overwhelming.

If you need a guide to the essential skills to focus on right now, read our year-group tips for parents.

Best primary home schooling resources online

We also have guides to the best home schooling resources we've found: