From where to get resources, which textbooks to buy, how to structure a timetable, and when to hold a mock exam, Part 2 of our in-depth homeschooling guide, written by the UK experts, looks at the practical side of how to start homeschooling at home.
There are many reasons for wanting to educate your child or pupil at home. Your location may be a factor, your pupil may have special educational needs, your pupil may have dropped out halfway through the school year and still needs to take their exams, or perhaps you are simply looking to take a different path. Whatever the reason, we’ve put this guide together to help you with everything you need to know to start homeschooling effectively.
First off, there are no legal requirements for you to hold a PGCE or any other official teaching qualifications to teach your children or pupils. Educating your child or pupil at home is a legal right. Qualifications are not required by private schools and the same goes for homeschooling.
How many hours a day do you need to teach? How best to split up the week? Every family we work with is different. How to start homeschooling, what you need to teach and for how long will depend on your individual circumstances. Let’s say you’d like your pupil to receive roughly the same breadth of education they would receive at a traditional school, to fill the criteria of the National Curriculum. (Though as we covered in Part One, you do not have to teach the National Curriculum).
For primary age pupils, we recommend the following:
- 25 hours 1-2-1 tuition per week
- At least 1 extracurricular activity per week
- 1 cultural excursion, where possible, per month
This breaks down to 5 hours academic instruction per day. E.g. 9am to 3pm with an hour break for lunch. If you’re looking for which subjects you can teach at Primary Level, please see Part 1 of this guide. There’s also good Key Stage 1 & 2 support from the government’s website, which you can find here. If you’re hoping to tutor your pupil towards the 11+, you can find excellent past papers here. For how to start homeschooling at Primary level, here is an example of one of our Year 5 timetables:
GCSE & A Level
For GCSE’s we recommend at least 3 hours per week for Core Subjects and 2 for others. But advise on more if there are areas a pupil struggles with. Foor A Level timetables we recommend at least 6 hours per subject. For GCSEs and A levels we also recommend per week:
- 2 hours study skills (organisation, setting goals, exam technique, revision technique)
- 3 hour cultural excursion, where possible
For how to start homeschooling for GCSE & A Level, here’s an example timetable for one of our GCSE pupils:
For pupils younger than primary age we recommend lowering the teaching hours to 1 – 2 hours a day, maximum. This might not seem like a lot, but at this age, that is all that is required. Here’s what our Head Tutor Emily had to say: I recently gave weekly support to a mother who was homeschooling her 5 year old, we created a daily schedule for her that was only up to 2 hours long (mostly 1-1.5 hours a day of worksheet/book work). She told me she felt that she wasn’t doing very much sometimes, but the content of this girl’s homeschooling books told me a different story – pages of work, worksheets, drawings, exercises done etc., and her little girl was really progressing along the curriculum. For pre-school pupils, the bigger picture is more important. To foster intellectual development at a healthy and sensible rate, we recommend setting goals for work to be completed week by week, rather than day by day.
We advise sticking to the school calendar, if possible. This will help your pupils gain a sense of stability and security, which will lead to a more balanced, healthy lifestyle and a far more productive time in the classroom. We do understand that flexibility may be one of the key reasons to choose to home educate in the first place. Still, it is a good idea to teach your pupil for the same length as the school terms, even if the dates are not adhered to exactly. Here are the 2020/2021 dates in England, Wales and NI, and Scotland. Usually we create homeschooling programs of 30 to 34 weeks in a year.
Unlike in school where large group classes are often the norm, tuition at home will most likely occur 1 on 1. Or 1 to a much smaller group. If you are reading this guide, you are already aware of the benefits of this, but it’s also important to be aware of some of the drawbacks. If you are your pupil’s sole academic instructor, some days may seem frustrating or tense, especially if breaks aren’t properly factored in. (For more on how to manage tension in the classroom, see “Teaching Tips” below) It is crucial to tailor lesson length to the individual needs of your pupil, especially if they have special educational needs (SEN). Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic learners will all learn differently, too. It helps to know how your pupil learns best when planning your lessons. (Unsure? They can take a test here.) NEED HELP WITH LESSON PLANNING? NEED TO TALK TO AN SEN SPECIALIST? OUR HOMESCHOOLING CONSULTANTS ARE HIGHLY EXPERIENCED. GET IN TOUCH TODAY. Fill out a Contact Form, email email@example.com, call +44 (0) 2088193276 or WhatsApp
Schools usually run mock exams for GCSE and A Levels in January. Pupils who receive full-time homeschooling from Minerva Tutors also take mocks in January and just before the Easter Holidays. To run a mock exam, you can download past papers from the exam board websites and adhere strictly to the time they allocate. If another responsible adult is able to run these exams for you, to add to the simulation of what it will feel like in the exam room, this can work well. If you are on a Minerva Tutors homeschooling program we run mocks with proper invigilation at key points throughout the year. And during COVID-19 we are running remote mocks. If you are unsure about exams, or how to register your pupil for their exams, which they must take in a certified exam centre if they are to receive official qualifications, please see Part 1 of this guide.
For a full list of what your pupil will need, this is a great place to start. In addition, we recommend your pupils have the following for each subject:
- Lined notebook,
This book will be in daily use, especially at Primary level. E.g. answering questions you have set, such as spelling tests for younger pupils, or short creative exercises for older pupils.
- Ring-bound file, A4
These are needed to store additional learning materials like handouts and mock exams.
What to teach?
In the first part of this guide, we explained how, for GCSE and A Level, individual exam boards set the content for the subjects you will be teaching. For Primary Level, the government sets the content and exams. In Scotland, the system is slightly different. But how do you teach these subjects? Where do you find the textbooks, official syllabuses and marking schemes? Let’s take the example of History at GCSE. Before you start teaching, the first thing you need to do is head to the website of your chosen exam board. As an example, we’ve chosen OCR. https://www.ocr.org.uk/qualifications/gcse/ (For more information on choosing an exam board, please see Part 1 of this guide.) By scrolling down to “History”, you will see OCR offer two different GCSE qualifications in History. We’ve highlighted them in green:
- History A (Explaining the Modern World)
- History B (Schools History Project)
You now need to choose between History A or History B. It is worth spending time researching this decision. Each specification, “A” or “B”, will cover different subject matter – different periods of history – but both will reward their pupil with a GCSE in History. It is often the case to find more than one “specification” in each subject, so that schools can choose which stream most suits their teaching facilities. In the screenshot above, you’ll see both specifications are attributed to an exam code, J410 and J411 respectively. You’ll also notice these are the newer “2016+” versions of their qualification, and you should use these where possible. Let’s go for “History A”. Clicking on it will take you into the specification itself. Here you will be able to find everything you need to teach the subject properly.
- marking schemes
- topic exploration packs
- sample assessment materials
- teacher guides
- question papers
- grade descriptors
- delivery guides
CONFUSED AS TO WHERE TO START?
Download the course specification first. These tend to be long documents, but they are worth it. Course specifications will introduce you to everything you need to know about the subject you’re teaching, from an overall look at the content of the syllabus, to how it’s marked, and any other special considerations you need to know about.
On the exam board’s websites, you’ll also find a list of textbooks and endorsed resources.
Other than the official specification, syllabuses, and supporting material, most exam boards publish subject-specific textbooks to help pupils with their learning. These will contain information relevant to what you will be teaching. They can be bought directly from the exam boards or found on other online stores second hand.
Additional learning materials
As any seasoned teacher knows, it’s always beneficial to supply learning materials to your pupils that don’t come straight from the exam board. In fact, this is one of the main reasons why homeschooling can be so rewarding. So long as these materials remain focused and relevant to the core subject matter, they can enrich your pupils learning experience enormously. If you are an experienced teacher, you will probably have some in mind, but if not, here’s our Head Humanities Tutor Jack on some of his A-Level favourites: For RS, I really like using The Problems of Philosophy by Bertrand Russell which quite thoroughly unpacks a few of the key ideas that are mainstays of quite a few RS syllabuses. In terms of History, Bill Bryson writes quite well on A Short History of Nearly Everything. Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari is quite good in this respect too. When teaching geography, I’ve often found that directing students in the way of documentaries and visual mediums helps slightly more than books as there are lots of little rabbit holes in geography that can get quite technical and knotty on the page.
As well as books and television, there is a wealth of supplementary learning resources to be found online.
This is a fantastic compilation of free resources for pupils of all ages, across all subjects
Videos for parents / tutors as well as presentations from well known TV personalities on a wide variety of topics. Also has fun educational tie-ins with popular TV shows like Doctor Who and Springwatch.
Free online lessons, strong on maths and sciences. Based on the US curriculum but there are lots of crossovers.
Free language lessons available online. Good daily missions and specialised lessons for children as well as adults
If your pupil is creative, look no further for around the home craft ideas ideal for the younger ones. Further online resources:
- TED / School of Life: world class inspirational lectures available online
- 3D Geography: printable paper templates for learning about geography
- KM Tuition: printable worksheets and past exam papers
- GamED Academy: learning through Minecraft (for a subscription fee)
- Code Studio: computer science activities and lessons
- Literacy Trust: support for parents of children age 12 and under
Teaching at home is not like teaching at a school, and as such, it is important to be aware of the ‘teacher-pupil’ dynamic and how this may be different in a homeschooling environment. By using this to your advantage, and embracing these differences as strengths, homeschooling can flourish. Here are some tips from our expert homeschoolers:
By far the most successful homeschooling environments I’ve worked in are the ones that have dedicated areas – or “zones” – for learning and learning only. If there is a room in the house that isn’t being used so much and can be adapted into a semi-permanent classroom, this will help a great deal. Failing that, a corner of a room that you return to each day works well.
Setting both daily and weekly goals for learning is a great way to give structure and shape to your teaching, especially if you’re just starting out. Pupils like to know they will achieve a certain target before it has been accomplished.
Have your pupils plan a lesson and teach it back to you. Requires little preparation and is a great way to dissolve any tension that may have been building.
A change of scenery every half hour is a really easy way to keep things fresh and not laborious. Try breakouts in the kitchen, office, living room, garden.
Not to be confused with letting your pupils loose on Google for an indefinite period of time… this idea was made famous by a Google HR policy. I try to allocate 10% of my pupil’s daily schedule to a project nothing to do with academic work, allowing them to follow, or find, a passion.
Schedule break times over FaceTime with your pupil’s friends – even if this is online friends they have met on Minecraft! It’s important to allow them to clear their minds of work to sustain their ability to retain information in the long term.
It’s only natural that sometimes tensions and frustrations arise. If you need to call school off early one day, that’s not a problem. Again, think of progress as a weekly target rather than a daily.
Fixed vs Growth Mindset
Initially developed in the psychology department at Stanford University by Carol Dweck, this teaching philosophy is a great way to inspire passion in learning. For example, if a pupil complains that a maths question is too hard, a familiar response might be ‘That’s okay, just try your best.’ In actual fact, what this may be doing is reinforcing the idea that the child has the sort of brain which is physically incapable of doing complex maths work. But it doesn’t have to be this way. It’s better to try and develop a mindset that thrives on challenge. To stretch my pupils abilities and broaden the relationship they have with their own intelligence, I like to try responses like ‘that frustrated feeling in your head, that’s just the feeling of your brain growing.’
The Seven “Stays”
|Stay Honourable||We pledge our allegiance to suitable, efficient, full-time education||“To the uneducated, an A is just three sticks.” — A.A Milne|
|Stay Structured||Set goals and boundaries to achieve success||“Rigid, the skeleton of habit, upholds the human frame.” — Virginia Woolf|
|Stay Respectful||Respect your home and respect each other.||“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” — Henry Ford|
|Stay Curious||Change problems into challenges with the Growth Mindset||“I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.”— Albert Einstein|
|Stay Philosophical||Who says a bad day isn’t good?||“The roots of education are bitter, but the fruits are sweet.” — Aristotle|
|Stay Resourceful||Read, read, read, read, read, read, read.||“A mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone” — Tyrion Lannister|
|Stay Adventurous||Time is yours. Go to museums and concerts.||“The world is not in your books and maps, it’s out there.”– Gandalf|
We hope this information has been useful in some way to help you get started with homeschooling. If you would like to discuss anything further or have any questions, please drop the team a message and we will try our best to help. If you have any suggestions or examples of your homeschooling activities that are going really well, we would love to hear from you.