A collection of common questions from parents and carers related to homeschooling.
“Like many, I’m working from home which means that as I’m physically present my daughter turns to me immediately for help if she doesn’t understand something (parent of 12 year old girl).
How can I support my child to work more independently?
There are lots of ideas to help support you encourage greater independence, but it may be useful to think about successful independent learning as three distinct but overlapping skills:
Getting resources ready:
- Do they have everything they need to hand?
- Are resources available, laptops charged up, instructions accessible?
- Knowing what the task is:
- Do they fully understand what it is that they need to do and what the first steps are?
2. Problem solving
When your child gets stuck, it can be tempting to give them the answer. Instead think about asking:
- What do you think you could do?
- Where might you be able to find out?
It may be necessary for them to carefully re-read the instructions, to review previous work, to call a school friend or email the teacher.
As tempting as it is to get them moving along quickly, encouraging them to problem solve for themselves can build satisfaction, confidence and a sense of achievement in young people.
Use prompts and clues to help remind them where they might be able to look for help or to remind them of something they might already know e.g.:
- So you’re not sure about that word. How could you work it out?
- Where did we look yesterday?
The key here is that we encourage children to check their work against the original activity throughout, not just when they’ve completed it.
If they only check when they’ve finished, they may find they have lost the point completely or gone entirely off track. This can lead to a sense of frustration and knock confidence.
At regular intervals, it can be useful to remind them to check back against the original instructions. Do they still understand what they need to do and have they included all the relevant parts?
More information and suggestions for independent learning:
How can I support my younger children’s learning and encourage communication?
Research from the UCL Institute of Education (IOE), as part of 'The Better Communication Research Project', suggests that we think about 3 key areas to help stimulate communication and learning for younger children.
- Open space is emphasised.
- Toys and objects are available for free-play.
- Children’s work is displayed and labelled.
- Displays invite discussion.
- There are specific reading areas.
- There are quiet, relaxing spaces.
Interactions with children
- Adults use child’s name.
- Adults get down to child’s level.
- Pacing is slow, with time to respond.
- Adults encourage turn-taking in conversation.
- Adults use props and real life examples.
- Adults use gestures, pictures and signs.
- Small group interactions are encouraged.
Creating opportunities to develop language and vocabulary
- Structured activities to stimulate talking.
- Interactive book reading, with prompt questions such as predictions and opinions.
- Including all children in group activities.
- Encouraging child-to-child talk.
- Opportunities for structured conversations with adults.
Find a range of other resources and more information on:
At school, my child has always struggled with listening and talking activities.
I’m worried that they will lose the skills they have learnt in school. Is there anything I can do to help?
One of the most important ways we can support children and young people at home is to extend their vocabulary and encourage dialogue and oracy (the ability to express oneself fluently and grammatically in speech).
Discussions about books or TV programmes can be structured in the following ways to support discussion:
- Predict: ask the child what they think will happen next?
- Summarise: can the child summarise what happened, in the right sequence? Can the detail be increased?
- Debate: ask whether the character did the right thing. What else could they have done? What would the child advise?
- Comparison: how are different scenarios/characters the same or different?
- Plot rewrite: could the story be told in a different way or at a different point in time?
Could the ending be different?
We have a range of other ideas:
There is also a wide range of resources to support parents:
- Resources for parents (The Communication Trust website)
For example, The Communication Trust Holiday Activities encourage talk and interaction:
- Summer Talk (The Communication Trust website)
My child is very anxious and sometimes their behaviour is very challenging.
What would you recommend?
There is a wide selection of charities, NHS and government advice on how to support young people and children to manage anxiety - all collated in:
Some young people find new situations and transitions very difficult. We have a selection of social stories from schools and Local Authorities to help children understand what is happening at the moment:
Some children need help managing transitions. We offer advice about creating routines:
My child struggles with reading and writing.
What resources are available to help them?
Resources and advice to support the education of children with dyslexia:
These charities also have sections offering specific guidance to parents:
- British Dyslexia Association website offers free resources and advice and a register of teachers who provide online paid-for lessons.
- International Dyslexia Association website - free advice for parents and links to free resources to teach children.
- What works? on the Sendgateway website - interventions and strategies to support children and young people with special educational needs, including processes and resources to support identification, monitoring and planning for children and young people. These are resources for parents that include top tips on supporting reading writing and spelling
- Advice and Guidance for Parents on the Children's Literacy Charity website - providing a 'Ready for Reading and Writing Pack' activity pack for parents to use at home. It includes activities with guidance notes that parents can use to help develop early reading and writing skills. There are also explanations of terminology that your child is using in school.
My child is 11 and has an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP). He is spending all of his time looking at Match Attack cards or asking to play Fifa on his Xbox.
Do you have any suggestions as to how we can include a wider range of learning into his week?
Utilising your child’s interests is a key approach to cover the breadth of the curriculum, we have some suggestions on how you can cover elements of the curriculum through his interest of football.
Suggestions for a number of ways you can access learning through a football focus:
I am at home, working hard on home schooling. I don’t know if I’m doing a good enough job.
During this challenging time, the wellbeing of yourself and your family is paramount.
It is important not to worry too much about academic attainment, but follow your child’s school programme as much as possible.
UCL Centre for Inclusive Education took part in a podcast for the BBC World Service, where we answered several questions similar to yours. It might be helpful:
- Homeschooling during Covid-19 (BBC website)
There are also a number of organisations with a wide range of resources to support people with frustration and anxiety:
My child is having difficulty paying attention/staying on task
Sometimes it is important to incorporate regular movement breaks.
Having a routine can be also be helpful, particularly if school tasks can be broken into small manageable chunks.
We have collected a few ideas to help with establishing routines, using visual timetables and visual cues such as ‘Now and next’ cards:
For new ideas every day, the BBC is updating their site daily to support parents with new lessons:
My child won’t do any of the school-work set. They say they are bored.
It might be helpful to talk to school staff who know your child well to see if there is specific advice they may have to support you.
Some children do, however, work well in a structured environment such as school and find the less structured environment at home more difficult. You may find the 'Managing the transition to home schooling' (linked above) helpful in constructing and planning a routine that works for all of you.
If all else fails, there are many things that can be achieved through learning about areas your child naturally finds interesting.
To encourage academic skills through areas of interest, we have compiled a list of resources related to:
Good resources which encourage academic skills related to special interests:
My child is worried about the future
We have compiled a number of useful resources to help children and young people manage anxiety and other mental health concerns:
We also have collated a selection of Apps and Helplines related to Mental Health and Wellbeing:
My child has Autism. Do you have any advice?
We have a section is full of ideas, including special Apps designed for people with autism to manage anxiety, plus social stories to explain coronavirus and the changes to lifestyle as a result of it:
Are there any special resources for maths?
You can find a wide range of ideas and resources on our section on maths, numeracy and numbers.
One of our Institute of Education colleagues, Dr Jennie Golding, made the following suggestions to support children with maths difficulties:
- Young children learn about number, number language, and matching, by e.g. setting the table and being talked through that (one spoon each: one for mummy, one for Sam, ….and then count them), or sorting out the dry washing – and those activities can also include words around size and position.
- Children benefit from using informal measures of height, weight, volume, distance (taller than me, weighs about the same as a bag of sugar, a cup full of cereal, from here to the clock tower…) in their early years, and then moving to more standard units.
- Cooking, including following a recipe, is a great way to develop their sense of key measures, as well as of sequencing and cooking time.
- Gardening, similarly, includes many mathematical ideas around sequencing, weight, volume, distance, number, pattern, time..: there is enormous benefit in just talking with children about the thinking that’s going on as you share jobs.
- ‘I spy’ and other informal games can build measures and position language: ‘I spy with my little eye, something that’s in front of the table and is about twice as high as the lego box...’ (or, for older children, 60 cm high)
- On sunny days, shadows are fun. How does the direction and length of your shadow change through the day? (Why?) How could you record that?
- For younger children, use informal measures: for example, how many shoes long?
- For slightly older children, it’s a great opportunity to build up understanding of what cms. and metres look like…
- Informally recorded 'plans for the day' help develop security, sequencing and sense of time, and can be expanded with the day/date, and illustrated with the weather.
- Make patterns with stones or leaves in the garden.
- With your child, watch the cars passing the window for 5 minutes each day at the same time. Decide how to record what you see. What is the same, and what is different, each day?
- Board and card games support number language, strategic thinking and social skills.
- Kitchen, or free digital, timers, can build a sense of time (and fun, and urgency!): stopwatch website has a good selection.
- Construction toys and jigsaw puzzles develop sequencing, spatial problem solving, strategic thinking and resilience, especially if there’s also someone to talk to.
- ‘Shape pictures’ can develop shape language and imagination: can you draw a picture that uses just 3 small triangles, 2 medium squares, a big and a small circle, and some wiggles?
- Involve children in discussions about financial decisions, budgeting, online shopping….
- If your child’s school wants them to do ‘formal’ maths while they’re at home, parents can support by asking the child to explain how they normally work, looking back at previous work, and encouraging them to make sense of what they’re being asked to do. ‘I don’t know, let’s find out’ is a good approach if you’re both stuck.
- Age ranges given on toys, games and puzzles are rough guides only: your child will know if they find an activity absorbing, and might well be able to suggest variations.
Are there any special resources for spelling, reading or writing?
We have a whole section devoted to support for literacy - this was designed by our team running our Specific Learning Difficulties (Dyslexia) MA, Elizabeth Herbert, Gill Brackenbury and Dr Emma Sumner:
Do you have any summer holiday resources and ideas for activities for my children and/or the whole family?
We have dedicated sections on school holiday ideas, where you can find a wealth of different resources:
Some of the resources include:
Lots of summer ideas for getting families out and about on their bikes:
- Four weeks of fun and educational resources and activity ideas for families (Sustrans website)
Online and zoom art tutorials for pupils of all ages:
- Art classes for children aged 6-16 and adults (art-K website)
Lots of ideas for both inside and outside activities:
- The Great Indoors (Scouts website)
Advice and support for the challenges of summer holidays:
- Disabled Children's Partnership website
Advice on preparing for the summer holidays for children with autism:
A range of ideas for games and activities for children with disabilities:
• Fun things to try with disabled children (Family Lives website)
At-home experiment ideas for all ages and abilities:
- At-Home Resources for Kids (and their grownups) on KiwiCo website
Fun lockdown activities for all ages:
- 40 fun things to do with the kids in lockdown (Wales Online website)
How can I support my child to be ready for the return to school after such a long period of absence?
Whilst many children will be excited to get back to school, there is also likely to be much anxiety around returning after such a long period of absence.
Prepare early and consider:
- rehearsing routines
- reconnecting with friends
- the use of visuals to show new teachers and classrooms
- practising the journey to school - how might this look different?
- checking off any work missed during lockdown may help to ease anxiety.
You can find more resources and tips on supporting the transition back into school:
Who can I speak to about my concerns?
UCL Centre for Inclusive Education is very happy to hear from parents: we do our best to answer all questions.
If you need urgent mental health support, see our page above or call one of these helplines:
- Mental health helplines (NHS website)