Some quick tips for setting up home classrooms.
We all know why we’re thinking about it, so let’s just get straight to the practicalities.
If you have to set up a home classroom in a hurry, here are some tips to help you get started. I’ve tried to skew this towards a family with children in upper primary, as this is a Transfer Test website, but I know there could be siblings too. The advice here should apply to many different ages/school stages.
I know the practicalities of this are nearly impossible for some families, and I’m sorry for those in that situation. But here’s the best last-minute tips I can share for anyone who needs to set up a “home school” at short notice.
Think about the space you have
Use the space you have. Clear a table. Maybe you can use one end of the dining table as a semi-permanent work table? Or if you’re lucky enough to have a study or guest room, clear a space and get it ready.
If you’ve got location options, try locating your home school near a window. There are proven benefits to working near a window which outweigh any worries about concentration lapses.
If you’ve more than one child, try to give them a chair each – it will save squabbling!
It sounds like school work will be done online remotely, or on worksheets and packs sent home from school. Your child will probably be doing a mixture of “at the table” work and independent learning/reading.
Either way, you might need some supplies and equipment.
Internet access and a computer/iPad
Families with kids at post-primary will need computer access.
If you’ve more than one child, they will all need access at some point during the day, so you might need to plan this the night before.
Personally, I think it’s going to be easiest to get agreement that the eldest can start school work later (it suits their bio-rhythms anyway) and the youngest will have first access to the computer in the morning. Don’t forget parental controls on your computer!
Paper – for the printer and for notes.
The usual stationery and schoolbag provisions. Tip out the pencil cases and stick them all in a shoebox to keep together at your work station – pens, sharpeners, highlighters, calculators …
Timing the work
Think about chunking your kids’ work, or blocking out periods of the day for each topic to be covered. Older kids could try to follow their school timetable roughly and cover the normal subjects each day. This will obviously require some flexibility.
It’s a great idea to ask your own child to draft a rough plan for the homeschool day (for your approval of course!). That way they’re more likely to stick to their own suggestions.
For all, but especially primary-aged kids, it’s a good idea to alternate heavy and lighter tasks. For example, after they’ve done an academic session, do some baking or kick a football around in the garden.
And leave room for tasks to overrun. The best thing about learning from home is the flexibility, so make the most of it.
Make time for breaks
Everyone needs a bit of relaxation and a snack!
Make time for messing in the garden. Even without a large outdoor space, you could try garden badminton, improvised bowls (use what you have!), build a den, get a punchbag.
Baking or cooking could be another good learning option. And now that the days should be getting warmer, what about some shared gardening?
You could gather garden finds, and learn to photograph them on a smartphone. Then send pics of what you create to friends and relatives.
There are lots of options to keep reading aloud alive when working from home. You just need to find the one(s) that work best for you –
- Audiobooks – everyone can relax and listen
- Involve everyone – get older siblings to read to the younger ones, creating double ticks on the checklist
- Read aloud to your kids yourself – if you’ve got more time on your hands, this is a great way to spend it. Pick from your bookshelves or download to your Kindle. Lots of the classics are free.
A little reading corner in the house is really easy to create quickly. Just use what you have – a beanbag, even old cushions or pillows and a stack of books and magazines. You don’t need anything new for this, use what you’ve got. Younger kids might like some twinkly fairy lights to mark out the space and keep it looking tempting. Go and find the Christmas decorations!
This could be a great time to get hands-on with some creative projects. The beauty of learning at home is that you can choose a longer project and keep coming back to it.
It’s a good idea to let your child pick the project – they might like learning calligraphy, watercolours, drawing comic books, scrapbooking. Whatever it is, you’ll find loads of inspiration (and many free lessons) online. Try YouTube or Skillshare for ideas.
You could all try to learn a new language. The Duolingo app is great for this, and a child in upper primary could definitely have a go. It has a competitive element to it, so might work well if different family members try to earn their points.
You could ask them to do some presentation work – make a poster, a video or Powerpoint on a topic they choose. Could be a good distraction for everyone, creators and listeners.
They could polish up their design skills by creating a weekly newsletter for family and friends, which they could email once it’s done. Each child can have their own “column” to write what they like. I’m quite keen on this idea, as it ticks a lot of boxes at once – designing, writing, distribution – as well as keeping in touch and maybe putting a smile on the faces of recipients.
A great way to learn something well (this is backed by science) is to teach it to someone else.
So if you have more than one child, the age difference can be useful for all.
Older siblings could teach a younger sibling the times tables, for example, or a new topic in maths. Just be sure to be on hand to referee any disagreements.
As children get bigger, it can feel harder to exercise without going outside. Finding a PE/Games replacement is going to help everyone feel better though.
There are lots of free indoor workouts you can follow online. Maybe it’s time you all tried yoga? Or HiiT (there are apps for that too)? Or just an old-fashioned cardio workout. It’s all there online.
You could host a Zoom or Skype workout online with some buddies. Zoom’s free plan gives you up to 40 minutes for an online meeting.
More than anything we need to try to seek out the positives in a new situation like this. Maybe we can try to savour the extra time, without travel, without extra-curricular commitments?
The beauty of your new home school is – nothing is fixed.
You can live with it and adapt it over time.
See what works for you.
If you want to read more about the resources we recommend for Transfer Test preparation, click here.