Home schooling during Coronavirus

Home schooling continues to be faced by more parents than ever before. Before the first school closures in 2020, less than 1% of students in the UK were home educated; who would have thought that it would become the norm? SLT has over 10 years of experience in creating successful home schooling programmes for children from age four into adulthood. English teacher, private tutor and journalist, Kristina Murkett, writes a detailed guide on strategies for improving your child’s education at home.

Tailor everything to your child’s needs

It may be tempting to insist that your household runs on the same old routine each day, however we suggest that you create a routine that is tailored specifically to your child’s needs and age. Each of the home schooling students we work with have a completely different timetable to suit their needs. Parents are often surprised to realise that with home schooling, your child can learn when and how works best for them. Study periods, or lesson time, can take place around a commitment to a child’s talent or academic interests, as well as all-important physical activity. Studies show (Kelley et al (2014)) that tailored start times can have a big impact on attainment.

  • Kelley suggests that, “student start times should be 8:30am or later at age 10; 10am or later at 16; and 11am or later at 18, and that synchronising education start times would enable immediate advances in attainment.”
  • The Sleep Project suggests that by changing the school start time from 9am to 10am, teenagers will, “simply be more awake, alert and ready to learn.”
  • Hampton Court School Sixth form lessons start at 1.30pm and finish at 7pm. In their words, ‘ the later start time and condensed day affords students more independence over how they structure their day, and makes the best use of the 168 hours each week’.

Create a routine and stick to it

Although it may be new and different to a, ‘typical’ school day, once you have established a routine that works, stick to it. We have found that flexibility to try what works, and what doesn’t, within the first week or two of home schooling is helpful. But once tried and tested, it is imperative that the routine is maintained. The most successful home schooling schedules include 7 days of the week, and additional non-academic activities in hour-long time slots throughout the day.

Get practical

  • Work together to create a dedicated area for you and your child to work in. These could be together or separately, depending on the space available to you, the age of your child and the routine(s) you have decided upon.
  • Have open conversations with your child about both the challenges and opportunities created by the current necessity for home schooling. You can discuss the possible educational scenarios that you are preparing for, whether this is to do with regular school work, preparation for a new school or GCSE and A-Level grades. To reduce anxiety, reassure them that they are in the same boat as students all over the world. Their future academic journey will not be prejudiced by any delays they face now.
  • Once you have an idea of what subjects need to be covered (more on this below), establish who in the family will be the authority on each subject. Splitting this between parents or older siblings will reduce the pressure on one family member, make education at home less chaotic and allow you to know what you need external help with.

Ask the experts

Your school has been planning for distance learning. However, the quality, consistency and reliability of the resources provided, as well as advice on how these should be used, will vary greatly.

  • Do not shy away from contacting your child’s class, subject teacher, or head of year for resources and advice about what your child needs to focus on.
  • The National curriculum website can be useful to establish what your child has covered and what comes next.
  • For students preparing for GCSE and A-Levels, look at the exam board websites. Each exam board typically publishes the specification and past papers for each subject and level that they offer a qualification in.

Wellness and Enrichment

While socialisation will be difficult in the following weeks, there are ways that wellness and enrichment can be promoted at home. Our recommendations include:

  • Online museum tours. Although they cannot visit exhibits, your child can walk through them virtually. Travel and Leisure has a list of worldwide museums, including the British Museum and the Smithsonian museum in Washington D.C. For a theatre or musically inclined child, the Met Opera in New York are posting live streams of previous performances, which will be available for up to 20 hours after posting.
  • Meditation. Apps such as Calm and Headspace are a good resource for GCSE, A-Level and IB students who are worried about impending exams and how they might be affected.


Our recommendations:

National Geographic Kids (children age 5-11)

National Geographic Kids is a great website for helping your child stay engaged with the natural world while they are stuck inside. It has dozens of games, videos, science tutorials, animal fact files and cloze exercises to keep students occupied for hours, and can also provide inspiration for longer projects. Parents could get their child to research particular dinosaurs, write their own story including animal characters, draw and label different plants or write their own quiz on the natural world. National Geographic Kids also has its own YouTube channel where students can watch fascinating videos that would also work as stimulus for creative writing.

Help My Kid Learn (children age 5-12)

Help My Kid Learn was developed by the Department of Education and skills as part of the National Strategy to Improve Literacy and Numeracy among Children and Young People. However, it does more than just help children’s reading. Once users have inputted their child’s age they are given a variety of different activities, each one centered around either talking, playing, reading, writing or counting. It also offers dozens of activities for pre-school children (aged 0-4) and Year 7 students (aged 11-12), as well as plenty of suggestions for students who are interested in art, music and drama.

BBC Bitesize (children age 5 – GCSE)

BBC Bitesize is one of the most comprehensive online resources available; it really does have something for everyone. Users can search by age, subject and exam board, and then create their own ‘Bitesize page’ with all of their relevant topics. The site also has helpful guided ‘lessons’ with a topic overview, suggested activities, videos and quizzes, and so it would be easy for parents to set their child one or two of these to complete a day. Older, more able students may want more of a stretch and challenge, and so revision guides such as CGP Books could be used in conjunction with Bitesize.

Seneca Learning (children age 7 to A-Level)

Seneca Learning is a free learning platform designed by neuroscientists that has been proven to help students revise; in a randomised control trial with over 1000 participants, those using Seneca for a month scored twice as many marks as those using a traditional revision guide. All of the courses have been written by senior examiners and are continually updated, so parents can be assured that the content matches the exam’s specifications (you can also search by particular exam boards). Parents can also get real-time updates on their child’s progress, and see statistics on time spent learning, average scores, sessions completed and correct answers.

Home Learning Timetable (children age 11-16)

Home Learning Timetable is an excellent choice for those looking for breadth as well as depth. Everyday Home Learning Timetable uploads three links to different educational resources depending on whether a student is in KS3, Year 10 or Year 11 – for example, a KS3 student may be given links to how to design their own paper airplane, how to improve their touch typing, and a Horrible Histories video on BBC iPlayer. They also offer a range of courses outside the national curriculum – their Year 11 page includes links to sites on financial education, learning to code, learning to make a podcast, drawing cartoons and even how to learn sign language.

TED-Ed (children age 14 upwards, GCSE & A-Level)

Ted-Ed, from the creators of TED Talks, is another useful YouTube channel that shares beautifully animated videos on a huge variety of topics. Students can learn about “a day in the life” of different historical periods, real world mathematical problems, classical and contemporary poetry and even how to code. Whilst the videos are less focused on exam content, they are an excellent way of building up a student’s general knowledge, and Sixth Formers in particular may find them helpful in broadening their horizons and interests before making UCAS applications.

In Our Time (GCSE and A-Level Students)

In Our Time is a BBC Radio podcast that offers 45 minute-long discussions about a range of historical, philosophical, scientific, literary, cultural and religious topics, and is an ideal way for students to challenge themselves and consolidate their learning. For example, A-level Religion and Philosophy students might be interested in finding out more about the Enlightenment ideal of Deism, or GCSE English Literature students may want to listen to the episode on Macbeth. It’s also a great way of reducing screen time as students only have to listen rather than watch.

Gresham Lectures (A-Level students)

Gresham College’s renowned lecture series is now available to watch online for free, and is an excellent opportunity for older students to be exposed to university-level discussion. Each lecture is an hour long, and is given by a leading academic or expert in their particular field. There are literally hundreds of videos to choose from – students can learn about Social Darwinism, Plato’s philosophy, the potential of artificial intelligence, looking for life on Mars, or even watch Chris Whitty’s upcoming series on vaccinations.

Crash Course 

Crash Course is a YouTube channel that provides educational videos in everything from anatomy, engineering to world history. Whilst Crash Course is more suitable for secondary school pupils, the founders also recently launched Crash Course Kids, which offers dozens of science videos for primary school pupils. The popularity of Crash Course – it has over 10 million subscribers and 1 billion video views – is testament to how it manages to provide consistently excellent content that is both informative and engaging.

Top Marks (all ages)

Top Marks helpfully compiles all the best educational websites into one place. Users can search by subject and age group and find everything from the National Gallery Online Art Collection to a Young Person’s Guide To The Orchestra to Kitchen Chemistry Science Experiments. Due to the sheer volume of resources younger students may need help finding the relevant pages, but with a bit of filtering there is enough on Top Marks to keep students occupied for weeks!

Using a tutor to help with online schooling

We understand that some parents and pupils are frustrated by the varying quality of teaching online provided by their schools. Particularly for younger pupils, engagement in an online classroom is difficult and parents do not have the time to supervise the work set by teachers. Using a professional, highly vetted and experienced online tutor will negate the academic impact of the lockdown. Rest assured that the one-to-one lessons provided by a private tutor who is an expert at teaching online, are of a completely different nature to the online learning provided by schools.

For older pupils, particularly those in their final year of GCSE’s and A-Levels, the uncertainty around 2021 assessment methods will cause anxiety. Last summer, teacher led assessments were used in favour of algorithms but what this year’s “alternative arrangements” will be are unknown. However, it remains imperative that students continue to finish and consolidate the curriculum for each subject, not only ready for assessments in whatever form they take, but for the next stage in their education as well. Education is not just about getting the right grades, your child also needs the knowledge required for them to cope with the rigorous academic challenges of their next examinations, or at University.

Regular lessons with a tutor each week will prevent your child’s attainment from declining and in many cases will improve it. Your tutor can manage all of your child’s workload, help with schoolwork and homework set, and ensure they do not fall behind in key areas. The tutors that we represent have been teaching online for many years and use a variety of engaging techniques that are tailored to each pupil. They are also motivators, mentors and coaches who can manage your child’s education.

Simply Learning Tuition has over 10 years’ experience in long term home schooling support and we work with tutors who are dedicated experts in this area. The lessons they provide will keep learning fun, boost mental wellbeing and give you time off to focus on your own work. They will negate the learning loss caused by school closures and exam cancellations, whatever the age of your child.

How much tuition would my child need?

Using a tutor during school closures can take the form of either i) supplementary lessons each week, in addition to online school hours, or ii) a more rigorous programme akin to programmes that we create for the home schooled pupils that we work with. The set up for each pupil varies widely by school and age, for some pupils they are required to ‘check in’ with school once or twice per day and working with a tutor every day between these check ins will ensure they keep on track. For other pupils, using a tutor in a supplementary capacity once or twice a week will be more appropriate. Our Education Consultants would be delighted to discuss your child’s particular circumstances with you and suggest the best course of action.

While online platforms and resources are a fantastic way to conduct or boost your child’s learning, just like at school, successful home schooling programmes rely on expert teaching to consolidate independent research, exploration and study. At Simply Learning Tuition we can introduce tutors of the highest calibre to help with all parts of your child’s home education. If you would like to discuss tutoring, would welcome some advice on how to best support your child, or the latest updates in education, please do not hesitate to contact us.