Entertaining and educating children during lockdown

Child home learning

In these extraordinary times, children have already been out of school for longer than the normal summer holiday period. And while the long-term impact can only be estimated, the challenges of trying to educate and entertain children at home are quite tangible for parents up and down the country. How can you keep kids amused after almost eight weeks of social isolation, let alone replicate the activities their experienced teachers would ordinarily be providing?

Although some children might argue academic learning is a boring necessity, it doesn’t have to be. Even a subject as seemingly colourless as maths can be brought to life with some flair and originality. A modest amount of learning could even be a refreshing change as kids grow tired of playing in the garden and sitting in front of the TV or games console? And with some clever planning, it’s possible to entertain and educate your children at the same time…

Substitute teachers?

Home schooling can never replicate the chemistry labs and gym equipment of a typical school campus and parents aren’t expected to cover the full syllabus. Instead, try to ensure children spend at least part of each day doing educational activities, so their eventual return to fixed lesson plans won’t be too much of a shock to the system. It’s likely your child’s school will have provided some guidance around suggested timetables and topics, whilst acknowledging that everyone’s circumstances are different and key to success is finding a solution that works for your family.

Try to think of interactive ways to approach teaching. Children are far more likely to remember practical activities than textbook learning, so you could help them to bake a cake and then chop it into slices representing fractions. Blindfold them and get them to stick a pin in a map, before spending half an hour researching the history/geography/culture of that country and writing a short story about what kids their age get up to there. Any written work can then be used to refine handwriting/punctuation/grammar, while encouraging children to play with word processor spelling/thesaurus tools, represents stealth learning at its finest. The same is true of involving them in household finances, or recipe-based shopping lists. Even gardening provides an opportunity to discuss plant species and the food chain.

Online salvation

As with so many aspects of lockdown, the internet has been a blessing. ‘Education Otherwise’ has been providing home-schooling help since 1977 and links on its website range from IT and engineering resources to geology and languages. Earlier this month, the UK Government published its own array of online home education resources. The maths section alone links to over 20 sites, including downloadable resource packs for children of all ages and predicted grade levels. There are interactive games, video lessons and problem-solving exercises, with a number of CBeebies tie-ins for pre-schoolers.

Many local schools have published resources for parents and some are now using online platforms such as Microsoft Teams for issuing assignments, providing feedback and encouraging playground chat between class members, while web-based live lessons and assemblies tie into the social media vogue for livestreaming. YouTube remains an invaluable source of information, and don’t be afraid to direct children to Wikipedia. The latter is far more accurate and detailed than its reputation suggests, with over six million content pages awaiting discovery. The page on Henry VIII is a lovingly-assembled 12,000-word biography, backed up with hundreds of links to books, encyclopaedias, scholarly studies and other authenticated references. A history-obsessed child would expand their knowledge without even realising – and parents might learn a few things along the way, too!

Staying sane

It’s really important to remember that the key is to maintain as much equilibrium as possible in your household. If you’re juggling working from home and multiple siblings, don’t beat yourself up for not being a super-powered parent. Complete as much or as little home learning as you can and at your own pace, whilst keeping all family members safe and sane. And rest assured that the vast majority of people are in the same boat!

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