Since schools were closed and exams cancelled yet again, families across the UK making thing work everyone at home. As well as working from home (or trying to), managing the different educational needs of more than one child is a challenge in itself. After all, it’s normally the work of several teachers. This week, we spoke to experienced home educator and qualified secondary teacher Eli Murton about how she does it. Eli homeschooled her three sons – now aged 11, 14 and 18 – through primary level for several years before they entered secondary school. We asked her how she’s been adjusting their home education to match their specific needs.
MT: How have you designed a home education for your oldest son?
EM: He is 18 and was preparing for his A levels, before his exams got cancelled. He wasn’t really bothered about this, but my worry is because his place of work has also been closed (in hospitality), he won’t have a focus for the foreseeable future, which isn’t healthy in the long term. We’ve taken this opportunity to put in place ideas about shaping your days, and learning other skills. He is taking over the very neglected downstairs bedroom, so that’s his current practical project. He’s had to learn how to plaster uneven walls, wall paper, hang doors, sand woodwork etc. So he’s learning practical life skills while also taking on extra responsibilities in the house. My husband is really practical and it’s stood him in good stead both at work and at home, so it’s a nice opportunity for him to pass on those skills. I am a whizz at tiling, so I’ll need to find something to tile soon, to add to his repertoire!
MT: And for your younger sons?
EM: My 14-year-old starts studying by 9am as he has more to do – he is very independent and disciplined about it. My work is mainly with the youngest, my 11-year-old. For him, a typical day begins late – he needs to be downstairs, dressed and having done his morning jobs etc by 10.20am (I know! But there have to be some perks right?) ready to begin school work at 10.30am. We do a series of 30-45 min lessons each day: some are set by the school, and some aren’t.
With things like science, the projects he’s being set by school are ones he’s actually done before, so we are tacking them on to the end of the day like homework, and concentrating on our own home education curriculum. We have a late morning break, and then lunch, and we’ll be done by 3pm at the latest. We’re mainly focusing on the core subjects to keep on top of them. We also make sure the boys get outside a lot if the weather allows, or exercise indoors.
MT: As a homeschooling parent over many years, how would you tend to structure your children’s days? And how would you adjust for their different ages?
EM: I had 3 kids all being home educated 3 years apart. Having one-to-one time is really important. We had a timetable and it was colour coded. Blue stood for an online activity – we used them for literacy and numeracy – and green was one-to-one time with me. My oldest, by about aged 9 was expected to be able to have a task set, be started off and complete it independently. Of course I was at the table to help, but this nurtured independent learning.
The youngest also had a shorter day with breaks scheduled at different times so everyone had my time as well as time on their own. Online guided learning platforms, particularly for primary aged kids are brilliant. Youtube clips are also great discussion starters – kids learn a huge amount through conversation. Being around for each other’s work every day also meant that lunchtime quite often became a source of indirect learning – they’d all be nosey about what the others were complaining about!