Understandably, this is a hot topic at the moment, but even before this crisis, many parents were beginning to consider home-schooling for a variety of reasons.
You can teach your child at home, either full or part-time — your local council will offer help. Obviously, it's essential that your child receives a full-time education from the age of five, but (and many are not aware of this) you don't have to follow the national curriculum. The council can make an "informal enquiry" to check your child is getting a suitable education at home, and they can serve a school attendance order if they think your child needs to be taught at school.
If your child has special educational needs (SEN) and attends a special school, you’ll need to get the council’s permission to educate them at home. You don't need the council’s permission if your child attends a mainstream school, even if they have an education, health and care (EHC) plan.
These are extraordinary times, and every parent now has to face the reality that teachers face daily. Fortunately, there's a wealth of resources available and, with Skype, Zoom and Microsoft Teams, you can bring the outside in and share the teaching with family and friends. A good starting point is the BBC and, beginning Monday 20 April 2020, BBC Bitesize will publish daily online lessons for all ages. They will also have a new dedicated TV channel full of learning content, podcasts on BBC Sounds and loads of educational videos on iPlayer.
The Bitesize website will expand to offer additional help for students and their parents, so New Maths and English lessons will be available every day for all ages, and the content will be backed up by videos, practice tests, educational games and articles. Regular lessons on other core subjects, including science, will also be available. Parents can get advice on how to teach anyone who is home-schooling, and the Bitesize website will also have guides for pupils with SEN (special educational needs).
For older students, BBC Four is also joining forces with Red Button for evening programmes to support the GCSE and A-Level curriculum, and learners in Scotland can see content specific to the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence every day from 10.00 am on the BBC Scotland television channel. Bitesize also has an app providing daily lessons for 14 and 15-year-olds.
Timing and planning
It’s a fine line, but there will be times when choosing between having fun while teaching and being firm will be the greatest challenge. OK, it’s easy to let them watch TV or go online, but don’t rely on that. Personal engagement and explanation is by far the best way of transferring knowledge. With the proper planning, you'll find that you can surprise yourself and may well learn new skills yourself, too!
Be realistic: you’re not going to become a teacher overnight, so set yourself reasonable goals and prioritise Maths and English — the core subjects — or the subjects your child is struggling with. There are many free online resources, as well as those that your child’s school will probably send you. So prioritise and plan what you’re going to cover and understand that the first few days will be the difficult ones.
Start with “why?”. This helps the children understand the purpose of the task at hand, and it will enable them to understand that there are many “whys” to be answered, starting with, “Why can’t we go out?” We’re all in this together. Answering a “why” also empowers a child and gives them a sense of achievement. Now it’s time to set some rules: phone use, use of calculators, rules on how we talk to each other. Explain the targets and listen to reasonable feedback and ideas.
Ask who was their favourite teacher and get some idea of how that teacher taught - what made them special?
Monitor progress and, after you've covered a topic, reward accordingly. Get them to stand up and present, switch roles so that they're put in a position of power, giving them the opportunity to explain and gain confidence. Don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t go well — this is an on-going project. Try it out on yourself, and it’s important to be reflective and self-critical, but in a positive way. There are no exams this year, but it’s still important to get used to the notion of training for tests. It’s hard work but, if goals are achieved, it will engender a love of learning.
Teaching is a stressful job. All that talk of short hours and long holidays is nonsense. There's the mountain of marking, but at least you don’t have a class of 30 to mark. Then there’s the extra-curricular and fieldwork. You'll have to be especially creative there, and this might be where art comes in. Art is a great vehicle for expression, but also for supplementing the study of geography, history and biology.
A good teacher also leads by example, so take time to relax, have a varied and balanced diet and keep physically fit as best you can. Healthy foods, such as fruit and veg, with lots of water are essential, and avoid sugar and fatty foods. A good team workout in the morning will wake them up and reinforce the importance of good posture. Children and adults react well to structure, especially a morning routine. Dress well, don’t slob around in your pyjamas — a good dress sense gives the air of authority without being threatening! Keep a journal to monitor progress, and don’t forget yourself — breathing exercises and meditation will help.
Stay positive, don’t be too harsh on yourself or your children, and try, to some extent, to replicate their usual school experience, like having a set break and lunchtimes. Get a whistle!
All the above is for those who are solely alone with this challenge. There are so many tutors out there with a massive range of subjects and skills, so reward yourself by using their services as a back-up, or indeed as the learners’ personal trainers.