Never before has it been so important that we set up a place for our kids to learn at home. Yes, learning takes place everywhere from reading and watching documentaries on our couch, cooking in the kitchen, digging, growing, and harvesting in the garden and heading outdoors to explore nature. But, as we start the new school year with homework, the prospect that schools could close again, families home educating, distance learning, and virtual schooling it's worth taking a little time so you can be prepared. I'm sharing below what we are doing here in the Rainy Day Mum house to prepare.
If you have spent any time looking at homeschooling on the internet and Pinterest you will have discovered the gorgeous homeschooling rooms. It would be lovely to have this, but in all honesty, it's taken us 13 years just to have a house with a study where myself and Rainy Day Dad can work from home. So, although I do browse and pin them as I dream we have to be honest with ourselves that they are just not practical.
Instead, this is about how you can do it and get prepared for your kids learning at home this academic year. Whether it's completing homework set by school, homeschooling your school age kids or providing them with the best environment for distance and virtual learning.
If you have preschoolers or toddlers you may want to read our Supporting your Preschooler learning at home.
Learning at Home
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Learning at home takes many different forms from after-schooling (something we have always done with our kids), to homework set by the teacher and then in the last few months virtual, distance and homeschooling.
Part of the advice I'm going to share is the same advice I was given as a child, my parents did with us at home, then when I started teaching I passed on to my students and their parents and now do with my own kids when it comes to homework.
The other part of the advice is what I've learnt and put in place over the last few months as we've supported our eldest with virtual learning and home educated our youngest.
One of the things that you do need to grasp from the start, is that unless your child is doing virtual classrooms where the teacher sets the pace. Home learning can and will usually take a lot less time than a standard class session.
Homework, however, can be a different matter. I won't go into here my views as a teacher and parent on it. But, it can take from a few minutes to what seems to never end.
But, the basics of supporting your school age kids at home with their learning are the same.
Where to learn?
So kids learn anywhere, if it's reading you are doing then get comfortable. If it's writing then you ask any teacher that teachers handwriting to their students it's much easier to write on a hard surface in the correct sitting position.
So depending on what work you are doing with your kids is where you should advise them to learn.
We've got some examples below:
Get comfortable, make sure the light is good and get reading. The couch, their bed, on bean bags on the floor out in the garden under a tree. It really doesn't matter where you read just that you can see what you are reading and are comfortable.
Do they need to make notes? If then, it may be a good idea to move to a table or desk but make sure that the chair is comfortable. You want to be able to read the notes made again.
Digital and Virtual Learning and Lessons
Because there's a combination of work involved we set up at a desk or table. Both have been used over the last few months.
Ensure that you have something so that the screen can be raised to eye height - a tablet flat on a table means that your child will end up with neck ache if they have 2 or 3 hours of virtual learning a day.
Check out some of these ideas. You don't have to buy a new machine or specialised equipment.
If you can get a keyboard that will help instead of typing on the screen as they will quickly learn to type as well using both hands and multiple fingers.
Then they need enough space to write beside it when needed as they may need to make notes or answer questions on a worksheet or in a book. A chair that is comfortable to sit on for extended periods of time is good as well.
Setting aside a location that has a proper chair and a table rather than on their lap is important for helping to develop good work habits early on and will support their writing. If you have space then a table/desk that is a suitable height for the kids will help to establish a good pose for writing and help their handwriting as well.
From September, homework in our house will be done at a desk set up in our kitchen, at the kitchen table or in the bedrooms.
Depending on the type and how much support is needed is where it will be done. We're fortunate that this is now a possibility, however, it's only recent before all homework was done at the kitchen table.
Equipment to Support Learning At Home
So what's essential and what's desirable and what is not really needed at all.
Our essential equipment is as follows:
Basic supplies for writing and colouring as well as paper (boy did my kids use a lot of paper in the last few months). We found this set in the USA and this one in the UK that looks really good if you are just equipping yourself.
A dictionary and thesaurus are useful.
And lastly a printer - for homework to distance learning and for fun a printer has been essential. Having taught computer science and equipped classrooms and schools with printing equipment as well as use many at home we have a couple that we recommend.
The Epson EcoTank is our current printer, read our review to see why we love it. Prior to that, we had an HP Envy with an Instant Ink Subscription which made buying cartridges so often affordable - however, the EcoTank hasn't had to be refilled once since we got in October!
Set a time aside to do home learning
Not exactly a resource for a homework station but as important as anything else that you could do or provide. The homework may not be a lot - reading for 10 mins or learning some phonics/sight words but setting aside a time to do it is important and something that it is best to get children in the habit of is doing it on the day that it comes home and not the night before it's due in. We set aside time on a Saturday morning to complete the weekend homework, at the moment, both of the kids need me or my husband to sit with them and make sure that they understand the question as well as stay on focus.
Have a location to put new and finished homework
As a teacher each lesson when homework was due in I heard the excuses - I thought it was due in tomorrow, I lost it, I forgot to put it in my bag and yes I even heard my dog ate part of it (accompanied by a heavily chewed piece of homework that the dog had obviously eaten). So our first task was where to put it so that the kids never had that excuse. I got a set of trays from Ikea and we use them - a tray each and then a spare one for all of the school letters. It works really well.
Record when the homework is due in
This works whether the kids are little or whether they are much older. Yes, I said above to do homework when it arrives home but over time, you work out that Friday Night isn't a good night to do homework the kids are shattered and need a break. Monday night for us is difficult as well now as the kids have started swimming lessons! So instead of relying on the kids to memorise when homework is due in I record it on the calendar and can see when it is available.
As a secondary school teacher, one of the pieces of advice I gave the parents of teenagers is talking to the kids about what homework they have been given each day and together record when it is due in. It gives you an opportunity to talk about what is going on in lessons and hopefully, the homework should give you an idea of the work that they have been doing in class which can extend the after school questions. And that leads us onto the last point of a homework station Participating in the homework.
Participating in homework
No - don't do the homework for the kids but be there helping with the reading, learning phonics and words and anything else that needs to be done - this doesn't mean to do it for your child instead it's more of a helping them to work it out themselves and helping when they get stuck.
Supporting your Kids Learning at home
Ideas from other sites to support Learning
10 Ways to help kids get ready to learn - Mom to 2 posh Lil divas
Scholastic Success - Mama Smiles
Establishing a Bedtime Routine for Back to School - Mess for Less
Creating an After School Routine - Toddler Approved