It's not surprising that homeschooling is getting the better of millions of families. Now we are in the throws of a third lockdown with schools closed, parents are once again trying to juggle their own work whilst making sure that children do theirs, too.
The difficulties have led to many asking if homeschooling is compulsory during lockdown – as it’s not only the adults who are struggling, it’s children too.
Many parents and carers are worried about the effect lockdown could have on children. This includes how far they might fall behind in school – with a lack of structure being a top concern.
However, homeschooling children is easier said than done – especially if you have to work from home with the kids around too. No matter how much you may want your kids to focus on their lessons and studies, it’s almost impossible to stop them straying from their desks, distracting their siblings and asking for snacks multiple times throughout the day.
There might be days when frazzled families feel like letting the kids have their way, especially with so many parents’ homeschooling experiences going awry. But is this allowed? Is homeschooling compulsory during lockdown? Here’s what the rules are around children learning at home and where you can find help if you’re struggling to get them to study.
Is homeschooling compulsory during lockdown?
During lockdown 3.0, children have to follow the rules set by their school during normal school hours – even when they are learning from home. As the government have said in their guidance to parents, ‘Alongside any work your children receive from school, you can try using online educational resources covering various subjects and age groups.’
This means school and homework is largely compulsory while schools are closed and children are learning from home.
In legal terms, this is because during lockdown, a child’s home just becomes an extension of their classroom. Leon Hady, former headteacher and founder of Guide Education explains that when kids are learning from home, children are being registered as ‘in school’, “in exactly the same way as if it were a school day. It’s basically just a form of off-site learning.” So the school will also be aware if a child doesn’t appear for homeschooling lessons via the video link. Repeated absences will likely require an explantation for the parent or guardian.
But aside from this, the government have also told parents and carers to ‘just do your best’.
“No one expects parents to act as teacher, or to provide the activities and feedback that a school or nursery would,” the government advice states. “Parents and carers should do their best to help children and support their learning while dealing with other demands.”
What to do if you’re struggling with homeschooling
Homeschooling isn’t the perfect fit for everyone. Psychologist and therapist Dr Kalanit Ben-Ari says: “Structure and routine is important, but this will look different for children of different ages.
“For young children, it can be very challenging for them to sit in front of a computer, so it might be more beneficial for them to move their body and to explore other activities at home. For older children, combining online learning with movement and off-screen learning is likely to benefit them more.”
Dr Kalanit also explains that long period of time looking at screen won’t work for all children, “There are also children of all ages who find interaction via screens very challenging, which can in turn induce more anxiety.” So, getting kids outside to play where possible or giving them breaks from their screen is important.
If you’re just looking to get kids moving and give them some structure to their day, Joe Wicks’ workouts for kids are back every morning at the moment. We’ve also got over 60 different ideas of things to do with kids during lockdown, in case you’re looking for inspiration.
Keeping this anxiety low is the essential in these challenging times, as parent and registered doctor, Dr Xand Van Tulleken, told The One Show this month. He said, “I would say to any parents who are facing this though, you’re not responsible for replacing an entire school. Like you did some stuff on Egypt, that’s amazing! You spent time with your kids today, that’s good. You don’t have to feel guilty that you can’t replace every teacher in a school plus all the other activities.
“It’s enough to show a bit of love and patience and kindness. Teach them to do some household chores, spend time with them. They can catch up their education, this is not going to permanently harm children.
“The main thing is to keep their anxiety levels down, and guide them through it as a family. And don’t feel the guilt and the pressure we’re putting on ourselves will not be good for anybody. That’s how I’m comforting myself as a parent!”
How to get help with homeschooling
As well as reaching out directly to your children’s teachers, who will be able to provide support and guidance, there are plenty of free educational resources for homeschooling online that you can turn to, to help you out.
Here are a few to take a look at:
The Oak National Academy
This is one of the government’s biggest funding projects for homeschooling during the lockdown. It’s an online learning platform designed by teachers, with almost 10,000 lessons on subjects across the whole school curriculum right up to year 11. With only so many hours in the day, teachers have also been using it to set lesson plans and give tutorials so parents can be reassured they’re on the right track with this one.
Resources are free and completely online. Some of the best ones include an online classroom for all age groups with a recommended timetable of six lessons a day, including all the essentials like English, maths and languages, to help kids retain some structure in their day.
Each of the lessons are formulated into videos of up to 45 minutes to explain key principles of curriculum subjects. There’s also a specialist classroom to help pupils with individual support needs.
No need to set up an account or give any details with this one, just click and go!
Bitesize has also re-launched their BBC educational programmes and lockdown learning timetable. The service airs every day, with a famous face taking classes on a fundamental topic of the curriculum in digestible chunks, suitable for differing levels of education.
For example, Professor Brian Cox is touring secondary school students through the solar system on BBC 2 at 2pm from January 11, after a curriculum-based lesson in biology the hour before. While in the morning, primary school pupils will be treated to a 10 minute quick P.E session with none other than Marcus Rashford, an English lesson by Geri Horner and a food science class by Heston Blumenthal.
The timetable for these lessons and more information can be found on the BBC Bitesize website, all totally for free.
Duolingo has become one of the best free homeschooling apps in lockdown. It’s always been a hit when the time for New Year’s resolutions roll around with millions of people signing up to either learn a new language from scratch or practice what they already know. But with fun graphics, special lessons for children and a huge choice of languages available, it’s a great way for beginner to intermediate language learners to stay up to date during the lockdown.
The desktop site is a good way to explore all the features Duolingo has to offer (and keep kids off their phones!) but the app is the real winning part of the service. Starting by figuring out how far advanced someone is in the language, it then helps them to improve on their speaking, listening and writing skills by quizzing them on words and phrases, as well as introducing new ones.
Quick and bitesized, Duolingo is especially great for those who maybe need a little more motivation to get into languages but the best part is, it’s totally free! The app and the desktop site doesn’t cost anything to access, so it’s worth giving it a go.
Anyone can access Guide Education’s Tuition Kit, suitable for anyone revising for GCSEs in English, maths and science across all exam boards. There are hundreds of materials on the site created by qualified teachers, so there’s no requirement for extra paid-for tuition or textbooks.
All that’s required is a sign up and then it’s completely free!
Parents can also access the material to help things along with homeschooling by organising all the different things they have to study and creating a timetable for them throughout the day. For anyone struggling with homeschooling right now as well, Guide Education also has a range of videos on their YouTube channel about everything from choosing a good study space to time management.
Students looking to focus on sciences and maths-based subjects should head over to Khan Academy, self-described as a “nonprofit with the mission to provide a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere.” Although it is US-based, there’s plenty of content on there that crosses over into the UK curriculum with high-quality lessons, taught in broken-down ways so that everyone of all different age groups can follow along.
The lessons can all be accessed for free on the Khan Academy website, but we recommend signing up for a free account so that students don’t lose track of their progress.
It’s especially a winner for older children looking for more help with maths and science coming up to GCSE level and even beyond.