One of the biggest challenges we face when homeschooling, is helping our kids focus at home.
School is set up for learning: the classroom, the rituals, the structure. And the fact that there is a teacher and learning assistant to engage and motivate pupils.
When home is your classroom there are all sorts of things can become distractions.
From small things like the washing machine whirring or the dog wandering around. To the big things like having toys, TV and the garden nearby.
All more appealing than tackling times tables or tricky spellings.
So how on earth do you keep your child focused when they are learning from home?
Here are 10 creative and easy hacks to help kids study from home more effectively.
Be Purposeful When Creating Your Own Family Schedule
A schedule is often the key to making homeschooling work.
To create your own schedule it helps to divide the day into chunks of time, each one with its own activity or purpose.
If you have any particular goals, think about what you want to achieve in that week or month. Then plan out how you can reach these goals.
The beauty of learning at home is that you can create entirely your own schedule. It can be based based around your particular child’s or family’s needs.
This is an example of what a daily homeschool schedule might look like. It’s just a guide, yours may look completely different.
Sample Daily Homeschooling Routine
|7-8 am||Breakfast / Getting dressed|
|8-9:30 am||Learning activities|
|9:30-11 am||Free play / Outdoor time / Exploring|
|11-12:30 pm||Learning activities|
|1-3 pm||Quiet time / Reading / Stories / Snack|
|3-4 pm||Creative activity|
|4-5:30 pm||Free play / Outdoor time / Exploring|
|6-7:30 pm||Relax, bath and bedtime routine|
You could also write more details about what you want to achieve each week on your schedule.
For toddlers and young kids it helps to pin up little cards with drawings to let them know what their day will look like.
Give Kids Permission to Plan Their Day
It can often become a battle of the wills between parent and child to get kids to study at home.
We take on the traditional role of teacher, and child must take on the role of obedient student.
However we’re not teachers, we’re parents, so get a lot more attitude in return.
It can help a great deal to allow our child to control their day. They still have to do certain learning activities like maths, english or science, but let them decide which one they want to begin with.
What do they want to do next? How would they like to plan their day.
They can write out their own ‘schedule’ if they would like, as long as it includes the subjects they need to do.
Give them control over their environment and their learning. And they may become more passionate about what they’re studying.
Create a Quiet and Inspiring Work Space
It’s difficult for anyone to work in a messy or cluttered space. Or if they’re slouching on the sofa or writing on the floor.
Set up a space on a desk or table with enough room to spread out books, worksheets and perhaps a laptop.
Ideally have it in a quiet part of the house away from enticing TV screens or toys.
Add something beautiful for them there like a family photograph, a flower or a craft they’ve made. It all makes starting homework a lot more appealing.
Organise pencils, rubbers and stationery where your child can reach them so that they can get supplies for themselves.
They can even take ownership of labelling and decorating their exercise books and organising their own workspaces.
Start with Learning Games
We’re understanding more and more the importance of play in engaging children and helping them learn.
Before they get stuck into a black-and-white worksheet of maths sums or written task, let them play a learning game.
It could be a simple activity like a word search, a logic game or a printable reading game with dice.
There are a number of fantastic learning board games that you can purchase and keep on hand for study sessions.
These games are still learning-based but the fact that they’re fun, can help your child to sit down and engage with learning more easily and willingly.
Break up the Day with Physical Activity
If your child has lots of pent up energy or a short attention span then planning some outdoor time can help.
Any teacher will tell you that lessons after a rainy day playtime are much tougher as kids have had to stay cooped up indoors.
They learn much better when they’ve been allowed out to rush around and play outside.
You could break up learning sessions with some kind of physical activity. Anything that gets your child active and moving.
A bounce on the trampoline, a walk or scoot or bike ride at lunchtime or even a boogie in your living room.
The more chances your child gets to move, the easier they’ll find it to sit and focus on work afterwards.
Let Siblings Learn Together
Don’t be afraid to do learning activities for more than 1 child, even if they’re different ages.
They don’t all need to do separate ‘classes’ of the same subject.
For example they can do scientific experiments or art activities together as these can be done across age groups.
You could even combine some core subjects like Maths and English to an extent.
Your 3 year old may not understand the sums and adding that your 5 year old is learning.
But she can still absorb the numbers and counting that you’re doing as part of teaching your older child how to add.
You can also let older siblings teach younger ones.
It’s an incredible way to empower them and let them feel valued as a member of your ‘homeschool’.
They feel grown up and have a sense of achievement when they are given the responsibility to teach what they know.
Use Calming Tools
Some children benefit from having a ‘calming tool‘ on their desk when they sit down to study at home.
You could give them a stress ball or a car they can move back and forth.
Fidget spinners have also become wildly popular in recent years.
Although many articles praise fidget spinners for helping kids focus (particularly those with ADHD) this is yet to be proven through scientific evidence.
Some parents love them, others feel they are a distraction. So it’s entirely up to you if you want to give the fidget-spinning craze a try.
Alternatively something as simple as having a small snack while working can help. It makes starting homework more appealing.
Learn Through Play and Exploration
Not all learning has to take place at a desk with a paper and pen in hand. Some of the best learning can happen away from the home ‘classroom’.
If your child is tired of studying indoors, why not move it outside? You could study in the garden or in a local outdoor space.
Go out and explore and learn in different environments.
History can be brought to life through trips to museums, or castles.
Especially when the interest it sparks is followed up by research through books or online.
Science can be understood by doing hands-on experiments.
So many other physical activities, such as baking, sewing and gardening, can teach valuable skills.
Your child might be fascinated by special topics like space. At school there might not have been much chance to really explore this. Now’s your opportunity.
You could visit an observatory and see the stars. You could read books and watch documentaries about life on a space rocket.
You could make models at home of rockets and planets in the solar system…
Take your chance to escape the traditional idea of learning at a desk.
Put Some Music On
Remember as a teenager that your parents used to get mad at you when you played music while you studied?
And you insisted it helped you focus? Turns out you were right.
A Stanford study found that music engages the parts of the brain involved with attention and memory.
It can really help some children focus on the task at hand.
If your child is easily distracted then try playing some classical or calm music through headphones to help them concentrate.
Offer Rewards for Good Work
At school your child would get their work marked and lots of feedback and rewards for doing it well.
They might have been made ‘Star of the Week’ or had their story read out to the class. They might have had their artwork hung up in the school entrance hall.
This praise goes a long way to building a child’s self esteem. It motivates them to continue working hard to achieve their goals.
During homeschooling, your child needs this kind of praise and reward too.
You can buy stamps and stickers to mark work.
You can hang up amazing artwork on the fridge.
You can be overheard telling Grandma how proud you are of how well your child has worked on a certain task.
You can also offer tangible rewards like treats or a movie night with pizza or a family trip out.
Incentives are a part of everyday life and it’s OK to reward your child for working hard and focusing well.
The beauty of homeschooling is that it’s flexible. You can decide how to make it work best for both you and your child.
You might not get everything right the first time. But, as you go along, you’ll learn what works best and how to keep your child engaged.
In the meantime you might find that you explore new things together, that you wouldn’t otherwise have been able to do.
Free resources for homeschooling:
Here are some of the best sites to get ideas, activities, videos, games and worksheets for homeschooling.
Many are offering their resources for free during the school closure period due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Online learning resources and curriculum for older children
There are a number of virtual learning platforms for older children.
If you want your child to follow a school based curriculum at home to work towards exams then these could be useful.
You do have to pay but you get access to a structured curriculum of work, set out in modules with assessments to check their progress.
You also get access to textbooks, videos and resources online as well as an online tutor.
Your child can work towards sitting nationally recognised exams (such as IGCSE, A levels and Highers) at a local college or centre that accepts private candidates:
Celeb ‘school’ during the corona quarantine
At the time of publishing, the UK is in lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Celebrities have gone out of their way to set up online sessions for kids to learn everything from maths to music.
Here are some of the ways your child can attend online ‘celeb school’:
The Great Indoors with Bear Grylls
Daily Stories with David Walliams
Carol Vorderman – The Maths Factor