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Homeschooling & Working From Home

As we endure yet another lockdown with the kids home from school and nursery and work to be done, like many other houses up and down the country, it’s very tense in our tiny two bed terrace.  This is why we’ve decided to put together a bit of an action plan, a sort-of semi tested guide to homeschooling & working from home/getting through the day with a demanding 4 year old whilst also getting some of our own work done

Getting the Kids Ready For Homeschooling

Morning Routine

This is something we haven’t let slip so far, mainly because the kids continue to get us up nice and early anyway. And when things do return to “normal” I think we’ll be glad because I don’t want the fight of them wanting to wear their PJs to school every day, we’ve only just gotten past it from Children in Need Day.

Exercise (Up to 30 mins if you’re lucky)

Getting a bit of outdoors exercise is the ideal, but we know how much hassle it is to get out the door with kids so if you can’t face it or can’t get away from the computer maybe pop on some music and have a boogey in the living room instead. I’m guessing every household in the UK has now heard of Joe Wicks and his PE classes on YouTube which are great and had us moving in lockdown #1, but we’ve found it’s good to mix it up each day.

These are some of our go to’s:

Snack Time

Every night we put some healthy snacks (and usually one less healthy snack) for the next day into their lunch bags and let them help themselves throughout the day. Keeping a couple of treats close to our desk is also a good idea, in case of an emergency. This allows them to be independent, it means you don’t lose track of what they’ve had and it’s one less thing to have to stop what you’re doing for.

Homeschool Lunchtime 

At least once a week we make up our lunch in the morning so that when lunchtime hits we can get outside for a walking picnic, even in the colder weather. It helps break up the week a bit and provides lots of opportunity for different conversations and learning, it’s also great for resetting ourselves if things have gotten a little stressful in the morning.

Some activities we’ve done on our lunchtime walks have been to:

  • Spot different shapes, numbers or letters we see
  • Talk about the frost and how water turns to ice
  • Collect twigs, leaves and other bits to inspect at home

Keeping The Kids Busy While You Work From Home

Screen Time for Entertainment (~20 mins x 2)

At the start of all this we were definitely guilty of not really keeping tabs on how long the TV & tablet was on for during the day. We found that our eldest had way less enthusiasm and energy and would get quite angry when we eventually turned them off. Whilst it seems like an easy way to keep them occupied it was really causing more tension and arguments in our house. We still allow tablet and TV time but it’s now limited to around 20 minutes at a time, no more than twice a day. We set a timer so that we all know when it’s time to move on to something else. It sounds quite regimented but it really helps us and stops the grievance being put on us when it’s time to switch off – argue with Alexa rather than me.

Screen Time for Learning (~20 mins x 2)

We’re not in the camp that screen time is all bad but as we mentioned above it’s good to have limits, that’s true when it comes to educational apps and videos too. The main apps we rely on right now are Welsh language ones, as that’s where we really need the extra help. There are also lots of brilliant ones for English phonics and reading, one of our favs is Teach my Monster How to Read. The Department for Education has a shortlist of 6 educational apps for 0-5 year olds that are definitely worth checking out, you can find them on the Hungry Little Minds site, which also has lots of ideas for activities to do with younger children.

Printables (2-10 mins per sheet)

Print out plenty of these and keep some of the ones you think your child will really love in a folder close to your desk, so you can quickly reach for them in an emergency ‘I’m bored’ situation.

There are lots of places to find free printable activity sheets for different abilities, we’ve found Pinterest is usually a great place to start our search. Sites like Twinkl.com are fantastic if you’re looking for activities by key stage and they offer some free starter packs.

We’ve also put together a free pack of our own here, full of colour ins and other activities from some of the wonderful brands we stock.

Free Activity Sheets

Busy tubs (10-20 mins for each tub)

These are simply tubs, baskets, boxes and even bowls that we put a few items in to initiate a mostly child-led activity.

Play dough and… pretty much anything that isn’t going to be ruined by play dough, like:

  • Toy tools – great for times when they seem a little destructive
  • Cake cases and cutters – be prepared for a play dough based snack
  • Stones, twigs and leaves – great to bring some nature inside
  • Letter/Number/Name sheets – Pop a sheet with a letter on in a polly pocket / plastic wallet or similar and they can use it as a guide to make the letter shape.
  • Rubbish or bits and bobs – we’re thinking more cleaned bottle tops and plastic food netting or keys, combs and anything that’s good for making prints and different textures in the dough.

Scissors and… scrap paper, clean plastic packaging, fabric scraps, veg peelings, play dough (we really love play dough). It’s a lovely calm activity and perfect for developing their fine motor skills. But this is one activity we’d advise you at least keep one eye on.

Paper, pencil & some household objects or toys to draw around. We love the simplicity of this and our eldest enjoys discovering what new items we’ve put in the box each day, it’s also helped expand her vocabulary.

Different sized pots, scoops and rice or water to pour, measure, mix and explore. You’ll want them to do this one somewhere where it’s easy to clean up (outside ideally but if you’ve got a tuff tray this is a great place to set it up too).

Magnifying glass & items they’ve collected from outside if you can’t get outside, then exploring different textures and angles inside the house can be a great option too.

Tape measure and vegetables or anything they can measure. We don’t expect them to measure accurately at all, it’s more about exploring the different sizes and the tape measure always seems to interest our eldest.

Coins – drag out that big jar of coins, they’re fab for counting, sorting by size, shape and colour, stacking and taking rubbings. If you can put up with the smell, put a small pot of white vinegar with the coins, it’s fun watching the coppers come out shiny.

Stones, twigs and some pictures or a book of insects, the idea being to recreate the different insects using the stones and twigs.

Mirror, Expression cards and drawing materials – The idea of this is to make each of the faces in the mirror and draw yourself. You can do it without the cards but we found them helpful for prompting different facial expressions.

Hole punch and leaves, clean plastic packaging or scraps of paper – you can use the punched holes for decorating a picture and the punched bits can go into a threading box for another day.

String/wool with tape wrapped around one end and things with holes in – we’ve used all sorts of things in this tub like pasta, cut up toilet rolls, leaves with holes punched in them (see above), even dressing up rings.

Single coloured object – we often use a big basket for this one, the object you start with is the prompt to find lots of other objects that are the same colour. Once they’ve filled the basket or box then they have to remember all the places they got the objects from to return them – the second part normally doesn’t happen, but it’s worth a try right 😂 ?

Single starting letter – Pretty much the same as the idea above but the prompt is a letter this time.

Homeschooling Busy Boxes

Books (5-10 mins)

Of course there’s no replacement for sitting down and reading with your children but with time against us we pull out a couple of different books each day for the girls to look at independently. We’ve also recorded us reading them onto our phones, then usually once a day we hand them the relevant book and play the recording through the living room speakers. It’s a heck of a lot cheaper version of a Tonies Box 😂 and works well for us so far.

Turn to social media for help

There are so many brilliant activity ideas on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram. Here are some of our favourite play accounts from Instagram:

@play_teach_repeat_
@mama_and_the_girls
@eyfsadventure
@mumma_and_elli_bee
@fredfinnrainbowmum
@freddieandoliver
@mymummyteacher

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