Coronavirus and homeschooling: tips from our staff

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the nation's parents are now juggling work with homeschooling – not an easy task. Read tips from staff at Friends of the Earth on how to keep kids entertained.
  Published:  07 Apr 2020    |      4 minute read

Colette Stewart, Campaign Coordinator Northern Ireland (Mum of 10-year-old and 8-year-old)

"We live in Belfast and moved recently for a garden, and what a relief we did! Emily (10) can engage herself in most activities easily but Harry (8) has a severe learning disability, so needs constant support and attention.

"Our garden is very much a work-in-progress, so there's lots to do. We've dug up foxgloves and replanted them in old yoghurt and plant pots for people to take when they pass by on their 'walk of the day'. We even got some scones left at our gate from a family (we don’t know) who enjoyed planting our unwanted plants – they were delicious. We've planted potatoes, sown some seeds and now we're painfully waiting for them all to sprout!

Homemade scones and a thank you letter
Credit: Colette Stewart

"We've enjoyed watching and rearranging Harry’s 'windmill garden' which is very stimulating when the wind blows. When it’s raining or too cold to go out, we bake and ice biscuits for frontline workers in our hospitals, paint rainbows on the windows, make slime, and experiment with exploding volcanoes (vinegar and bicarb) and a new one to me – 'oobleck' – a fascinating mix of cornflour and water, it could almost be classed as educational!

"Harry enjoys watching the results of Emily’s gooey experiments, but I’m still trying to make her clear up afterwards..."

Jenny Chan, Head of Major Partnerships (Mum of 4-year-olds)

"I don't have a creative bone in my body so my focus has been on cooking. In preparation for homeschooling, I got the boys their own kitchen equipment. They've now eaten chives and lettuce, which I think is because they cut it up themselves!

We also made rockets and trains out of toilet rolls and wooshed them down the washing line (courtesy of a quick search on Google)."

Jon Scriven, Senior IT Infrastructure Officer (Dad of 6-year-old and 4-year-old)

"For fun we did a 'virtual theme park' trip where we watched Rollercoaster POV (Point of View) videos on the TV. The girls (Lily and Isla) sat on a chair and we shook it and moved it around to tie in with what was happening on the screen. 

"We've found the free resources offered currently by Twinkl to be invaluable for home learning.  And we've also:

  • danced along with Oti Mabuse (from Strictly Come Dancing) to musicals and movies
  • baked cookies and cakes and then ate them (yum)
  • made rainbows to put in the windows for those out exercising to spot.

"Other things that friends have done successfully include:

"A friend with very young children has even put up a Christmas tree and is pretending that it's Christmas!"

Rainbows on windows (kids activity)
Rainbows on windows (kids activity)
Credit: Colette Stewart

Anna Musgrave, Event and Stewardship Officer (Mum of 6-year-old and 3-year-old)

"We had lots of fun making squishy soap, thanks to @thejoyjournal on Instagram – half cup cornflour, 4 tablespoons liquid soap, 4 teaspoons cooking oil and food colouring (we also added some essential oils). Don't forget to put your squishy soap in a container afterwards – which I forgot to do – otherwise it'll dry out.

"We've also been getting to know the neighbours a bit better (from a safe distance). My two conducted a "doorstep survey", where they spent the morning sat on the step asking everyone who walked past the following questions:

  • What's your name?
  • How old are you?
  • Where do you live?
  • Where are you going?

"They really enjoyed it, and people were so so friendly!"

Fancy receiving a special pack full of activities and ideas on how to save the planet?

Tom Wright, Grassroots Digital Specialist (Dad of 10-year-old)

"Because both myself and my wife work, we’re conscious that we can’t always be around to homeschool our son all day long. We’re also not superhuman and realise we can’t do that and be good at our jobs. So we created a weekday routine with Oliver, matching the time he would normally be at school.

"He gets to spend some time learning on a screen and then time on project work his teacher has set – where he isn’t staring at a screen! We also mix in a bit of free time so he can choose his own activity, and some family time – usually spent walking the dogs or bouncing on a trampoline. He finishes the day practising his trumpet. By the end of this he’s going to be playing the Pink Panther theme tune like a pro."

Estelle Worthington, Regional Coordinator Northwest (Mum of 3-year-old)

"We're lucky to live by a river and my son (soon to be 4) and I have been getting our 'exercise' by fishing for sticks in the river. I stand up-river chucking sticks in and he hooks them out with a long one he calls his fishing stick.

"Only one tumbling in episode so far, but that's all part of the fun! We've also been doing a spot of bird watching and trying to draw the ones we spot when we get home."

Ted Burke, Campaign Officer (Dad of 6-year-old and 12-year-old)

"We live in a fairly built up area of London, but I've been doing what I can to keep the kids in touch with nature while we're all at home. I bought a load of vegetable seeds and compost online and have been doing some sowing with my daughter May and son Jim on our windowsills.

"They're really enjoying keeping them watered and luckily there's been plenty of sunshine to get things started. Much to their excitement, some of the shoots are starting to come up – we're looking forward to sampling some delicious homegrown greens in our salads soon!"

Jenny Thatcher, Youth and Families Manager (Mum of 8-year-old)

"We're lucky to live near a cycle track and a wood, so we've been getting out on our bikes as much as possible during our daily exercise times.

"We also have a bit of a backlog of books on various topics that were given as gifts over the years and not looked at. So we've done a topic in home learning on space exploration and are just starting one on springtime, all using books we had on the bookshelf and some online resources.

"We're particularly enjoying the Iver Environment Centre's Facebook live lessons on nature and Signs of Spring. And for a bit of relaxation, my comic-obsessed son loves Mo Willems' Lunch Doodles – it's usually a bit of drawing or craft, along with some laughs and gentle support from Mo on coping with living through strange times. He'll happily do this while I get on with some work, which is a bonus!"

Get creative with House of Hackney
Friends of the Earth's partner House of Hackney has produced an activity book  inspired by their wallpaper prints. This free download includes colouring-in pages, cut-outs and games to enjoy with the family.

Fancy receiving a special pack full of activities and ideas on how to save the planet?