Having been a childminder of children aged 0-11 for many years, I know I can help you to keep sane with some top-tips!
- PLAN. The days I tried to “wing” it were the days I ended up in tears!
- Children learn far more quickly with 1:1 so don’t expect to need to put the same hours in as they did at school.
- Remain disciplined. If you have rules and routine, they’ll quickly adapt, but if you waver, they will continually push the boundaries – and your patience!
- Split the days into different sections so they’re not doing one thing for too long.
- Don’t apologise to them for doing school work at home as you’re setting it as a negative – tell them home-schooling is fun. (But not more fun than school, otherwise you’re setting yourself up for a problem returning them after this is over!)
If you’re suffering from a little self-doubt, because you’re not a teacher, so how can you expect to teach your children, please don’t worry. According to the great Swiss philosopher, Jean Piaget, children learn best through play. The only thing new to you is “scaffolding”. This means that the play has to be structured in a way where once they have got good at something, you then create a little challenge to make it harder and let them continue to play to work it out. For example, when they create lots of snowmen out of playdough, ask them if they can make a dog. Let them try and if they find it too difficult, let them watch you making one then they can try again. Try not to step in too soon – they learn lots from failing. (FAIL = First Attempt In Learning.)
- Teach them to make their own breakfast. This will be great for when they go back to school, as it’s one less job for you. It’s okay if it takes them ages and it’s messy – you have time AND they can help clean up which teaches them why they should be more careful, rather than you just shouting at them to be careful. Talk to them about why they have breakfast, why it is important.
- Brush their own teeth and wash their own hands and faces (you can do it afterwards if you think it’s not good enough but just tell them it’s an extra clean). Talk to them about healthy teeth and preventing germs.
- Tidy their own bedroom, and make their beds. Do not be tempted to straighten their beds after they’ve made them. They need to have pride in what they do.
- Sit at a table to do some work that was sent from school. How long, is age dependent and child dependent – don’t push them for too long. Only help if they ask you for help. When you check their work, remember to always tell them something good about it (even if it’s only that they tried really hard) before telling them how to do the bits they got wrong.
- Celebrate their hard work by some free play in the garden. If it’s too cold wrap them up. If it’s too wet, put their wellies on and hoods up or umbrella, if it’s too hot, lotion them and create a shady area. The weather will kindly add variety to what they’re doing. Don’t be garden proud this summer. Everything can be fixed.
- They must wash their hands as soon as they’re in, then they can have a little snack which they can assemble. You just set the ingredients out. For example, some crackers, some butter that’s been out of the fridge for 10 minutes, some slices of cheese. Yes, it might take them ages to spread the butter, but they’ll get better and better at it with practice.
- Now it’s time for a little more school work (different subject from earlier)
- Lunch time is another lesson. They can help you to set the table, and make their lunch, even if it’s just stirring the soup with you and putting bread buns on the plates. Talk to them about what they’re eating, what about it is healthy and why and what is a treat.
- Time to play out again.
- Story time: Read a story (or chapter). Older children can read to themselves or each other. To engage children who have lost interest in stories, ask them to guess what is going to happen next, or what do they think they know about a character that they haven’t been explicitly told. They’ll be surprised how much is implied. They need to become reading detectives, then they’ll fall in love with reading. With reluctant/struggling readers, take turns per page or per paragraph – reading is exhausting until they become fluent.
- Constructive play. This can be playdough, creating pictures, lego, sticklebricks, board games, etcetera. It is important you take part with them, or it quickly goes wrong. It’s a great time for family bonding and conversation.
- To finish the day, they can phone an elderly relative or any friend or family who is self-isolating and tell them all about their wonderful day. Alternatively, they could write a letter or homemade card to send instead.
- Now all they have to do is tidy away their work and anything they played with. Plus, they can sort the washing for you or dust and vacuum one room.
- An important topic at Primary age is learning about the world around them. When they’re out in the garden, ask them to search for signs of life: little shoots coming up – will it be a flower or a weed? Who made those footprints? (Check out my book “Who Hides Here? Footprints in the Garden”) Talk about the seasons and why they’re important for plants to grow and which animals come out when.
- They can do fun exercises in the house or in the garden – when I was a gymnastics coach, we used to act out well known fairy tales and fables, for example Jack and the Beanstalk we would do giant steps for the giant and run away for Jack. We would pretend to be the goose, we would lie down and stretch ourselves as big as possible when the harp sent the giant to sleep, etcetera.
- Watch a short film then draw a story-board of what happened. Make up a new title. Design a DVD cover. Write a review/give it stars.
- On-line educational games.
- Sorting photographs and talking about past adventures, relatives, when you were young, when they were younger, etcetera.