Our cats seem to think we’ve all given up work so we can spend all day with them and they are absolutley living their best lives at the moment! In between cuddles and being sat on, we’re all trying to get some work done.
We have been home learning for 8 weeks now (including the two weeks at home for the Easter holiday). Some things have worked better than others. Some days we all get along happily while other days we drive each other up the wall! With three children all needing different levels of support, I’ve certainly been kept busy and have had to prioritise which parts of my own work I can reasonably achieve. We’ve fallen into a routine of completing the bigger lessons in the morning with my guidance and then the afternoons being a bit more independent so I can do some work.
Our trio is made up of 10-year-old boy/girl twins and a 12-year-old big sister so they are a bit more independent than Key Stage One and preschool children. We’ve been very grateful for the home learning sent from their two schools as it forms the basic structure of our day with me supplementing with other activities to fill in the gaps.
So, which activities and resources have worked well for us?
1. Dedicated Outdoor and Reading Time – Every day after lunch, the children go out to play for 30 minutes and then come in to sit down for 30 minutes of individual reading. They all read at other times but this is a lovely point in our day when everyone settles down for some quiet.
2. Writing book reviews for Toppsta – Toppsta.com is a website where children and parents can recommend and review books for each other. There are book lists organised by age group, author, illustrator and series. Children can leave reviews for books and enter giveaways to win new books. Our children really enjoy writing short paragraphs about what they’ve read and adding them to the website. It’s a very purposeful writing activity for them and has helped with so many of their writing skills. Parents just need to set up an account.
3. The Week Junior – Recently, we started subscribing to The Week Junior news magazine for children. It is full of child-friendly articles about national and international news, sport, the arts, books, recipes and much more. It has prompted more discussion about current affairs and helped them further develop their knowledge about things they’ve seen on the breakfast tv news.
4. Regular use of apps and on-line learning platforms – Through school, the children have log-ins for multiple apps and on-line programmes. We find spending time on a different one each day keeps the learning ticking over. It is also something they can do independently. We do Mathletics, TT Rockstars, Spelling Shed, Reading Realm and Duolingo (French language practise).
Reading Realm is a new reading app for children that encourages a love of reading, provides exposure to a variety of quality texts, develops reading skills and gives an opportunity to build on what they have read. https://thereadingrealm.co.uk/
5. Lessons with a friend – Our Year 7 daughter does every Science lesson with a friend from school. They call each other on Facetime and go through the lesson together. It’s so nice for her to have a friend to learn with and a regular routine.
6. History lessons with Mr T Does Primary History – A former colleague of mine, Mr T, provides History lessons and ideas for teachers. On his website, there are links to free lessons he’s prepared for children. Look for his podcasts and home learning packs. https://www.mrtdoeshistory.com/
7. Geography & Science TV Programmes – There are many fantastic information programmes on Netflix, Disney+ and other streaming apps. Our twins were learning about South America in Geography just before school ended. We found a suitable programme on Netflix so they’ve been watching one episode each week and chatting about what they’re learning.
8. Oak National Academy – Since its launch, we’ve been trying some of the Oak National Academy on-line lessons. We’ve found the Maths particularly helpful and been choosing topics the children haven’t yet covered at school (the Y5 Co-ordinates & Word Problems involving Time have been really good). It’s great for the children to have a real teacher speaking to them and guiding them step by step through a lesson. The quizzes at the beginning and end of the lessons show clear progress. https://www.thenational.academy/
9. BBC Bitesize Programmes – Every morning, we have a break with fruit and a BBC Bitesize programme (found on BBC iPlayer). They enjoy the book club story, short bits of learning and the silly presenters. There are also lots of on-line lessons and activities. https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize
10. Hogwarts Homework – Every Monday at 10:30, Susie Sparkles (a children’s entertainer) provides 30 minutes of Harry Potter themed learning. Dressed as Professor McGonagall, she interacts with the children with quizzes, lessons and homework challenges. We’ve loved joining in by commenting on the Facebook video and sending in our homework. Favourites have included potion making, spell practice and a magical creatures quiz. Look for Susie Sparkles on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/susie.sparkles.3
11. Regular music practice with videoing – Most music lessons have stopped for a while but we’re trying to keep up with practising. Our children are enjoying making videos of the songs they’ve been learning to send to grandparents. Making a video has made them work that little bit harder and try their very best. We’ve been able to see progress week on week.
12. Lego with a Friend – Our son finds it really helpful to touch base with his best friend everyday via Facetime. They build Lego together, ask each other quiz questions, look at Star Wars books or just chat. It’s a bit of routine and normality.
13. Zoom Parties – We’ve used Zoom to host small get togethers for our children and their friends. With three or four friends on-line, we have had quizzes (Star Wars & Disney), scavenger hunts around the house (“Who can be the first person to find something with the Queen’s head on it?”), made crafts (Owl Origami Bookmarks) and eaten ice cream. It has been lovely for the children to have something to look forward to and to chat with their friends in a special way.
14. Board Games with Grandparents – Both sets of grandparents live quite far away anyway but during lockdown, we have had a lot of fun playing board games with them over Facetime. Family Trivial Pursuit has been particularly successful. We split into two teams and they make a third. They have their own dice and the kids move the counter around the board for them. We’ve spent a few really lovely family evenings together even though we can’t be physically together.
15. Keeping a Journal – Since the beginning of home learning, our children have been writing in a journal each evening. They simply list their best three things that happened that day and draw an emoji of how they’ve been feeling. We talk about what’s been great, what we can do to make tomorrow better and what we hope or pray for other people. This has been a lovely way to focus on the positives and be grateful for what we have. This can be done in any notebook but The Happy Self Journal is very helpful for focussing a child who is struggling with being at home. There are positive quotes, challenges and reflections to think about each day. It was recommended to us by the school Learning Mentor.
We don’t know how much longer we will all be at home but we are glad to have found some activities and a bit of a routine that makes things easier and home learning a bit more fun. One day, we’ll look back at 2020 as an incredibly unique time. I hope that our children will remember it as a very special time when we were all together.