Last month more than eight and a half million school children in the UK found they had two more days in school before they closed for an indefinite period of time due to the coronavirus crisis. Three of those year groups had been working towards external exams that were suddenly cancelled, to be replaced with teacher predictions. A relief for some but an overwhelming sense of loss for others who wanted to prove how hard they had worked and looked forward to that sense of exhilaration that comes with finishing exams and moving on.
No more school might have once been, ‘what you’ve always dreamed of’, but the reality will undoubtedly be very different: Year 11s and Year 13s have gone from being the hardest working year groups to suddenly having nothing to do. However, for the remaining year groups, work at school has been replaced with ‘home school’, with no classmates, no teachers, just you and work that is being sent home electronically and, in many cases, no means of making sure that you have completed the work or even done it correctly. This is independent learning in its most extreme form.
Normally when students are on study leave, in the run up to summer exams, they might have a nice quiet house to work in with other members of the family out at work or at school. If they fancy a break, they might leave the house to meet their friends in a local coffee shop or play a game of football in the park. This study leave is very different in that Mum and Dad, as well as your siblings, might also be working from home or confined to the house. The local coffee shops are closed and you cannot meet with your friends. So, what do you do?
Follow your School’s Programme
Many schools are in a good position to let their students study at home and most have systems in place for remote learning. Schools are either setting up sophisticated virtual classrooms on packages like Google Classroom and Microsoft Teams or emailing work home and suggesting online apps, websites and programmes to go to for help. It is important that students follow their school’s guidelines and lessons as closely as possible, because their teachers are setting the work, and should be expecting their students to complete it. In this indefinite period of school closure for many children, it is vital that students keep skilled and knowledgeable in their subjects, as they will be returning to school at some point and will not want to fall behind their classmates who have kept up.
Tips to get you into good study habits at home
- Have a routine and stick to it. The easiest routine to follow is your normal school timetable. It has worked for you since September and will continue working for you until you return to school. It will also help you vary the subjects and have breaks between lessons. Following your school timetable will prevent you from getting into bad habits like working late at night and sleeping all day.
- A space to work. Although, not always easy, aim to have a space to work where you can keep your books and equipment. This might be your bedroom, or it might be a table or desk in another part of your house.
- Work in chunks of time. As with your school timetable, vary the subjects and incorporate breaks.
- Avoid Distractions. Try your best to keep your phone to break times. As with school, stay in touch with your friends during break times, using your phone.
- Fresh air and exercise. In your breaks and after you have finished studying, go outside and get some fresh air. You could take the dog for a walk if you have one, or kick a ball, throw a basketball or walk in the park. It is important to keep fit and healthy.
Tips on how to study at home more effectively
- ‘Go to’ Resources. In the absence of teachers explaining the content and being on hand to help, build up a bank of resources where you can go to for a better understanding. This might be internet sites, apps, text books or a knowledgeable friend or family member. BBC Bitesize has a range of excellent resources for all ages.
- YouTube. You might not have access to your teachers in school, but there are many teachers who have uploaded their lessons and there will be a teacher who suits you.
- Testing. When you are in school, your learning is tested constantly. This might be in a recap at the start of each lesson or in an end of unit test. Testing over time commits content to long term memory. Test what you are studying at home. This might be with flashcards, with a friend, or practising exam style questions.
- Talking and discussing. Talking about your work is a very effective way of consolidating your learning. Get in a group chat with your friends or discuss what you are learning about with your family. Make it a regular part of your routine.
- Be creative and imaginative. This is your chance to make your learning enjoyable. Create, make, build, sing, paint, talk and explore your learning. Have fun. If a topic interests you, don’t be afraid to delve into it deeper.
Homeschooling the nation during this crisis is going to be a challenge for everyone: for schools, for teachers, for students and for parents. We don’t know how long it will go on for and young people cannot control the events going on around them. They can, however, control how they approach their homeschooling and getting into a good routine with it will help them to get through this time.
For more guides and support, check out Student Navigator.