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Top tips for staying sane whilst homeschooling

Strategies for successful homeschooling, tried and tested by Quadmark’s working parents.

The start of 2021 has seen a return to homeschooling across the UK. Parents once again find themselves juggling work commitments and household tasks while trying to educate their children. And unlike the first lockdown, the wintry weather makes outdoor adventures less appealing. But one silver lining is that we’ve done this before and have learned some valuable lessons along the way.

Homeschooling isn’t a new phenomenon. In 2019, it was estimated that around 2.5 million children in the USA were taught by their parents, at home.1 And, while the legality and popularity of homeschooling varies around the globe, research has shown that it can be successful.

We’ve chatted with some of Quadmark’s L&D experts who just so happen to be parents too, and have 3 research-led strategies for making homeschooling primary school aged children that little bit more enjoyable.

A phone on a tripod. The screen shows a teacher wearing a medical mask and reading aloud from the school schedule

1. Scrap the timetable

School timetables are planned with military precision. They consider breaks and lunches, how long children should spend studying each subject, and who will teach every class. For a parent hoping to replicate the curriculum, it can be intimidating. Struggling to stick to a timetable when children are reluctant to learn can make parents feel that they just can’t get it right. In fact, when surveyed, over 60% of Quadmark parents had ditched timetables altogether.

Dr Harriet Pattison, a senior lecturer in Early Childhood, recommends moving away from a timetabled approach and introducing child-led learning.2 When learning is child-led, it takes into account the child’s interests and motivations, as well as when they want to learn. It relies on natural curiosity. The parent is still involved in the learning process, and acts as a guide during fun activities and games that may grow and change organically.

This approach to learning isn’t limited to younger children. As we get older, self-directed learning — the ability to identify and reflect on our own learning needs, and to manage our own learning experiences — becomes an important skill, both in education and the workplace.3 The benefits of either approach include improved self-esteem and knowledge retention, not to mention less pressure for parents!

Selection of photographs showing children cooking, gardening, and creating art.

Some parent-favorite examples of child-led learning include: 

  • Building LEGO models
  • Baking or cooking from a recipe
  • Experimenting with art materials
  • Creating a shopping list, or helping to read labels as the shopping is put away
  • Reading books the child enjoys
  • Setting up a pretend shop using play money (or counting real money for sweets. Ssshh!)
  • Science experiments with household items
  • Planting a windowsill herb garden

These examples develop numeracy and literacy skills, spatial awareness, social skills, and creativity. Choose niche subjects that appeal to personal tastes too, such as the ocean and the natural world, sports they love or a favorite animal. A firm Quadmark favorite is getting the children to help with household chores. Activities like making the bed and helping to clean teach valuable skills that can’t be taught in a classroom.

A graph showing that student attainment using microlearning principles was much greater than using traditional principles

2. Embrace microlearning

Microlearning delivers short bursts of material for learners to study at their convenience. It’s traditionally associated with e-learning and is becoming increasingly popular as a corporate training solution. This is because microlearning is more engaging and less time consuming than traditional e-learning.4 But what’s that got to do with homeschooling children?

A study in the International Journal of Educational Research Review explored microlearning in a primary school context. The study compared the results of microlearning with the results of traditional teaching methods. The students who were taught using microlearning performed, on average, 18% better on a test than the students who were taught traditionally.5

In addition to helping students retain information, microlearning can also help parents make learning flexible and fun. Microlearning can be slotted in throughout the day to suit the family schedule, and to take advantage of moments of natural curiosity. Activities can be structured around a variety of topics, such as numeracy, literacy, history, science, and art.

Microlearning activities prefered by the children in the study include:

  • Brief games and activities

  • Watching short video clips

  • Flashcards

  • Making and displaying posters and infographics

  • Telling and listening to stories

Although not a part of the study, corporate microlearning also utilizes:

  • Quizzes

  • Audio clips, such as speech or music

  • Online games and activities

  • Maths and English apps

Microlearning is particularly effective when the key learning is repeated frequently in a variety ways, with opportunities to put the learning into practice. One Quadmark parent suggests keeping activities to 15 minutes, and doing little and often throughout the day. Another’s children particularly enjoy listening to stories told by their aunt over a video call.

3. Refuel and refresh

We’ve all heard that staying hydrated can boost concentration, there's no denying how difficult it is to focus if you're hungry or tired. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs suggests that we are motivated to satisfy basic requirements, such as eating, drinking, resting, being comfortable, and having social stimulation before we are motivated to learn. This is even clearer when it comes to children.

Pyramid of Maslow's Hierarchy of needs

To be engaged in learning, the first three tiers of the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs should be met. For children to become highly engaged with learning activities, the fourth level should also be satisfied.

During school closures, many parents have expressed frustrations that their children won’t get their books out and learn, or won’t log on to their virtual classes. While we don’t have a cure-all for that reluctance, we do have some suggestions based on Maslow’s theory that might help.

Some suggestions include:

  • Keep healthy snacks at hand

  • Prepare a jug of water or juice for the learning area

  • Take regular breaks

  • Incorporate stretching or gentle exercise into your day, especially if you can get outdoors

  • Embrace nap times

  • Make the learning area comfortable and warm

  • Arrange video calls with family members your child might be missing

  • Reassure your child that it is alright to make mistakes while learning

  • Offer your child plenty of praise when they successfully complete a task

  • Make time to play games and socialize with your child without worrying about learning

  • Introduce creative activities, like painting or playing an instrument

One Quadmark parent suggested turning your walks into a scavenger hunt, and another recommended reading signs as a great way to encourage your child’s literacy skills — all while getting that much-needed fresh air.

Final thought..

The biggest takeaway from speaking to our working parents has been that everyone is struggling. If you feel like you can’t do it, you’re not alone. Our favorite Quadmarker tip was to set little goals, and don’t worry too much if you don’t quite meet them.

Get in touch with the team if you have any questions, or you’d like to talk to us about how we can help implement successful learning techniques in your place of work.

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