With primary and secondary schools closed in England until at least mid-February, millions of families are back to homeschooling during Lockdown 3.0.
You needn't have to tell me that it can be stressful, especially if you’re trying to work from home at the same time as keeping up with the housework and the endless list of tasks that need to be done on a normal day.
The good news is that you can take some of the stress out of the school from home life with a bit of forward planning. There are also several great buys that can help kids get organised, stay motivated and aid learning.
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Investing in some home school supplies and planning ahead can work wonders
The key for success is to keep it fun and stress-free, says Heather Welch, International Brand Manager of Edx Education – Amazon’s best-selling educational toy brand.
Heather tells HELLO!: "Our advice to parents of primary aged children would be to not put yourself or your child under too much pressure.
"They will catch up on lost learning when they get back in the classroom, so for now your focus should be on keeping homeschooling fun, and finding ways to keep them interested and engaged. They will be spending three to five hours a day on screens with teachers, so keep an open mind to different methods of learning and mix it up!”
Scroll to the end for Heather's essential homeschooling top tips and keep reading for the comprehensive list of great buys for home schooling.
What do I need for homeschooling? Essential buys
PuroQuiet Active noise cancelling bluetooth headphones for kids and teens, 69.99, Amazon
If you're homeschooling more than one child in the same room - or if you're trying to work from home at the same time - a pair of good noise-canceling headphones is a must. That way everyone can concentrate when they need to watch a video or join a Google classroom meet. These headphones were developed by a father whose daughter sustained Noise-Induced Hearing Loss from listening to music too loud, for too long. These studio-grade, high-quality headphones which feature a great microphone and volume-limit to 85 decibels were the result of his efforts, and they're available in a rainbow of colours to suit all tastes.
Electric pencil sharpener, £12.99, Amazon
Every home needs one of these, they save time, eliminate mess, and kids find them super fun to use!
10x10inch magnetic whiteboard, £16.99, Amazon
This whiteboard is the perfect size to do sums and explanations – if you’re looking for something bigger there’s a larger magnetic version with pens and board rubber included available for £2 more.
12 whiteboard markers, £11.95, Amazon
Whiteboard pens in every colour of the rainbow will make learning more fun. Also don’t forget to invest in a good whiteboard eraser!
Baby Yoda stationery set, £11.49, Amazon
A stationery set will get them off on the right foot and you don’t have to break the bank to get one. This one features everyone’s Star Wars favourite, the child aka Baby Yoda. There are other versions up for grabs featuring Harry Potter, Super Mario Brothers and Frozen.
Caticorn stationery set, £13.50, Amazon
Or if they like pink, sparkles cats and rainbows then this will surely motivate them!
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Homeschooling essential buys to help with reading and writing
Phonics Flashcards, £5.74, Amazon
If your child is getting to grips with reading, these phonics cards are a great way to practice letters and sounds in order to read CVC words (consonant, vowel, consonant) like cat dog, etc. If they’re ready to move up to the next set of sounds, you might want to get the more Phonics Flashcards set or the set of 52 cards to practice the 100 first high-frequency words taught at school like went, I’m, had, him, etc.
Yoto kids audio player Gruffulo and Friends edition, £99.88, Amazon
The Yoto player is a fab interactive audio speaker for kids aged three to ten. Slot in a card to hear the storybook read aloud, while the pixel display brings the story to life. It's so easy kids can operate it themselves and there's no danger of inappropriate content popping up or annoying ads. This version features six Julia Donaldson stories but there are a multitude of card packs available, including a great one devoted to learning phonics letters and sounds.
Tracing numbers 1-100 workbook, £5.95, Amazon
Is your child learning numbers? This workbook will help them get confident with numbers 1-100 in a fun way.
Writing workbook, £2.99, Amazon
This workbook is great for helping little ones with writing practice
Homeschooling essential buys to help with maths and science
EDX Education Early Math 101 to go set, £40.59, Amazon
This expert-developed set has everything you need to teach maths at level age 5-6 in an engaging way in over 25 activities, including workbooks, number rods, playing cards, place value trains, snakes and ladders game, counters and dice. There are a number of different sets available for different ages.
Edx education maths cubes, £11.99, Amazon
This set of 100 cubes is a fantastic maths tool and your child may well be using something similar in the classroom. You can use it to introduce little ones to basic addition and subtraction and it’s great for introducing older kids to estimating, fractions and division and multiplication (a quick google of ‘how to teach maths with number cubes will give you hundreds of ideas) . And the best thing is once the maths is over and done with, they can build with it as a reward for their hard efforts!
Laminated 100 square and timetable square, £2.98, Amazon
Whether your child is just starting out with maths and numbers or learning their times tables, this laminated number square will be a massive help. The 1-100 square side can be used for addition - counting on, subtraction- counting back, adding 10 etc in a visual way while the times tables square shows the times tables for numbers 1-10. The blank versions can be written on and rubbed out countless times till they’re committed to memory.
356 science activities, £10.39, Amazon
In this book there’s a different easy and exciting experiment to do each day which explains many of the things children wonder about – all the necessary objects are easy to come by and in many cases children will have something they can use, play with – or even eat afterwards!
Galt science lab set, was £17.99 now £12.99, Amazon
Amazon’s top-rated science lab set is on offer for 28% less than the RRP. You get instructions for 20 fun experiments plus all the kit to do them - test tubes and rack, goggles, magnifying glass, petri dish, pipette PH scale, stickers, notepad and more.
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Home schooling essential buys to help with geography and history
Animal world map with reusable stickers, £25.95, Amazon
Use this lovely map with reusable animal stickers to help kids learn geography as well as where different animals originate from. The smaller version can be bought from the same link for £18.95.
Great Rivers of the World by Volker Mehnert, £14.99, Amazon
This vibrant, fact-filled illustrated book for kids aged eight and over blends geography history and culture. Where along the Rhine does the Nibelung Treasure lie? What river helps mark the prime meridian? Why do people make pilgrimages to the Indian city of Benares? Why is the Mekong called the "Nine Dragon" river in Vietnam? How does the Mississippi divide and unite the United States? These and hundreds of other facts are explained.
P.E. homeschooling essential buys
Yogi fun yogi kit game, £9.99, Amazon
This fun game is suitable for ages three to adult and is perfect for doing indoors to get kids moving, concentrating and even relaxing in a playful way
Shape bean bags, £26.17, Amazon
You can get them doing races or improving coordination with throwing/catching activities and practicing geometry at the same time with these beanbags, eg: “The first one to bring me a red shape with four right angles wins.” There’s also a set with numbers so you can combine PE with maths!
More top tips for a better school from home experience:
• Play - learning through play is recognised as one of the best forms of learning for young children. It helps them learn without realising and is fun! Why not set up a pretend shop? This helps with maths and sorting skills, creative and critical, language skills and so much more!
Toy electronic cash register with microphone, £24.99, Amazon
• Explore - use your daily exercise walks with the children as a learning opportunity. Look at nature, explain lifecycles, look at the numbers around you and discuss what they are used for: what is a postcode used for, letterbox numbers, money, supermarkets, etc.? Then discuss what they do and how it benefits us in everyday life.
• Prepare - when children are not in the mood to play independently, you can set up simple play activities. For example, you could set up animals ‘in a jungle’ to complement a book you are reading, and then talk to them about the story, prompting them to use their imagination.
• Motivation - keeping young minds motivated is key, so let them lead with subjects they are interested in. Cars, animals, books, colours, shapes, the garden or dinosaurs - these are all learning opportunities.
• Manage expectations – it’s a tricky balance of time commitments for parents right now, so it’s important to be clear with your children when you will be able to spend time with them and when they must occupy themselves with an activity.
• Communication – Listen to your children and encourage conversation on a wide range of subjects. This encourages curiosity, confidence and critical thinking, all of which are great skills to have in life.
• Educational toys – ‘open ended’ educational toys like our Rainbow Pebbles have limitless play options, so are a great home schooling investment. Whether they are used for early maths skills, sorting, for building or for creating artworks, they will offer hours of learning.
Rainbow pebbles and activity tray, £30.01, Amazon
• Get physical – encourage them to get up and get physical! Whether it’s building a den in the living room, playing in the garden, or going for a bike ride, these all help with physical and mental wellbeing and are also opportunities for learning.
• Learn skills not taught in the classroom – show your kids how to bake a cake, change a tyre, change a plug or build a tepee. There are so many learning opportunities out there!
• Encourage independent thinking – one of the best skills you can teach a child is how to think! Encourage questions, allow them to make choices (such as what to wear, how to spend their pocket money), let them plan what activities they would like to do today. You will be setting them up on a pathway of critical learning and problem solving, which will last a lifetime.
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