Updated: Apr 8, 2021
I am fortunate enough to have worked from home for the last 15 years so my boys have been very used to having to deal with mommy being up in her office during school holidays and because of this, they have learned how to become independent young men, although that doesn't mean they are angels. I still have to remind them to pick their crap up off the floor, stop leaving their underpants in their trousers and to wash their hands when they pee (boys will be boys). But on the whole they are pretty good.
So I work (or I did before I was furloughed) 10am-3pm every day except Thursdays as I always take my mother-in-law shopping Thursdays. That's 20 hours per week for anyone teaching maths...
Now that I am homeschooling I've had to change my hours to suit my new role so instead I will work 8am-12pm and then 3:30pm-5pm on Monday's, Wednesdays and Fridays. I did have a different plan for Tuesdays but I think my hours for that day are likely to be dropped. On Monday's, Wednesday's and Friday's we will have a pretty set timetable, Tuesdays will be a free day and Thursdays will be Spanish in the morning followed by shopping and then a trip to the library, park or whatever. Check my detailed breakdown of the timetable below or follow me on YouTube if you can't be bothered to hear me warble on.
I am going to post my weeks as I get to them so that I don't confuse anyone. Let's start with week 1...(P.S Ignore the Tuesday section, from now on this won't appear on the timetable)
LET'S START WITH THE FREE CHOICE TIME SLOT, SCROLL DOWN FOR OTHER DAYS OF THE WEEK...
At 10:30am-12pm the boys have the opportunity to do whatever they like...within reason! Our BBR (Big Brains Room, we didn't want to call it a classroom) has been set up with various work stations for varying activities. We are fortunate enough to have a spare room but this could be achieved just as easily using a dining table, coffee table etc. The idea for this part of the day is based loosely around creating S.T.EM activities (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths), introducing art (and therefore their creativity), and allowing for some of that child-led learning I like the idea of so much (but am currently too afraid to step into fully), and a smidge of the curriculum (until I feel confident enough to leave it behind). If you end up following my timetable you will see that things we are learning about are linked into this 'free choice' part of the day, usually by me leaving out activities based on topics we are learning about. This is what free choice looks like for us.
Click here if you want a PDF version of this to print out at home. I've left the time out so you can put your own in.
My kids are being taught to check the time and learn the time using this cool clock I found on Amazon. Click on it if you want to buy one.
K'NEX: I bought a big box of K'nex which has a cool little motor with it to motorise builds, and there's a great manual with it for the kids to find ideas, although of course, they can use their imagination to build whatever they like too. I bought the K'nex from Amazon but you could probably buy a second hand box from eBay or Facebook marketplace. Click on the picture to buy K'nex.
ART & CRAFTS: We have lots of arts and crafts (I've spent months saving empty loo rolls, cereal boxes and plastic containers!) you can buy acrylic paint cheap from Poundland or Home Bargains but I do tend to buy a lot of craft stuff from Baker Ross (always check out the clearance section). The kids can make whatever they like or this Monday (Tuesday actually but we are starting with Monday's timetable) I've left a print out from a pack I downloaded from the IKON gallery in Birmingham (TIP: as most art galleries have been closed almost all of them have FREE activity packs to download which is absolutely brilliant while you can still get them!) The print out is to make a leaf collage using old magazine pages (this will link into learning about plants, the environment etc.), and also an activity to build a Lego plant pot from Earth watch. You will need to sign up for Wild Days on Earth Watch for their activity packs but it's worth it, there's lots of free resources and videos on there if you're interested in teaching your kids about wildlife and the environment. Click here to follow the links for each resource: IKON activity pack and Earth Watch Wild Days (sign up for edible gardens for the lego plant pot)
READ A BOOK: There's a selection of books for them to chose from, including factual books, and even puzzle books. I am waiting for the libraries to re-open so they can go along and pick whatever they want to read. I really want to get my kids passionate about reading, I believe you learn far more about sentence structuring and grammar from reading than you ever will in a classroom.
TTRockstars: If you don't already know what this is, Times Table Rockstars is a brilliant app that children absolutely love. My boys were doing it at school and it's a great way for them to learn their times tables in an enjoyable way. They get so excited about climbing up to be the rockstar they want to be! My youngest child was really upset when he realised he wouldn't be able to use the school account anymore and would have to start from scratch! A family subscription is just £6 per year. Click here for details.
BBC BITESIZE: I think this website saved the sanity of a lot of parents during lockdown and it's no different now! It has a whole wealth of amazing online lessons and it's all completely free! I created email accounts for my boys so it would be easier to sign up for the many accounts I'm guessing I am going to need. They each have a BBC Bitesize account and I added all the lessons I want them to look at on their bitesize so they have plenty to chose from if they fancy a bit of bitesize. (I tend to do all of this stuff on their iPads at night when they are sound asleep). Click here for BBC Bitesize.
CHALLENGE CARDS: I found these challenge cards on the James Dyson website and I love them! They are aimed at S.T.E.M learning and are a mix of science and engineering. What's more, you can also print off a sheet so that your kids can keep track of what challenges they have completed. I have decided to use this as a reward opportunity and if they complete all of the science or all of the engineering challenges they will get a pack of Fortnite trading cards for their trading album. I put two activities out a day. You will need to plan for this as materials may be needed. Check out the link here.
PLAYDOUGH FUN: I think this is self explanatory...
SCRATCH CODING: This is a child friendly website for kids to learn about computer coding and have a go themselves. It's free and really good fun. There is an app but I find it much more difficult to use than the website. If your kids have tablets or you have a home computer, just load all of these websites to your favourites for easy access. Click here for the Link.
WEEK 1 MONDAY
The working day in our BBR starts at 10am. I know that maths and vocabulary, reading and writing is really important and I don't want my kids to lose that. I am amazed by how brilliant they are at their times tables and that's something I want them to keep up with. So they will start with these Carol Vorderman 10 minute a day maths, and vocabulary books. Click on the picture to buy them.
The next part of the day is our Free Choice time which you can find at the start of this blog. This finishes at 12pm for lunch time. This is also the time I can finish work for a bit, have lunch with my kids and teach them for the next few hours. It's also an opportunity for more REWARDS! My boys love nothing more than playing on their iPads so I am going to make sure they earn that time. I don't want to put any emphasis on things being done 'wrong' during homeschool time, only on acting responsibly (not mucking about and getting paint all over the walls), tidying up after themselves and trying their best. If they achieve all of that, they get an iPad passport which I made, printed and laminated. You could do this for any activity your kids like to do. My boys can earn one in the morning so they have lunchtime to play, and during the afternoon so they get their last passport to play on their iPads for the rest of the evening (although I strongly discourage this. I usually make them play outside for a bit or go for a walk otherwise they would be glued to the damn things all night). Here's my iPad passport with a PDF link if you want to copy it.
After lunch time we start with a reading session. Only I will be doing the reading. I've found that my children aren't as interested in reading or writing as much as I would like them to be. Reading and writing is a passion of mine and I think it's such an enjoyable hobby that given the chance, they would fall in love with. But I firmly believe being made to read just to fit into a certain 'level', to write about the stories they are reading and to have to repeat back what they have read or talk about the book at length, has made the subject of reading more of a chore than something to enjoy. I don't think my boys have yet grasped how to read and immerse themselves in the story and this is something I want to change. So for fifteen minutes they can close their eyes, lie back on their beanbags and listen to me reading, which is something I haven't had time to do for a long time. I've deliberately decided to choose famous authors and we are starting with William Shakespeare. I bought a boxset of old Willy's best stories from the Works for £10 and they are all stripped down versions of his famous plays, perfect for children. I've started with Hamlet and I read around five pages. Then in their english exercise book (3-pack purchased from Poundland) I have pre-written up to 5 questions I want them to answer. You can tailor these questions to your child's own ability, or use the opportunity to get more out of them. For example, my eldest child doesn't talk about his feelings, so I've included a question that asks "have you ever lost a pet, toy, or import thing? How did it make you feel"? This is in reference to Hamlet feeling distraught over the loss of his father. I've also asked them to try to include verbs, conjunctions etc. (and because I wouldn't have a clue myself, I've downloaded some free word mats to help me from www.tes.com. This website has lots of free resources but you really have to navigate your way through it to find them. here's the link for the word mats). I can't find these books on the Works website now but I have found them online elsewhere.
The next part of our lesson was history. I really want my children to learn about the country they come from, its history and its geography. I found a selection of these Usborne lift the flap books which I think are brilliant! They make the learning experience interactive and enjoyable, even at my kids ages! There's only two pages to the subject we are starting with; the Anglo-Saxons. While one child completes the english questions the other will sit with me and go through the history book and then they swap. Whilst reading the book we talked about the Vikings who came from Scandinavia and this gave me the opportunity to get our globe down and find out where Scandanavia was.
As part of our History lesson we watched a Youtube video of a young lad making an Anglo-Saxon house and we made a start with that. I knew we wouldn't finish it but I will add it to their free choice options for the next few days. I bought the lollipop sticks and raffia from Amazon and and I use clear PVA glue which you can buy here. Makes the job much less messy. You can find the Youtube video here
After this it was time for quiet reading and spelling. The boys took turns with one of them going off to sit on their bed to read while the other did spelling with me. I downloaded the years 3 and 4 spelling list from Twinkl, and as they achieve them I will cross them off before downloading the years 4 and 5 list. I cannot rate Twinkl enough! I pay the subscription of £9.99 per month (I believe there is a cheaper option too) but it is a Godsend if you feel like you need guidance. There's a home educating pack on there so you can follow the curriculum at home if you want to, and also lots of resources to show you what your child should know and where they should be for each subject. I don't think I will be following this to be honest, but I may use it as a 'rough' guide to check that my kids aren't a million miles away from their peers at mainstream school. There's some brilliant FREE resources on Twinkl too, check these out here. Here's the link for the spelling mat I use.
The last part of the day is Khan Academy. Khan Academy is an absolute MUST! It's completely free which I just cannot believe. I am using it for maths mainly but it does have lessons for computing, art, english and more. You can set your children up with their own accounts, and as a parent, you get weekly updates on how they are progressing. They can do a challenge to start with which will show you where they need to be, although you do have to really work this bit out yourself. I started my kids at Grade 4 but after sitting with them and seeing them struggle I moved them to Grade 3. Have a play with this yourself, you need to navigate your way through it. Because I am absolutely rubbish at maths, I am also on Grade 3 and I complete lessons the night before the boys do so that I can help them. I was actually rather pleased with myself when they asked me to help them with place value and I could, confidently, instead of secretly crying inside like I usually do. Once you have set the kids up on the website, you can download the Khan Academy app onto their tablets which is more user friendly. We do Khan Academy for half hour and I sit with them to help them because this is something they will need your assistance with. There are helpful hints and video tutorials if your kids get stuck on a particular question. TIP: The hints are far more easy to comprehend than the videos. Check out Khan Academy here. I have also done a Youtube walk through if you want to take a look here.
I've bought lots of resources to help the boys with their maths including place value counters, number blocks, 3d shapes and play money.
Now trust me, you will have more success with your homeschooling if you introduce rewards. Before you say rewards don't work just check out my rewards blog.
WEEK 1 TUESDAY
Tuesdays is going out day! No plans for this week due to the bank holiday. Check back when I put the week 2 schedule up for inspiration!
WEEK 1 WEDNESDAY
Same as Monday, day starts at 10am with 10 minutes maths and 10 minutes vocabulary workbooks. Then 10:30am-12pm free choice. Now, I have cottoned on to the fact that my kids are mysteriously picking more iPad activities than they are anything else and I'm not sure I like the idea of this. Luckily, I've added a section on their reward charts that states if they choose three iPad activities in a week they get a star. So today I told them that as they've completed this challenge, they don't need to do any iPad activities for the rest of the week. Nobody was in trouble, I didn't have to say the words 'can't', or 'not allowed', and they couldn't really argue with me. Let's see how Friday goes without their iPads!
Yesterday, we spent a bit longer than planned on the 'mommy reading' and the boys writing, which meant I couldn't show them a BBC bitesize I found about the Anglo-Saxons. So that's going to get slipped into today.
SCIENCE: Well this was interesting. I bought them each a KS2 science book which I found quite overwhelming to read. The first part of the book is more of an introduction to science, asking why we perform experiments etc. It's a good introduction once you've got your head around it. I was worried the boys wouldn't understand it so I tried to introduce them to enquiries, methods, fair tests and variables using BBC Bitesize. It didn't work. They were totally disinterested. In the KS2 book there are practice questions at the end of the chapter, but after watching the BBC bitesize programme they couldn't answer any of them and tensions started to run high. So in the end, I asked them to go get their science notebooks (my poundland special buys) and in the back, make quick notes. I ended up going through the first part of the book with them, and asking them to make notes as we went, the notes went something like this:
question - enquiry
plan - method
fair test - only the variables change
You would get it if you had the book. This time the test went much better. It's only 7questions and they get a star for getting 50% correct which they did do. Then we moved onto the fun part. Planting cress seeds. I've made my own science worksheets to describe the method, and what we are doing, and then recording sheets too. Check out the link below for the book and seeds and also for my worksheets if you want to use them.
After science we were meant to make a sundial, a clock that the Anglo-Saxons used, but this will have to be added to Friday's free choice now instead. We also ran out of time for K'nex building. Don't get stressed if things don't go to plan. It really doesn't matter!
READING: The boys read their books for five minutes each which gave me time to mark their vocabulary and maths books. This was brilliant because I discovered that Kaiden had done super well with his place value and the value of numbers and expanded forms (I know, it's mind boggling, but I must say after spending time on Khan academy and checking out these books I finally get it!). However, Kaiden seems to be struggling on Khan Academy so I realised the issue was more about confidence or struggling with the interface than the work itself. After telling my boy how proud I was of him and to approach Khan Academy with confidence, he didn't disappoint. The boys also drew pictures of what they thought the monster from the poem Beowulf might look like. This was ahead of the Beowulf movie they were going to watch on Friday. Check it out.