The Home School Diaries - March 2020

As mentioned in a few of my posts already, I do not feel like you need to home school at all if it does not work for you. It works for us though. Our family needs structure and I am lucky that my job allows me to do this too. Here is what we have been up to today.....

Friday 20 March - Our last update 


So this is going to be my last home school update. Lots of different reasons really - I don't want to upset the actual home school community by acting like I am an expert when there are people much better qualified than I am to share stuff like this. 


I am not an expert and just a normal mam sharing ideas but I am not sure if that is how I am portraying things. I do not want to make people who cannot organise activities for their kids to feel bad/guilty when reading this blog and I am generally de-motivated to write stuff on here at the moment because it feels really difficult to capture the right tone.

I will still share what we have been up to each day on Instagram Stories and Facebook and have set up Instagram Story Highlights with all of our ideas. This post is also fairly lengthy and all over the place so I am in the middle of collating all of my ideas into a simple list with all of the links you need, I will publish the list at the weekend.

Headspace 

We use Headspace on and off. It is a brilliant FREE app with guided meditations. We joined in with the 10 minute beginner meditation today and it was a nice and relaxing start to the day. They also have lots of shorter videos on their YouTube channel. Highly recommend checking them out if you / your kids need a calming activity.

Cookies 



Cheating a little bit but we had some leftover cookie dough in the fridge to use up so the kids baked cookies for our mid-morning snack. If you cannot be bothered with proper baking, this is an easy alternative.

Spanish, Design an Island and Maths




We are having a more low-key Friday today so we completed our Spanish lesson via Duolingo, designed our own island and then the kids have completed their online maths work they have been set.

This afternoon we are just going to read and play in the garden. Nothing too formal today as I have some work to complete and Steve is doing a few chores around the house.



Thursday 19 March - Our Best Day So Far 

I woke up bright and early so got myself dressed and published this post featuring  35+ ways to have fun and relax with tweens at home.  Jack was downstairs with me too watching his favourite Phineus and Ferb. I had to drag the rest of the family out of bed at 9am. This isn't the holidays and I do not want us to get into sleeping in late / staying up late habits.


Workout with Joe Wicks Kids 




We started the day with Joe Wicks Kids Workout One. These are only 5 minutes long but they are fairly high energy - I loved it! Will definitely do more. If you follow The Body Coach YouTube Channel here, Joe is releasing a new kids PE lesson each day at 9am. We will definitely be tuning in. My kids are usually fairly active - they do the daily mile at school, walk/cycle each day, play sports and go swimming so staying in at home is a bit of a shock to the system.

DuoLingo

After a healthy snack and our break we cracked onto our first lesson - Spanish with DuoLingo. I am joining in with all of the learning myself and learning as their peer rather than teacher.

I am really enjoying it! My lesson today was focussed on Spanish Travel words. The app really helps you to focus on spelling, grammar and pronunciation too. I love it. Steve and Harry are also learning Spanish, Jack is learning French and Heidi Japanese.

Newcastle Bridges

Our main topic for today was the Newcastle Bridges. I popped the names of the bridges into a hat and we all picked one. I cannot believe I ended up with the Redheugh bridge! The worst bridge imho. We each drew our bridge and shared a few facts in a presentation to the rest of the class.

It was fab and we all really enjoyed this activity - we had the Beatles playing in the background and it was genuinely a really good distraction activity. I am going to try something similar with Northumberland Castles and North East Landmarks in the coming weeks.

Redheugh Bridge by Sam

Millennium Bridge by Jack

High Level Bridge by Heidi

Tyne Bridge by Harry

Swing Bridge by Steve 

Science Lesson - Viruses and Germs 

Before lunch, we watched a couple of Science Videos online and had a chat about the questions they asked. Today we covered Viruses and Germs and watched the following:

Mystery Science is brilliant and I will definitely be incorporating some of their longer videos into future learning. Videos are grouped by age group.


Learn How To Cook An Egg Three Ways 

I am a strong believer in teaching life skills as well as academia and today's lesson was how to cook an egg three ways - fried, omelette and dippy! The kids managed really well with a little supervision and as a bonus, they cooked lunch.






Break time 

We had a 2 hour break over lunch and I was really surprised that the kids didn't reach for their devices straight away. They stayed downstairs with us and spent time drawing instead.



Reading 

The kids read each evening for 30 minutes anyway but after a busy morning, I decided we could all benefit from a more chilled activity. Steve made us all a brew, we popped Classical & Orchestral Music on in the background and spent 40 minutes reading.

Again, we loved it and we are kind of thinking why don't we do stuff like this more often.


After reading, Harry cracked on with his actual school work and Heidi and Jack completed their spellings online. Our day ended at 2:30pm and I think today has been my favourite day so far, everyone seems to be settling into the new norm and there has been less fighting today. Hurrah!

How I am Feeling 

I feel ok today, the Brownies I had ordered via Pet Lamb arrived. We have popped them in our freezer (minus a little taster today) and it is nice to know we have a little pick me up in there when needed at a later date. Their brownies keep in the freezer for up to 3 months and they are delivered via Royal Mail across the UK - you can order online here. 

Our delivery drivers are putting a smile on my face. I had ordered some paper & a few crafty bits and bobs from the Works, this was delivered via My Hermes. The driver had rubber gloves on, said he had to place to parcel down on the floor rather than handing it to me and then he took a photo of me with the parcel rather than a signature. I kind of feel like they should do this all of the time!

With our usual postman, he knocked on the door, placed the parcel on my step and then stood at the bottom of the path waiting to see if I answered. We proceeded to have a conversation across my garden. He said if I did not answer in a few minutes, he had to walk back up the path, collect and re-try delivery tomorrow.

For Mothers Day Lunch this year we were going to head to the Quayside Market but that is not something we can do now so we have pre-ordered two meals from Elder and Wolf to collect on Saturday - they offer contactless collection.

We have ordered pizzas for Saturday Night and Tacos for Sunday. Something to look forward to and a nice way to support a lovely local business. Here is their menu/details.

Supporting local businesses and distracting myself with activities with the kids has been a fantastic coping mechanism today.

A few parents from Heidi and Jack's school have been in touch to check on us and work is being sent home for Heidi and Jack next week. We have had three emails from Harry's school already today as they are making plans for home learning.

Harry has received loads of emails from his teachers and many have sent videos explaining work they need to complete which I think is fab! It is also nice to know that they will be on the end of an email if we ever need them and we aren't alone in this/have not been abandoned.






Wednesday 18 March 2020 - We built a Hedgehog House..... 



I woke up this morning feeling a little de-motivated. I think because Steve and the kids were off and we did not set an alarm, it felt like a weekend. I forced myself to get dressed, have some breakfast and get started on the day.


More Harry Potter Yoga

We completed Cosmic Kids Harry Potter Yoga again - Jack was keen to do the same one again. Honestly, it is brill and we are going to try and do a different one each day. Just search Cosmic Kids Yoga on YouTube.

We have a YouTube app on our TV or you could play on your laptop/tablet or cast to the TV too. This was followed by a healthy snack. I am determined not to fall into unhealthy eating habits so we have been having fruit each morning.

Languages with Duolingo 

Have you tried Duolingo? Steve and the kids have used this in the past and previously loved it so we have decided to re-activate our accounts. It is a free app and really easy to use for all levels. You can pick a language (Spanish for myself, Steve and Harry, French for Jack and Japanese for Heidi).


There are various tasks to work through and you can set how long you would like to work for. We have all went with 10 minutes per day. You can add friends (I am NEFAMILYFUN on there) and collect points etc.... There is a paid version too but so far we are really happy to stick with the free version. The plan is to work through it each day. Even if you are an adult stuck at home with no kids, I would recommend downloading as something a little different to do.

Building a Hedgehog House

I really wanted to get outside today so asked on Twitter for ideas for activities we could complete. Somebody suggested we could build a Hedgehog House and after a quick google, I realised we had all of the materials required. Yeah! We used this guide from Wildlife Watch as a brief template.


Cut a doorway and vents into a box.....



Create a base with hay, leaves and twigs......



Cover the box with a waterproof carrier bag (and we weighed down with rocks too). You are supposed to tuck your box into a hedge but sadly we do not have a hedge in our garden. Once we can get out and about again, we will try and find somewhere suitable but for now, we hope some smaller animals and insects may like their new house.


Time Tables RockStars 

Heidi and Jack have been sent a list of resources they can use at home. Times Table Rock Stars is one of them. They already use this app in class and sometimes as homework too. I think school pay for this app but they are currently offering 60 days free for any schools which sign up.

You set the times tables you already know / are learning into the app and then the app sets you a series of multiplication and division questions based on this. There are class challenges, girls v boys, individual challenges, year group challenges.....which seems to motivate the kids. Heidi and Jack are going to complete 20 minutes each day. Harry has had more work set from school so he completed this (online).

Google Classroom 

Most of Harry's work is set through Google Classroom which I find fascinating! The teacher has a virtual classroom and sets work. Students can chat with the class (eg asking where to find something), privately message the teacher, upload their work etc..... Harry is used to using Google Classroom in school already but it is completely new to me.

It is crazy how quickly technology changes. As mentioned in an earlier post, you pretty much have to buy a Chromebook at Harry's school  (we pay £13 a month to school for his) and I am thankful for this as it has made home learning SO much easier for him.

Guinea Pig Time


Our next activity was based around our Guinea Pigs. We each designed an information booklet for people who were thinking about buying a Guinea Pig. We included pictures, costs, daily tasks, health and hygine. This was a lush activity and the kids liked researching/drawing.

Spellings

We will be ending the day at 2:20pm with Spelling Shed which is another app the kids use at school/home and have a login for already.

As I type this at 2pm, I feel like we have had a productive day but as much as I love them, it is tough being with the kids 24/7.  I am really missing my own space which I am used to. I definitely need a long bath in peace tonight.

How I am Feeling...... 
I feel ok today. Our Meat Delivery from Great British Meat has been delivered so we have a stocked freezer which is one less thing to worry about. I haven't stepped foot in a supermarket over a week now and I feel like it would be far too stressful right now!

Last night I went through our direct debits and cancelled a fair few. We said goodbye to Amazon Prime as we rarely use it now and if this experience has taught me anything, it is that we need to all make more of an effort to support our local businesses every time not just some of the time. I also sadly cancelled our Merlin Annual Passes.

We have had them for a year next month (which is the minimum term) but we will not be using them for the next three months now and although we will miss out on visiting Warwick Castle, Birmingham Sealife, the London Attractions and Alton Towers, cancelling them now saves us £150 across 3 months so it makes sense. We can visit those attractions as regular customers another time.

Finally, I cancelled our Scottish National Trust Membership. It has niggled me for AGES that we are Scottish Members rather than English Members - we mostly visit English properties and I would prefer it if they received our membership fees. Once this thing is over, I will re-sign up as a regular NT member.

Although my posts may look like we are doing loads, it feels like we are doing hardly anything and are really living in the slow lane. Most activities are taking up around 20 minutes and we seem to have long periods of chill time in between.

Kids are watching a lot of YouTube / TV during this time and I am catching up on work. We have signed up for Disney+ which launches on Tuesday and can't wait for that. I think the kids are challenging themselves to watch every single Simpsons episode!!  I am not going to beat myself up about the excessive amount of screen time though, just one of those things.




Tuesday 17 March 2020 - Then there were three..... 

Yesterday Boris Johnson told us if one person in your house has symptoms, everyone needs to self-isolate for 14 days so now I have Heidi and Jack at home too. We were unsure about Steve as he cannot work from home. He still went to work but after chatting with his boss, he was sent home. Yeah for good employers!

COSMIC YOGA



We started the day with Cosmic Kids Harry Potter Yoga. We cleared our living room and all did it together via the YouTube app on our TV. Good job nobody was walking past! We are going to try the Minecraft one next. It was really good fun and a nice way to start the day in the best spirits.






After our workout we let the kids chop some strawberries for us all and we had a bit of a break / watched Wallace and Gromit.

ANCIENT EGYPT 






Our topic for this morning was Ancient Egypt. First of all, we watched National Geographic Egypt 101 on YouTube then the kids created their own pyramid/fact posters while we listened to Egyptian music (also via YouTube) in the background. Thank goodness for YouTube! Jack and Harry finished a little earlier than Heidi so we popped Horrible Histories Eqypt on Netflix for a bit. 

We had a 2 hour break for play/lunch.......

After lunch the kids completed some of the work they had been set from school. Then it was onto.....

Organ Systems 

We used this BBC Bitesize resource to learn about Organ Systems. It is technically for Key Stage 3 so Heidi and Jack worked at a little bit of a higher level. We did a little bit of learning/note taking, completed the practice tasks and the quiz. The kids already knew all of the answers and I have to say I was impressed!

Harry has been sent a fair bit of work via email to complete tomorrow now so he is going to work on that and I will do something with Heidi and Jack. Heidi has asked for something arty and Jack has asked for more Yoga (despite him hating Yoga before!!). We finished at 2pm with a coffee and Stroopwaffles and snuggled watching Star Trek on the sofa.

How I am feeling 

Definitely up and down! I have read a few things which really make me worry about the next few months to come but I am trying not to dwell on this and focussing on each day as it comes.

I am a small business myself and will probably lose around £5000 worth of work over the next couple of months which is worrying. I have had a small last-minute job come through which I can do from home though (it involves sharing a FB post) so this does offer a small bit of hope.

I am absolutely devastated for our local small businesses, theatres and cultural venues - I really hope they survive this! I will be doing my best to support them where possible. I have ordered a meat hamper from Great British Meat Company who are based in Gateshead to stock our freezer up, a tray of Brownies from Pet Lamb Patisserie (you can freeze them which is my plan for when we need a pick me up) and a few cards and gifts to send out to people from For the Love of the North.

Being at home with the kids is not easy. They love to fight and Jack is particularly difficult to motivate (he is the complete opposite at school and pretty much a star pupil!). I think I may end up with premature grey hair at this rate but we are doing the best we can. Myself and Harry both have a cough still, Steve has a very mild cough and Heidi and Jack are fine.

I definitely want to plan some kind of time outside in the next few days whether this be a gardening activity or trying to get to a secluded beach or something. We will see.


Monday 16 March 2020 -  Shakespeare at Home 

It feels like the rest of the world is on lockdown right now but we are still going about our days pretty much as normal here in the UK. Steve is at work and Heidi and Jack are at school (Jack even has a swimming lesson tomorrow).

The Home School Diaries - March 2020


Personally, I had a panic attack about Coronavirus last Wednesday and I ended up crying about it which is very unlike me - I am usually very much a pro-active and solution-finding person rather than someone who is guided by emotions.

After the press conference last Thursday I did start to feel a lot better about things. This whole nightmare has shown me that I am definitely more fearful of the unknown than anything else. It may be that the UK plan is not the best plan but as long as I know what the plan is, I feel a lot better about things. Judging by the messages I received on Social Media, a lot of us feel the same.

I have also learned that I get sucked into Social Media and 24-hour news and that is good for nobody. As I work from home, it is so easy to have the news on in the background and I just do not have the discipline to not scroll through Twitter.

Let me tell you, in times of a crisis, this is not good for anyone's mental health. I have muted a few words and people on Social Media who I feel are sharing too much fear/negativity and I already feel a billion times better. I have limited the news to Channel 4 News at 7pm rather than rolling news too and this also works wonders.

The next few months are going to be rocky for my business. I mean, there are not going to be too many adventures and there are only so many round-up posts I can write. I love writing and connecting with people so I thought I might just share a daily diary of what we have been up to, just to keep me sane if anything and also, to reassure myself that we are all in this together.

Harry and I both have coughs, I have actually had my cough since the beginning of February but last Thursday it did get so much worse. I don't know if it was sort of linked to my panic attack, if it was a new cough different to what I had or if it is just a normal cough which had worsened. Who knows and I am not about to phone 111 and ask as I feel well in myself.

 On Friday and Saturday, I coughed non-stop. I didn't have any other symptoms but I am so paranoid about going out with a severe cough so I decided to stay indoors for 7 days just to be sure. I still have a cough today but actually feel a lot better and it is nowhere near as bad.

Harry's cough was new on Thursday / Friday but his is a lot milder. The official advice at the moment is to stay at home for 7 days if you have any symptoms, even if you have a new mild cough so that is what he is doing. He is absolutely fine in himself and as I type this, he is hardly coughing at all. He will be going back to school on Friday (if they are open).

We are staying indoors but we are still mixing with Steve, Heidi and Jack. Officially we should not be mixing at all but I think you need to weigh up what is right for you and just staying at home for 7 days and remaining vigilant about handwashing etc... feels right for us all right now.

Harry is in Year 8 and at his school, every child has their own Chromebook and a lot of learning is already online. I asked Harry to email his teachers on Friday and ask for work he could complete at home. His maths teacher has been brilliant and sent links to online work he is to complete daily but that is all we have had so far.

Harry can see that his teachers have uploaded work for the whole year group which is not due in until the end of April but it requires explanation, it is not something he can just complete with no instructions. We think this is their prep for schools closing.

Anyway, this brings me onto this post. When the schools eventually do close (which I think will be pretty soon), I think that every parent can choose how to spend this time and you just have to make it work for your family. For me, if I let the kids play all day for weeks on end, it soon descends into chaos and arguments. We need structure.

I am also in the VERY fortunate position that I work from home, do not have any impending work deadlines and can massively scale back my workload if needed (I do not imagine much work will be coming my way if we head into a lockdown situation anyway).

My plan for when the schools close is to spend first thing doing something their teachers have set them, then have a break before completing an activity from our list. Our afternoons can be free time/watching movies etc.... I am not going to be too rigid about this though and will play it by ear.

I wanted to get the kids involved in their learning and asked them to come up with some topics they would like to learn about. The list is pretty diverse!

I am looking forward to some of these but the 31 x table not so much. Apparently, it is easy! I will adapt and grow this list depending on how long the schools are closed for. My children are aged 9, 10 and 13 and are pretty good at getting on with things themselves so I am hoping I do not need to know the answers to all of their questions and instead, will provide them with the tools to find the answers themselves.

 Today, Harry completed his math work by 9:30am and then we did not know what to do. I asked him what he is learning about in school at the moment.....


We decided to tackle Much Ado About Nothing this morning - a play I know nothing about. Twitter is your friend in situations like this though, I asked how others would plan an activity around this and a few people got in touch (read all of their replies here) .

I am not an expert and it is a while since I was in the classroom so being able to ask people who do know what they are talking about on Social Media is just brilliant!

Suggestions for activities based around a Shakespeare Play include:

*Re-write the play in modern language
*Use the quizzes and resources on SparkNotes (a brilliant resource - highly recommend)
*Use these FREE online teaching resources from TES
*Watch the film and take notes
*Character descriptions 
*Design a poster to promote the book
*Use the learning resources on Twinkl 
*Write a letter from one character to another

Harry has decided to re-write the first scene in modern language and complete some of the quizzes on SparkNotes. This afternoon he is going to watch the whole film.

Harry always uses Google Docs as a default which I find weird as it would be word/pages for me. He is going to email me his work and I will ask him to email his teacher a copy too. Not sure if this is the right thing to do as they are probably snowed under at the moment but it won't hurt.

We have found that he works best in 20-30 minute blocks with a short 5/10 minute break in between.
If anyone has any suggestions for activities based around the other topics mentioned above for this week, I am open to suggestions!

We are heading to the Great North Museum at the weekend so I am hoping their new exhibitions will provide inspiration for extra work we can do at home in the weeks to come too. 

Part of me has always wanted to home / flexi / world school but my idea of learning at home involves learning through experience and visiting museums / monuments / exhibitions etc.... so it is going to be interesting to see how this all plays out.

I aim to update this blog post often and will be completely honest about how things are going so please pop back to see how we are getting on. Let me know if you have started to make plans for school closures - there really is no right or wrong answer to what we are all going to do and like I mentioned above, you just need to go with what works for your family.

Whatever you do, DO NOT FEEL GUILTY about your choices/circumstances/family dynamics.I worry that this is a trap a lot of us could potentially fall into across the next few weeks/months.  If you can survive best binge watching Netflix / letting the kids spend their days making TikTok videos, it is all good and you've just got to do what you've got to do. 



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3 comments

  1. Twinkl actually have a coronavirus offer for a free month on the ultimate package. We are using this as also self-isolating.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I saw someone share that many museums do virtual tours online so that might be fun? Now that schools are officially closing there should hopefully be more resources from them too

    ReplyDelete
  3. I really enjoyed reading your updates, we are about to embark on a homeschool routine next week which I'm both looking forward and also a little scared about. My kids love a routine as do I so we will try our best to carve one out for ourselves. Thanks for all the useful links they are much appreciated. Take care and stay safe x

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