Keeping up the momentum with home learning
Running out of steam
If you and your child spend a long time learning and working at home, it's likely you will both become weary of the process. 'Burnout' can lead to difficulties in managing emotions and behaviour, such as kids pushing back against having to do schoolwork at home and finding it hard to settle into tasks that they might have previously found tolerable.
‘We definitely hit the wall at home after a few weeks,’ agrees mum of two Lisa. ‘Homeschooling took a nosedive and the constant groundhog days had an impact on the kids’ behaviour and my sanity.’
Despite your best efforts, there will definitely be days when your child simply has no enthusiasm for learning.
‘Although some children thrive at home, many respond to the structure and routine of school, and may find it difficult to be at home for several months without the same routines in place,’ says Elliott Plumb, assistant headteacher at Churchfield Primary School in North London.
So how can we reboot our children’s motivation – and our own – and keep the momentum going if we're homeschooling by choice or necessity?
1. Break learning down
When working from home, you may well have found it harder to concentrate for long periods. Your child is likely to feel the same if they're home learning, so try breaking their work up into shorter spells.
‘If your child feels they can manage work in smaller chunks, with breaks in between, it doesn’t feel so daunting,’ Elliott says.
2. Make break times work
When your child takes a break from working, don’t put pressure on them – or yourself – to fill those gaps with something wholesome or educational.
‘The activities in between should be motivating to your child, so if they want 20 minutes on the iPad, let them have it,’ advises Julie.
Having something to look forward to in their breaks may mean your child is more motivated to get through their work with less procrastination.
3. Tap into your child’s interests
Many elective home educators allow their children to direct their own learning based on their interests, so if the work being set by your child’s teacher is leaving your child cold, or a curriculum-based approach to home education isn't working out for them, try going off piste.
If they have a passion for dinosaurs, baking or Minecraft, for example, harness their enthusiasm and turn their pet subject into a learning experience.
‘Learning is all about keeping the brain active,’ says Julie. ‘For example, baking a cake includes maths, language, science and health, and could even incorporate subjects like geography if you discuss the countries of origin of the produce, and social studies if you think about carbon footprint.’
4. Take advantage of online resources
Whether you're home educating through choice or have been forced into it due to certain circumstances, make use of online resources to make learning more fun and take the pressure of having to provide work off yourself.
‘There are many excellent resources online, so try out different things and choose a handful that your child can engage with,’ Elliott advises.
TheSchoolRun recommends a number of options for different subjects, as well as great websites for home schooling, best YouTube channels for learning and great virtual museum and field trip options for families:
- Best poetry home schooling resources
- Best numeracy home schooling resources
- Best literacy home schooling resources
- Best design and technology home schooling resources
- Best art home schooling resources
- Best music home schooling resources
- Best wildlife and nature home schooling resources
- Best geography home schooling resources
- Best coding home schooling resources
- Best science home schooling resources
- Best history home schooling resources
5. Clear up your child’s workspace
We all work better if we have a tidy, organised desk, so if your child's workspace has descended into chaos, with half-finished worksheets, empty glasses and blunt pencils, it's time for a spring clean. Refresh their stationery and use magazine files or in/out trays to manage their work, so their own personal space is more conducive to studying.
6. Take shortcuts without guilt
Juggling the needs of two or more children can be really tough, whatever their ages. Pre-schoolers may interrupt your older child’s learning, while school-age siblings may wander off track if you’re helping their brother or sister and leaving them to get on with their work on their own.
‘If allowing your toddler to watch Bing means you can spend that time working through maths questions with your older child, do it – you might feel guilty about it, but it could save your sanity,’ says Julie.
7. Ditch the pressure to get everything done
If you’re struggling to get your child to do their work, you’re far from alone. There are many reasons why it might be feeling impossible, from not being able to supervise them constantly to being worn down by endless sulking and arguments.
If you're home educating and setting your own work, remind yourself that there's no obligation to stick to school hours or term dates: it may be better to have a day off if your child is feeling demotivated, even if it means you don't get through everything you'd planned.
8. Step back from arguments
‘During homeschooling, many parents reach a point where it feels they’re at stalemate with their child, and feel that they’re not listening or complying, or just won’t engage,’ Julie says.
If you and your child are locking horns, give yourselves some time out: go for a head-clearing walk, or let them cool off by watching TV or gaming with a friend.
9. Focus on consolidation, not new concepts
Children might get frustrated and put off their schoolwork if they can’t get their head around what they’re expected to do.
Meanwhile, you might feel disillusioned and demotivated if you don’t feel you can provide adequate help, but you’re not expected to be perfect.
If you're electively home educating, don't give yourself a hard time if you're struggling to explain – or understand – a particular concept. The beauty of home ed is that you can learn alongside your child, so use the internet, curriculum-aligned workbooks or the hive mind of home education groups to clarify tricky areas and work things out together.
10. Change your mindset
Whether your child is homeschooling due to illness or travelling, or being home-educated long-term, it's almost inevitable that they'll struggle with motivation at times - and most likely, you will too.
This can leave you feeling overwhelmed by guilt, but the vast majority of families find it hard to cope with having their child at home 24/7, so don’t beat yourself up or compare yourself with others.
‘Your child’s work will still be there whether you’ve taken time to reconnect with them or have been banging your head off a brick wall, so give yourself permission to rest and repair, at a pace that’s right for you and your child,’ says Julie.