Homeschooling during the Coronavirus pandemic: 10 things I’ve learned

It’s finally the school holidays and also the end (for now) of homeschooling during the Coronavirus pandemic for many parents. So, how has it gone for you? Technically, our daughter is still pre-school age so didn’t necessarily require homeschooling during her absence However, as she was beginning to make good progress learning basic literacy and numeracy skills, I wasn’t going to waste the enforced ‘break’. 

I decided that Little C benefits from routine, and as she has the thirst for knowledge, I wanted to embrace this and incorporate some homeschooling during lockdown. She is starting school this September and I wanted to put her in a good place for this. So, what have I learned during this time? Here are 10 things I’ve learned whilst homeschooling during the Coronavirus pandemic.

1. It’s good to be flexible on planning.

Timetables are subjective. They might work in some situations, and I’m sure they have worked for many people. However, with all the good will in the world, a fixed timetable was never going to work for us. I kind of liken it to a birth plan. It’s great to have things in mind, but you’re never going to be able to follow it letter by letter. Instead, I asked her what things she did at pre-school and what she likes doing to incorporate into her day. Some things I did on different days.

These types of things included:
  • Circle Time – talking about what we have been doing, what day and weather it is and what we are hoping to do today.
  • Imagination & Role Play Time – using Barbies, LOL dolls and Playmobil to explore different situations.
  • Technology Time – using screen time appropriately (Reading Eggs, Twinkl, BBC Bitesize) to learn different things.
  • Reading & Writing – we read lots of books and also practised writing skills. I used a lot of workbooks especially for 3-6 year olds to help with this.
  • Mathematics & Numbers – we played lots of counting games, played ‘numberblocks’ for simple addition and subtraction and also played shops to learn the different values of coins and notes.
  • Arts & Crafts – my daughter is quite creative, so we used a lot of ‘homeschool’ time to produce many different creations. This sparks imagination and also helps with developing fine motor skills. 
  • Exercise Time – this happened daily. It helped when we did our 30 Miles in 30 Days Challenge (read about our challenge here) as that gave us an excuse to get out and about too.

Routine and structure is good but we couldn’t possibly keep to a rigid structure. I found that motivating her at certain times to do certain things didn’t work in the same way it may have done with the help of pre-school or school, but we found that by creating a loose plan of what our day would include DID help. For example, the television would remain switched off until we had done at least some phonics, something creative and a bit of exercise. This kind of routine was easy for Little C to understand and also provided us with some sense of routine and purpose day-to-day during lockdown homeschool!

2. Exercise is best done your own way.

Thanks but no thanks Joe Wicks. This would have been a great way to incorporate physical exercise into our day, but my little one thought he was super-annoying and took great offence every time he opened his mouth. We found that exercising our own way was the way forward. We enjoyed regular bike rides, scooter rides and walks. We even did a 30 miles in 30 days challenge for charity during June which provided a great excuse to get that extra exercise in! Other forms of exercise have been socially-distanced water pistol fights with the neighbours’ kids, jumping on our newly purchased trampoline and several thousand trips to the kitchen to see what snacks are available!

3. Patience is a virtue.

Little C has done so well with her phonics and numbers workbooks that we have used for the formal part of her homeschool learning. However, it hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows. When you’re at home all day, we found that she struggled to stay motivated without the stimulation from other children and being in a proper learning environment. It’s all very well saying that young children learn through play, but this is often not solely with their parents in a 100% home environment. Add in parents working from home and also the usual housework, and no ‘free time’.

Quite a lot of times she has just wanted to chill out and watch a movie. This is fine if you’re getting some learning and activity in too, but I’ve found it tricky to get her out of the habit of doing this when we were in 100% lockdown and everything was shut. No playdates, no parks and only one walk a day allowed. Motivating Little C to do some ‘homework’ was tricky at times and a lot of patience was required. However, it was so beneficial once she got in to it and you could tell how much enjoyment and pride she got from her ‘work’. We even had a reward system, stickers for every page she completed and whenever she completed a workbook she won herself a prize. At the end of ‘homeschool’, before she went back to pre-school, she won herself an LOL surprise doll reward which she was very pleased with herself about. In her own words, home school has been hard at times but exciting!

4. Screen time can be a useful tool.

Screen time is something we experience every day in our household (always ensuring it’s safe screen time). As well as providing valuable down-time (and useful time for us parents to do housework or cook dinner), it can also be a useful educational tool.

Here are some videos that we’ve enjoyed and learned lots from (mostly BBC):

  • Maddie Moate & Greg Foot’s Live videos on YouTube. They explored different topics each week with some fabulous experiments. We particularly enjoyed learning about the human body (and yes, I learned some new things too)
  • Alphablocks & Numberblocks on CBeebies / Iplayer: These cartoons are extremely popular with little ones and help teach about phonics and numbers. As someone who learned the alphabet the traditional way, Alphablocks has also enabled me to learn phonics so in turn I can help Little C learn too.
  • BBC Bitesize – although these were aimed at Primary School children and above, we enjoyed the output and gave us some guilt-free screen time. 
  • Horrible Histories – my favourite way of learning about history. I wish this had been around when we were young! The rhymes and gruesome characters really help you remember key dates and people from times gone by.
  • Other Films & TV – Hey Duggee has taught us all about philosophy and also that octagons have 8 sides. Little C also learned from Frozen 2 that turtles can breathe through their ‘butts’. The correct term is actually cloacal respiration(!)

5. There are a wealth of resources that can help.

We are lucky in this day and age that there are a wealth of resources that can help with homeschooling. We had bought various workbooks (found at the supermarket) to support reading, writing and numeracy. These are brightly coloured, easy to use and age-appropriate. To support her learning, I also bought some ‘read, write, inc’ phonics cards to practice letters and also downloaded many a worksheet from educational site Twinkl, who provided free access to parents and carers during lockdown. Another useful site with educational resources is Mrs Mactivity. This is a very bright and colourful website and has specific sections for different topics and occasions. 

6. Creativity is fun.

Creativity is a whole lot of fun, stimulates the imagination, encourages fine motor skills and gives a sense of achievement. We spent a lot of time creating various window displays with positive messages and lots of rainbows. We also found ourselves doing a lot of baking (mostly fairy cakes – here’s an easy recipe to follow). Baking cakes means time spent doing something together and also practising various skills (measuring and mixing for example). Window decorating. It also produces tasty treats for all of us to enjoy!

7. It’s about practical skills too.

Spending the most time we’ve ever spent continuously together as mother and daughter has meant that I can teach her some more practical skills too! She has helped me doing all sorts of household tasks such as meal planning, cooking, cleaning and laundry. She’s not 100% of course, but you have to start learning somewhere. She’s been practising getting dressed and undressed too. We’ve also started to learn about how to tell the time – another important life skill!

8. It’s important to look after personal & emotional development.

Children in general seem to be doing amazingly well during the lockdown. They have adapted to what has been perhaps the most challenging time of our lives since our lives began. As part of the whole ‘homeschooling’ umbrella we have been focusing on self-care and mental health. We have talked about why it is important to keep clean (washing hands and how germs may be everywhere) and also our feelings.

We have talked at length about the Coronavirus, with the help of things that we have found online (Thanks, Dr Ranj!) and also from our own experience. As parents, we have reassured Little C that she is safe and also talked about how she’s feeling and her understanding of the situation. It is difficult to predict how life will look in the months and years going forward, but she can rely on us to help her through it.

It has been quite interesting to watch her role-play games change to see her adapting to the covid-19 crisis. Playmobil have been socially distanced in some games and also had to wear masks!

9. Online classes aren’t everyone’s cup of tea.

A lot of places, such as her extra-curricular activities have provided online classes and videos for her to participate in. However, she found that these were not as good as the in-person offerings. Some were led by teachers she wasn’t familiar with and she found it a bit ‘boring’. I found it important to acknowledge that if something didn’t work for her, then find something else that does appeal to her. This might be an age thing, or because pre-schoolers and reception class age cannot read or focus like older children, so have to rely on a lot of visual and practical things too. They like to watch, play and get stuck in. It is all new to their teachers also so we and our friends have found that teachers have been understanding too that some children love the online classes and work but others don’t. 

10. Teaching is best left to the professionals.

The biggest thing that we seem to have learnt is that parents as teachers are not as good as the real thing. In most cases, we haven’t trained for this and have been ‘thrown in at the deep end’. Mix that with the whole dynamic of being taught by a parent and it can seem rather challenging at times! I guess some others may have been inspired to seriously consider home education as a way forward to teach their children. However, in my personal opinion I could never do that (unless I have to of course!). I think that teachers are wonderful and work so hard to provide our children with a fantastic, varied education. At times, I have found it hard to keep 1 child in check, so the fact they can captivate and inspire a class of 30 is amazing. I also feel that being at school and socialising in the company of other children is essential to their well-being. So, for this reason, I am looking forward to Little C starting school in September with an open-mind and a fantastic teacher! 

We don’t know what the future may hold, but the government promise that education is one of the highest priorities, so hopefully our generation of corona home-schooled children will be able to resume or start their educational journeys with as little disruption as possible. However, if we are put in the position that we temporarily have to home-school for a while I’d like to think we have at least half a clue of what we’re doing this time round!

What have you learned from the homeschooling through the Coronavirus pandemic? Let us know using the comments box below or by joining in the conversation on our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages.

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