Tips for Home Schooling
Home schooling is not a new phenomenon, and there are many and varied reasons why people might elect to home school their children. It’s probably not something that most of us have really given much thought to, since we tend to take it for granted that our children have the right to go to school. In fact, not only is it a right, but a legal requirement for children to receive an education in some form or other.
Obviously, with the Covid 19 situation playing out as it has this year, home schooling has received a great deal of media attention, and many parents have found themselves flung into circumstances where their children’s education is suddenly down to them.
Let me tell you - home schooling, done well, is not easy.
For most people, the things you learned when you were at school are exactly that - things you learned at school. (For some of us, that’s a very dim and distant past!) Even if it’s not a vast number of years since you were at school, things are constantly changing.
What Home Schooling is Not
Home schooling isn’t - or at least shouldn’t be - an opportunity for our children to spend all day, every day, on computer games. And yes, I know that one child - out of goodness knows how many million - made his fortune by practising a specific game for 18 hours a day and won a mega-tournament in America. But let’s face it, for most of us the odds of that happening are exceptionally small.
What home schooling also shouldn’t be is a situation where a parent or carer sits back and proclaims that they are letting their children ‘learn what they want’. Obviously, some children are very self-motivated - most, I would politely suggest, are not. And it’s not even necessarily just a case of motivation. Knowing how to learn, how and where to find information and how to access help for things you don’t understand, are skills in themselves.
What I am very, very much in favour of, is child-centred learning, which is what tends to happen in Early Years classrooms. The difference between this and just letting children ‘do what they want’, is that resources are made available to encourage children to explore a range of topics and varied ways of learning.
What Home Schooling Is
So, what, essentially, should home schooling look like? Well, that’s an extremely easy question to ask and a tremendously complex one to answer. I’m not even sure there is a definitive answer, because how home schooling unfolds will depend on so many variables. Probably the most important factor is that every child is different, and there are as many diverse ways of learning as there are unique children to learn. Perhaps that’s the most exciting thing about home schooling, though - it can be tailored to suit each child’s particular needs.
Unfortunately, school has to be prescriptive. Government curriculums have to be followed, and it’s literally impossible to cater for each specific learning style of thirty plus children in a class. With home schooling, on the other hand, much of your child’s learning can be based around the things that interest them, and it’s considerably easier to provide activities that help them to engage fully and follow their own particular style of learning.
Help is at Hand
Before Covid 19 turned the world upside-down, it was much easier to give home schooled children a wide range of experiences. As a home educator, you could access groups in your local area where children could get together to go on trips and outings, helping to provide opportunities for much needed social interaction. For the time being, obviously much of this has been put on hold (depending on the area you live in) but still, you don’t have to go it alone!
There is still a wealth of experience and help out there. A couple of support groups that might be useful to check out, are: Home Education UK on Facebook, which to date has more than 40,000 members; Home Schooling UK, also on Facebook and with over 30,000 members and A2Z homeschooling.com, which lists lots of regional support groups for home schooling.
It's also worth taking the time to experiment and find out what kind of learner your child is. It could be that they feel most comfortable learning visually, which means that they are likely to respond best to information presented through things like pictures, diagrams and written instructions. Individual whiteboards which are easy (and not expensive) to buy, are particularly useful, because they afford children the opportunity to try things out, knowing that mistakes can be easily erased.
Some children learn best through auditory experiences, and you will often find that they like to talk a lot. For this type of learner, asking lots of questions for them to answer verbally can be helpful; additionally, creating opportunities for discussion is often very effective. Things like talking books, instructional videos and reading out loud can also be useful for this kind of learner.
Kinaesthetic learners tend to respond best to activities that are interactive and hands on. If your child reacts well to this kind of learning then simple things like playing games, asking them to physically match answers to questions, or acting out stories with them, can help to keep them engaged.
It could well be that your child is just as happy learning in a more traditional way. I’ve taught children as young as four or five who have cottoned on to the whole writing thing very quickly and liked nothing better than to sit at a table and write wonderful, imaginative stories. This kind of learner will often be happy to read, write or research things quite independently.
Although these four specific types of learning style are widely recognised, I am always very reluctant to label children as one thing or another. Sometimes these ways of learning overlap, or it may be that some topics require different ways of learning. Most children will enjoy the chance to learn by making things, or by engaging in practical activities, so varying your techniques will give you the clearest idea of how your child learns best.
Things are so uncertain at the moment, that none of us know what the foreseeable future holds. Even if children’s schooling continues undisrupted next year, they’ve missed so much time and input in 2020, that it’s well worth investing a little time (if at all possible) in boosting their learning with some extra home learning.
Be safe and well as always - and may 2021 be a happier, healthier year for us all.
Written by Ashley Costin
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