NappyValleyNet guide to surviving home schooling

Last Updated on : 3rd February 2021

 

Bribery, cajoling, coaxing, rewarding, reprimanding, begging, shouting and ultimately crying yourself to sleep in a sea of tears. If any of these apply to you, then this surviving home schooling guide is for you.

We asked top educational, parenting and childcare experts, and parents across Nappy Valley for their home schooling tips – not just for survival – but to help you restore the balance in your home, support your children, make learning a positive experience again and get you through this third lockdown in one piece.

Keep in touch with your teachers

Tempting as it may be to put the teacher hat on, don’t! You are not a teacher. You are simply a facilitator. So put that red pen away and leave it to the experts!

Tash Rosin, Founder of Teatime Tutors says, “The onus is on the school to teach, mark and feed back on work, not parents. Stay in close contact with your school and always contact your teacher as the first port of call for support and advice. If your child is struggling, consider a tutor who can support them with their schoolwork, fill in any gaps in their knowledge and prepare them for the year ahead. Whatever you do, don’t panic. Teachers know their stuff and they will adapt the curriculum, focusing on Maths and English to catch up on lost time at school.”

Find out what motivates your child

What sets your child alight? Talk to them, find out what they need and set goals together. There is no point in forcing them to do worksheet after worksheet if they are not responding – they won’t last five minutes.

If your child is motivated by relationships, arrange an online zoom call with a friend and they can do their work together. If they are motivated by achievement, set them challenges or ask them to challenge you by setting a quiz, but make sure they have researched the answers and written them down first! Tap into their passions to ignite their motivations. Whether it’s trains, planes or automobiles, you can get them counting and reading about their favourite things.

Arabella Northey, Founder of Meta Prep explains, “Motivation is the most misunderstood aspect of improving outcomes. To allow a child to fulfil their potential is a fine balancing act between achieving high levels of performance whilst ensuring the child is happy and stimulated. Understanding their intrinsic motivation ensures the learning experience is tailored, resulting in success. At Meta Prep we use a motivational map as a starting point for all our pupils and have a free one available to home schooling parents on our website now.”

Establish a routine that works

We all know that children need structure and the same goes for home schooling. Establish a clear routine for the day or week together with your child. Schedule in schoolwork, regular breaks away from the screen, exercise, park time, zoom calls with friends, and free time, balancing what they need to do and what they want to do. Also, remove distractions from their workspace so they can focus. This is especially important for children with learning difficulties.

Adam D’Souza, Founder of The Commons, says, “The pre-adolescent brain undergoes huge changes, which is why we often see pre-teen tears. Establish a sustainable routine to avoid overwhelming your children. Some schools are better than others at setting timetables, but it’s impossible for teachers to differentiate work for students when they are at home. The tasks they send home are inevitably pitched for the kids in the middle. Your child might not be able to cope with all of it or might even request more. Either way, create a sustainable timetable that works for your son or daughter. Teachers don’t expect children to do every single subject or even to work at the pace they are setting the work. They want academic progress but not at the expense of mental health.”

Ella Ardalan, stay-at-home mother of three,says, “I set a 20-minute timer for my six-year-old son for his writing. Sometimes even for his eight-year-old sister too, if she’s flapping around. If they haven’t finished when the timer goes off, we come back to it in the afternoon or the following morning, because there is no point in them sitting there for longer if they are not getting anywhere. If they are almost done, then I give them an extra 10 minutes to finish and check their work.”

Ask lots of questions

Ask your child questions about their maths work. In this way, you can gauge if they have really understood or are just glossing over concepts. It’s called Socratic questioning – asking lots of disciplined questions to decipher what they really know. You could even get them to play teacher for the day and explain their maths to you. If they are not fully locking in mathematical concepts, it will be difficult for them to progress as the work gets harder each week. If they are stuck, press pause and go back.

Fiona MacKenzie, Centre Director, at Mathnasium, emphasises, “Just because students throw out the right answer, doesn’t always mean they understand how they got there. Whatever age they are, ask them questions to establish what they really know before you move on.

For younger children, don’t be afraid to revisit and practise basic concepts like counting in tens, for example. I’m currently seeing gaps in knowledge in Year 1 and 2 kids in particular, as they missed out on a lot of foundational maths learning in the first lockdown. It is more important that they go back over the basics to help them go forward.

For older students that are falling behind, it is important that you balance working on today’s schoolwork with back-filling the gaps that have appeared, even if you have to revise concepts from last year. True understanding doesn’t happen overnight.”

As Larry Martinek, creator of the Mathnasium method says, “Children don’t hate maths. What they hate is being confused, intimidated, and embarrassed by maths. With understanding comes passion, and with passion comes growth – a treasure is unlocked.”

Take it easy in the afternoons

Cut yourself and your children some slack. Don’t make them sit at a desk or stare at a screen for a full six-hour school day. It’s too long. The brain is most productive in the morning. For young kids you can start at 9am and finish at lunch. For teenagers, it’s more like 10.30am when their brains are most engaged.

David McCarthy, Director of Education at Sophia High School, asserts, “Children concentrate in short bursts and are most productive in the morning. Focus and concentrate on Maths and English first thing, and then spend time on the other subjects. Head out to the park or do things they enjoy in the afternoon such as sports, art, reading, science experiments, music or just relaxing. You can also try meditation every morning for 10 minutes and remove devices and all distractions from bedrooms at night, so kids are getting a good night’s sleep. And to quell any frustrations make sure you have a good internet connection too!”

Thomas Gygax, Founder of Kiddiplan and father of two agrees, “I always start off with the most challenging work in the morning for my eight and seven-year-old sons. We only do about two hours and then we move on to something more creative like baking or Lego building, and when the weather is nice, we go out to the Common.”

Scrap the worksheets and be creative

Let your children tell their story. Give them art materials and writing supplies and scrap the worksheets, in favour of allowing creativity to flow organically and in the words of Mark Twain “I never let schooling get in the way of my education.”

 Elaine Halligan, Director of The Parent Practice and author of ‘My child is different’, implores parents to tune into their kids. “Your biggest priority just now as a parent is to keep stress levels down, so if home schooling is causing untold angst and stress for everyone, you have permission to ditch it or differentiate the curriculum. The reality is children’s brains cannot absorb academic work if they are stressed, as cortisol interferes with the brain’s higher function, so please parents lower your expectations and practise being a good enough parent.

My biggest concern is with this determination that our children ‘keep up’ and return to school not being too far behind in their studies. This pandemic is rewriting history. What your children will have learnt over the past 12 months, way exceeds traditional measures of educational success. They may have had to deal with grief, with the death of a loved one; with loneliness and being separated from their friends, and they have almost certainly had to deal with boredom having had their freedom taken away from them. We simply have to adjust our expectations and most importantly, we need to know how to listen to our children, validate their feelings, and let them tell their story.”

Jennifer Barton Packer, freelance journalist and mother-of-four, has her own creative take on the school curriculum, “I decided to rebel against unrealistic home schooling expectations this time around and I feel much happier for it. My home school approach is heavily focused on introducing lots of art, culture, history and literature to my children as well as building on life skills: we roller skate each morning, we’ve been watching old movies and musicals, we cook together (measuring out ingredients to practice our counting and fractions skills and learning the names of fruit and veg) and my kids chat to their grandparents each day, doing some Maths, English and History with them. It’s not totally conventional but we’re all smiling – and we’re definitely learning something, too.”

Support your teen’s mental wellbeing

Turn down the pressure a notch or two. It’s particularly tough on students sitting their IGCSEs and International Baccalaureate this year as exams are going ahead. And although GCSE and A-level exams have been cancelled, students are still being assessed on the work they submit remotely for their final grade.

Mary Lonsdale, Founder of Mentor Education, explains, “Families are really torn because they know their kids are struggling, but they know that the exam boards haven’t dropped their standards either, so they still have to achieve the grade to get into their choice of sixth form or university.

We are seeing more parents reaching out to us for tutors in subjects their children are having difficulties with learning remotely. They are also trying to bring forward skills like essay writing and presentation techniques that their children need now as they submit work that counts towards their final grade.

Parents need to be aware of the constant pressure their teens are under. They should try to get them out of their bedrooms and into the fresh air, and encourage them to exercise outside with one friend, which is still allowed under government guidelines.

If your child is not coping, contact their teacher as early as you can. Schools can’t keep an eye on the kids remotely, but if they know they are struggling, they can send supportive messages, hold back from piling on extra work, reassure them and restore their confidence.”

Hire a nanny

Mary Poppins to the rescue! Childcare doesn’t have to be full time. If you simply need an extra pair of hands, hire a short term nanny for a few hours a day and they can do the home schooling for you. Music to our ears!

Kellie Helbrough, Growth Manager, at Koru Kids, reassures us, “You don’t have to struggle alone. If you have to work or if you simply need some support, it is possible to have a part time nanny on a short term basis. People don’t realise that you don’t have to hire someone long term. It can be for three mornings a week to do the home schooling, so parents have a bit of respite. And with Koru Kids there are no upfront fees, you simply pay by the hour (but you always have the same nanny!)”

Sammy Duder, London Blogger and Stylist also known as The Turquoise Flamingo and mother-of-three, concurs, “I was climbing the walls trying to juggle work with three children at home and something had to give. Our Koru Kids nanny arrives like a little ray of sunshine when she comes and helps with their schoolwork for three mornings a week. I wish I’d done it sooner! It’s massively eased the load for me, and life is so much more manageable.”

“Since December, temporary nannies for home schooling have been particularly in demand, says Kate Baker, Founder of Abbeville Nannies, “and we have been placing not only experienced nannies but also bright engaging university graduates with families on a fixed term basis. They are happy to help not only with home schooling but also cooking meals, walking the dog and generally helping out.”

Amanda Gerlis, partner at Nappy Valley Nannies, adds “Being a parent myself, I know how difficult these times are. I find getting my children to listen to me can be a real challenge and so this is where a nanny can help with the home schooling. They can take so much pressure off the parents, including having to think about all the other jobs that need doing in the house like the children’s laundry and making meals. We are placing more and more temporary nannies, and finding that nannies are very happy to fill these temporary roles in these uncertain circumstances.”

HOME SCHOOLING HACKS

Maths

  • Count puddles on your walk.
  • Add, subtract, multiply and divide house numbers.
  • Cut fruits in halves and quarters to learn about fractions.
  • Count how many trains come into your local train station and plot it on a graph.
  • Numbala is a fun maths adventure video game with spaceships, collecting coins and firing lasers. Children won’t even realise it’s maths!
  • Sum Swamp is a greatboard game for ages 5+ reinforcing addition and subtraction which the whole family can play.

Educational toys and games

  • QT Toys and Chalkboard have many years of expertise and a huge raft of educational material helping make learning fun.
  • They love nothing more than talking to parents and children to find the right match.
  • Video calls, click and collect, home delivery is all available to help make parents life easier.

English

  • Read with them. One page for you, one page for them. This helps keep up the momentum of the story, so they don’t lose interest.
  • Let them read one book on a Kindle as a treat and then one hard copy book.
  • Read books that are also movies and when they’ve finished the book, they can watch the movie.
  • Buy them books and magazines about subjects they are interested in. Here are just a handful:
    • Okido Magazine – STEM up to 5 years
    • The Week Junior –Current affairs ages 8-14
    • First News – Current affairs ages 7-14
    • National Geographic Kids – ages 7-14
    • Beano – Comic ages 7-12
    • The Official Jacqueline Wilson Magazine – ages 7-12
    • Minecraft World Magazine – up to 10 years
    • Match of the Day – ages 4+
  • For really reluctant writers, try writing on a chalkboard or using a computer to type. For really young kids, they can practise their letters using their fingers in biodegradable glitter or rice.
  • For Year 1 and 2 children who refuse to write, film them telling a story they have made up instead. If the school has asked them to write a newspaper report, they can pretend to be a journalist reporting live from the scene or if they have to write a diary of a historical figure, they can dress up as that person and do a video diary instead. In this way, they can demonstrate their vocabulary and their storytelling skills. They can always have a go at writing another day.

PARENT HACKS

Here are some hacks from our very own Nappy Valley parents and we love them! As they say, whatever works…

  • “I pack their lunch box and snacks exactly the same as they would have them at school to cut down on the incessant whining for snacks!”
  • “I bought a cheese toaster machine to save my lunchtime sanity.”
  • “I have a daily iPad reward. For every activity my 6-year-old completes, he gets 5 minutes on the iPad in the evening.”
  • “I reward my 6-year-old son with one Haribo sweet for every two sentences he writes. If he does a full page, that’s eight sweets.”
  • “I let my 6 and 9-year-olds do each other’s foundation subjects together. It doesn’t matter if they are doing the Year 2 or 4 subject. My favourite one was when we created Roman curses together “Mumicus, I curse you with the touch of a poisoned frog for making us do home schooling!” But of course.”
  • “We try to do the fun things they are missing from school like Show& Tell and class parties.”

FREE RESOURCES

This is an action adventure game teaching kids about savings, taxes, interest, pollution, recycling and helping animals, plus there’s poo in it which is always a winner!

This game is from NatWest but there is minimal branding. For PS4, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, PC and tablets – ages 7+

Educational games teaching maths, literacy and problem solving – bright, cartoony and funny for Apple, Android, Kindle, Fire – ages 3+

Khan Academy is a not-for-profit organisation that has devised games with experts from Stanford University. It also has educational games for older kids.

Lockdown learning resources for primary, secondary and 16+ students covering a wide range of subjects and current affairs.

FITNESS & WELLBEING

Check out Jane’s YouTube channel for fun work-outs with her daughter, Grace.

Playball has adapted its active camp programs for the home to keep your kids moving

Check out Little Gym’s YouTube channel for strengthening and mindfulness exercises.

Fun yoga adventures for kids

This is a new a digital friend for children aged 8-11 and their parents/carers to help them reflect on their feelings. It has been developed by Parent Zone and is funded by BBC Children in Need’s ‘A Million & Me’ initiative which focuses on supporting children’s mental health.



THE EXPERTS

Whatever your circumstances, whatever the age of your offspring and however many you have, we hope our home schooling tips have helped you see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. If you want to know more about our experts or would like to reach out to them for support, please see their details below.



Childcare

Koru Kids is a modern childcare service, providing part-time childcare to thousands of families across London. We provide nannies who have been through a rigorous vetting process, to support home schooling during this time for as little as 3 hours a week, and part-time and after school care when schools are open. We do all the hard work for you, so you don’t have to. From vetting and reference checking all of our nannies, to all the admin including your nanny’s payroll and on-going support. We’re here for you every step of the way, all with no upfront fees or hidden charges. Find a part-time nanny through Koru Kids today to get you through this tough period, for the hours your family needs.

Abbeville Nannies has been operating across South London for the last 20 years and prides itself on its personal and flexible approach.

Nappy Valley Nannies is an agency based in South West London sourcing nannies, maternity nurses and night nannies for families across South West London. A small, bespoke agency focussed on building close relationships with both family and nanny, and providing a full service throughout the search, hiring and post-engagement process. We have nannies looking for temporary and permanent roles on a full or part time basis.

Parenting

The thing with parenting is that nobody prepares you for the pitfalls. You spend months learning how to deal with the pregnancy and the pros and cons of different pain relief for the birth, but nobody explains the reality of what it means to have children and to have the responsibility of bringing them up to become adults. When you’re sleep deprived, stressed, and juggling parenthood and work, challenging behaviour can feel even harder to handle.

Elaine Halligan from The Parent Practice is here to help. She offers a range of online parenting courses and bespoke coaching to help you and your family have more harmony at home and to give you the toolkit to stay calm.

Try her 30 tips, 30 days, £30 online course. This is good parenting made simple.

Education

Mathnasium is an international maths learning centre for children in reception all the way through to GCSE. The experienced maths tutors utilise proprietary teaching materials and techniques to deliver the Mathnasium Method – teaching students in a way that makes sense to them. Mathnasium is a structured Learning Centre rather than a tutorial service, balancing mastery of prerequisite knowledge with today’s maths homework to propel the student.

The comprehensive assessment process identifies gaps in a student’s knowledge and forms the basis of a bespoke learning plan which evolves over time. Whether in-centre or online through our bespoke Mathnasium@home platform, students enjoy doing maths!

The Mathnasium Centre on Northcote Road is currently open for children of key workers and vulnerable children.

Mentor Education has been helping children with their academic studies in London for 40 years and has helped over 90,000 families in that time. They are proud to be voted best tuition agency by School Report.

They are entrance exam specialists, helping children secure places at the best schools in London. Their institutional knowledge can support you to make the right decisions for your child and guide you, whatever the format of the 2022 examinations. Children hoping to sit for 11+ next January cannot afford to miss this term’s learning progress, and they have a full program in place to support them, including 1:1 and group tuition, holiday courses and mock exams. Specialist GCSE and A-Level tutors are also available.

Meta Prep is the complete online 11+ solution and your partner for selective senior school entry. They ensure that preparing for senior school is a fun and enriching experience built on a strong foundation of learning principles. The goal is to get children thinking deeply, equipping them with a ‘metacognitive’ toolkit so that they understand how to learn and are set for life, able to sail through the 11+ and onto their next challenge with confidence. They are transforming the process, bringing together ‘what works’ and excellent teaching, under one affordable roof, to deliver success.

Meta Prep is offering a free trial class for Year 4 students, to sign up visit:

Sophia High School was founded by a team of passionate educators who share more than 48 years of educational leadership and teaching experience. They are the only online education provider in the UK to offer full-time online schooling, following the National Curriculum, for students from Year 1 to Year 9.

They deliver high quality, live, interactive online lessons, which include a programme of robust, independent home learning activities and projects. All of their teachers are qualified experts in their field and have extensive experience in teaching in some of the top schools in the UK.

Their very small online class sizes ensure accelerated and personalised learning for every child, so that they enjoy learning and reach their full potential.

The Commons provides London’s most modern and progressive private tuition and educational advice. They focus exclusively on school entrance preparation (7+, 10+, 11+ and Sixth Form). The heart of their approach is individual care from an empathetic, inspiring one-to-one tutor. Their tutors will connect with you to form a circle of care around your son or daughter, helping them to thrive in an exciting, yet ever-changing world. Each student’s personal learning programme is devised and overseen by expert teacher Adam D’Souza, encompassing holistic assessment and informed educational advice.

Teatime Tutors are based in London and offer online educational support to primary-aged children. Founder, Tash Rosin helps students perform at their best, building long-term academic success, whether this is to enhance and consolidate what they are studying in school or guide them through the process of an entrance exam. She also offers a bespoke educational consultancy for parents who need some assistance in choosing the right school for their child. She is a fully qualified teacher, and her online tutoring program is interactive. She plans tailored sessions for her students to fit their individual needs and can adapt the lessons if needs be.

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