Anna Dusseau | 6th April 2020
“Here is the ultimate funky Monday to enjoy with your family and please share widely as I can see many people are seeking a proper hand-hold like this at present.”– Homeschool Guru
Okay, okay! I’ll do it, but only because I like you. And hey, consider yourself extra special as anyone following my blog will know that I’m not big into timetabling. Oh sure, I can do it. You don’t do teaching and private exam tutoring for nearly a decade and not know how to knock up a decent schedule, but actually one of the very first lessons I learnt when entering the world of homeschooling was to stop planning and allow the day to become more child-led. If you caught my recent radio interviews, you’ll notice I stood my ground on this point and was met with a kind of appalled silence, and you know what? I totally get it. Colour-coded timetables are super comforting. And letting excruciatingly whimsical little people dictate the rhythm of the day is, let’s say, a bit unnerving. So, after a week-long email campaign from my subscribers asking for more concrete structure, I’ve decided to cave in and do it. Here is the ultimate funky Monday to enjoy with your family and please share widely as I can see many people are seeking a proper hand-hold like this at present. Do be sure to check my comments at the bottom though, for how to move these ideas towards a more autonomous and authentic form of home education in future. Ready? Let’s go.
7am What time do your kids come padding into the kitchen? Could be an hour earlier or later, right? Try to preempt the dawn chorus by having some warm-up activities scattered on the table and sofa, such as: newspapers, magazines, a craft activity, or paper and coloured pens. Allow the kids to just drift in and settle themselves into something calm and independent – perhaps with a bowl of sliced fruit or hot chocolate – while you get your to do list organised and hug the coffee machine.
7:30am Now almost everyone is up and it’s time to change gear a bit. Put on your favourite morning radio station, or else a fun podcast like David Walliam’s Marvellous Musical Podcast or Wow in the World. Don’t be tempted to have the TV rolling in the background at this point, as it absolutely saps concentration and can get the day off to a bad start. Best break this very school-y habit now (I get it; we used to watch Cbeebies every morning before the school run) and cultivate a different vibe.
8am Try to ensure everyone eats breakfast together and that you get to talk about the coming day and what everyone would like to achieve. Is there a TV show that your daughter loves? Okay, let’s try to factor that in. Does your son want to ride his bike at some point and could you make that happen? I always ensure that I read a short newspaper article at the breakfast table, or else check out one of the kids’ subscription magazines in order to stimulate a bit of reading and thinking from the get-go.
8:30am Clearing the table is a good time to dial up the tempo and get everyone buzzing for a productive day. You might put on an exercise class such as The Body Coach or Cosmic Yoga which the kids can do in their PJs while you check your own work schedule for the day, send a few emails and make a phone call. Or else, crank up the volume on your family’s current trending song (my kids are still obsessed with Grapes by Andrew and Polly) and let them dance around, skate, or just listen.
9am Definitely time to get dressed. We tend to be really chilled out at the weekend, so it feels good to snap back on a Monday. If your kids already have a learning activity which you know they are enjoying – like a great Maths workbook, or a research project they are enjoying – then this is a good time to plug them straight into that. Alternatively, you could suggest a kinaesthetic learning task, such as creating a themed collage, preparing a shopping list for the week or arranging a photo album.
10am By mid-morning, most of us need a short break and if you have a garden, this is a good time to get out for some fresh air; play football, practise cartwheels, have a table tennis match or just sip coffee in the sunshine. But if that’s not possible, or simply not what your kids feel like today, why not use this time for an educational TV show such as Horrible Histories, Magic Grandpa, Blue Planet or a few TED-ed clips. This could naturally lead into a writing or drawing task if they feel inspired.
11am Time for some more focus before lunch, so if you have older children who are keen to complete a worksheet or written task, this could be a good space for them to achieve that. For younger children, why not get them focused on something collaborative and logistical, such as creating a teddy bear zip line, making a popup book, looking at a map and planning a family walk for the afternoon, or just all Skyping grandma and checking in with how she’s doing during this time.
11:30am I tend to find that one or two of mine really focus during this stretch of the day and so they might now be absorbed in a long diary entry or elaborate painting which will take them through to lunch, but inevitably one of the boys will have lost focus and need something else. Empty toilet tubes make a great runway for Hot Wheels cars when taped together, or for older ones you could discuss options for a research topic either on the laptop or using the encyclopedia.
12am Do you remember Ready, Steady, Cook? My kids love this activity and I find it breaks the day up really well. Set out the ingredients you had envisaged for lunch (eg. dry pasta, onions, tin of chopped tomatoes, pepper, olive oil, cheese) and tell them they are in charge of lunch. Depending on the ages of your children, this might need quite a lot of supervision, or not much at all. Ask them if they’d like to listen to a musical playlist or audiobook while cooking, which is a peaceful habit to cultivate.
1pm After lunch, I always need at least 30-40 minutes to do some work or admin which can’t wait until the evening. Why not make this your kids’ reading hour? My eldest will happily flop on the sofa with a biscuit and disappear into Lemony Snickett, but for the boys there’s usually at least 20 minutes of bringing duvets and pillows into the front room and then piling books around like a fortress before anything actually gets read. This is golden time though, as they are all happy and focused.
1:30pm Again you might have one or two who are absorbed in their reading books now for another half hour or so, whilst the younger ones need a change of activity. Tidy up the reading fortress by pretending that you are the pirate captain and they are your crew. Be sure to sing sea-shanties as you set sail on the duvet-ship, putting books away and rearranging the house for later. If your kids play instruments, this is also a time when you could encourage 15 minutes’ pratcise.
2pm Time to get out, right? If you are self-isolating due to viral symptoms then any physical activity will do, from painting a wall or cleaning the windows, to playing games in the garden or practising skateboard skills in the hallway. If, however, you can responsibly get everyone out for a quiet walk or bike ride, then definitely grasp the opportunity. We often listen to audio books or educational podcasts if we are taking the car, as this keeps brains switched on and the vibe engaged.
3pm At this point in the day, most younger children are not going to be able to concentrate on anything too rigorous, unless they are seeking this of their own accord. Instead, allow the afternoon to have be more relaxed and again present a range of activities which they can choose to engage with if they want to, from looking through a National Geographic magazine, to baking cookies, or finishing off the sock puppet or popup book from this morning.
3:30pm Probably snack time for younger ones, or at least a cup of tea and downtime for teenagers. We often read a book during snack time, play Top Trumps or use Story Cubes to come up with outlandish plots for fire-breathing dragons and sword-wielding heroes. Again, depending on age and stage, one of your children might want to call a friend at this point, check their social media account or just listen to music on their headphones while snuggled up with the cat.
4pm I try to save TV time for that ‘unhappy hour’ before dinner, bath and bed. Of course, if it’s glorious sunshine outside, then do enjoy these longer days by spending an hour gardening, with the kids sorting out the pot plants or herb box if they want to. If they need to unwind with some TV however, definitely let this be their choice now. My kids aren’t really into TV shows so during the week they often watch half a movie and finish it the next day, which also works well.
5pm Keep dinnertime focused and avoid sibling disputes, either by having something light like activity books and colouring on the table, or else sit down with them (even if you’re not eating) and try to focus the discussion around what everyone would like to do tomorrow. Older children are likely to be aware of projects and topics that they want to cover during the week, whereas younger ones might need some prompting such as: ‘Shall we get out the play dough in the morning?’
5:30pm I find this a rather fragile time of day, so I tend to help my kids figure out what they want to do in the half hour it takes me to wash up, clear my inbox and get ready for the evening. If the house is in a state, definitely put on some music and get everyone tidying up together. Or else you might have one outside again kicking a ball around while another one trawls through the recycling bin to begin a cardboard modelling project. Try to got with it and see what great ideas they have.
6pm From this point onward, regardless of the age of your children, you are going to be moving toward bath and bedtime at some point. Make sure that this is a calm time for all of you and, if possible, free from meltdowns and squabbles. Reading, puzzles, journalling or a quiet craft activity are all great ways to shift the vibe towards wind down and bedtime. Make sure you are clear about boundaries, as if you work from home like us, you might need the evening to finish things off.
Homeschooling is a shuffle, it’s not a playlist.– Homeschool Guru
What I can say for sure is that this is not the schedule that I will be following today with my own children, or at least not necessarily in this order. The more you embrace autonomous home education, the more you will discover they are actually learning and the less you should be stressing out trying to prep resources in advance. In the meantime though, whether you are interested in home education or simply trying to make crisis-schooling through COVID-19 bearable, I recommend that you approach each day with a loose idea of the schedule but prepared to be flexible and follow your children’s interests as much as possible. Homeschooling is a shuffle, it’s not a playlist. Have a mental pick ‘n’ mix of ideas to draw on, but always be ready to change it up and flip the timetable – or abandon it altogether – if your kids suddenly get stuck into a plastic recycling topic and want to spend the morning listening to the Earth Song and writing letters to their local MP. Finally, remember that we are all coping with the lifestyle impact of COVID-19 as best we can and it is important to appreciate that this timetable is a far cry from the typical busy calendar of most home educating families. Normal life has come to an abrupt halt for all of us and, while we are waiting for times to change, we all need to strike a balance between structure and creativity in order to enable our children to thrive, not just survive.
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