Many of you will have delivered your first ever school lessons by now. I remember mine like it was yesterday. I’d had a week of professional training, spent 3 hours planning 45 minutes of delivery and still I needed a change of shirt by the time the class were sat down. It went terribly. The next one however was a fraction better and that is what this blog is about – helping you navigate the pressures, false information and concerns so day by day, you can get better.

In 5 minutes researching #homeschool on social media I – a teacher once described by a lead Ofsted inspector as 'exceptional' – was reduced to feeling inadequate in every way. 3.3M posts of smiling parents showing #homeschool success using outdoor learning all while their children wear Wellington boots my mortgage holiday wouldn’t pay for. If like me you are now feeling like a panicked mess, overloaded by ideas flooding the social channels and intimidated by the expectations of the schools learning pack; please do relax – here are the basic questions answered:

Where do I start?

In teaching vernacular this is called a “starter”. Its purpose is to prepare children for learning by activating the parts of the brain that allow them to focus, order tasks and recall information. Any activity that requires your child to do things in order or recall information from memory will do this.

Colouring is a great example. It requires young people to focus and order tasks. Make it more challenging by only allowing them to touch each pen once. Turn it into a Maths warm up using colour by numbers. Make it #homeschoolcool by going against the clock with time penalty for crossing lines.

How do I make it engaging?

The word engagement strikes fear into the heart of anyone responsible for learning. It is ambiguous and unhelpful. We should say: “how do I get them to learn?”

Some really simple ways to do this are to make the activity:

  • The choice of the learner “What order do you want to do Maths, English and Art in?” Get them to design their timetable for the day (a great starter). Older learners could set themselves a learning challenge for morning and afternoon.
  • A game. Play question pong (beer pong with questions instead of booze). Climb the stairs by answering questions or finding information from a book.
  • Different. Do some in the garden, get them to turn a different room into a classroom for each different subject, do some to music, dress like a mathematician for maths and a writer for English.

Above all keep your expectations realistic. Even trained professionals don’t perform learning miracles. You are looking for “progress”. This means that at the end of a session your young person can do something new or do something better than at the start.  Even if that is throwing a ping-pong ball.

How am I meant to come up with ideas everyday?

You aren’t and you don’t have to. Some quick ideas:

  • Plan with other parents using a free video calling service like ZOOM.
  • Ask your children what they like to do and what they do in class.
  • Pop on social media and look for easy activities. Ignore “boastful” posts.

Most important

No one needs you to be a superhero #homeschooler. Do your best and focus on the progress. If something works share it with your friends and ask them for help. All the solutions will lie within your local parent network and if not, call the school.