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Top tips for learning at home with your child

Photo: There are lots of ways to learn at home with your child, it doesn't need to be very formal.

Written by Emma Fraser (Teacher of the Deaf)

As a teacher and a parent working from home, I know there are incredible pressures on everyone to carry on as normal. There is pressure on schools to carry on teaching a curriculum and pressure on parents to deliver an education. But school education and home learning are two very different things. Don’t worry about trying to recreate school at home, instead think about creating an environment where your child can learn in a structured but relaxed way. Watch your child thrive and grow in confidence as they use and practice skills which often get overlooked in everyday life.

Remember this may be the only time in you and your child’s life when you get to spend so much time together. Do the things you’ve always wanted to do with them and don’t worry about the rest.

Here are some ideas that might be useful:

1. You have all the skills you need

You have all the skills you need to help your child to learn. Your child will be learning even when they’re just hanging out communicating and playing with you. Let your child share with you what they’re interested in and follow their lead. You can use the following resources to help you:

  • This video series supports the communication development of deaf babies and toddlers with any level of hearing loss, from mild to profound.
  • Let’s Listen and Talk from the Elizabeth Foundation is for families who want to help their baby, toddler or pre-school child with hearing loss develop listening, spoken language and communication skills.
  • Our webpage on playtime has lots of ideas and things for you to think about when you are playing with your child.
  • Twinkl has a free British Sign Language (BSL) resource pack so you and your child can practice some new signs together. Currently Twinkl has a month’s free trial. Use the code: UKTWINKLHELPS.
  • Hungry Little Minds has lots of fun activities and ideas to boost children’s communication, language and literacy development.
  • These resources have been written by childcare and early years experts to help you support your child’s learning at home.
2. You don't need to be with your child every minute

Allow your child to find ways of occupying themselves, maybe by rediscovering old toys or making up new games and stories. Get them to tell to you about what they’ve done or what they plan to do. Here are some ideas to get them started:

3. Learning takes place all the time

Learning takes place all the time, in everyday routines, discussions around the dinner table, playing games or communicating with friends and family over the internet. Make sure your child is using their hearing device and any other personal technology as much as possible during these times. The handy videos below explain more about looking after your child’s hearing aids.

Watch: How to look after your deaf child's hearing aids.

Watch: How to change the tubing in your deaf child's hearing aids.

4. Children love a challenge

Children love a challenge: see how many objects they can fit in a small box, send them on a scavenger hunt around the house, or set them a task to be completed in a given time. Ask your child to explain how they overcame problems and then get them to come up with challenges for you. Here are some ideas:

  • Scavenger hunts can take place around the house or in the garden and you can collect any type or theme of object.
  • This video in BSL explains how to make a water rocket.
  • CODA UK and Ireland has a daily challenge for families on home learning.
  • Parallel offers a set of weekly maths challenges for 11-15 year-olds. It's just 15 minutes of interesting, fun and challenging material that goes beyond school maths and into mystery and history, activities and oddities, and puzzles and problems. 
5. Have a routine

Most children are happiest when they have a routine. This doesn’t mean they won’t fight you over it, but establishing boundaries around bedtimes, meal times and study times will make them feel secure when everything around them feels strange. Agree a timetable together and write it down or draw it out using words, pictures and photos. Here are some resource to help you create yours:

  • Widgit Symbols are used worldwide to support communication and understanding using symbols and visuals to create timetables and charts. Widgit has a free month’s trial. Use the code WIDGIT30 when you log in.
  • Boardmaker can help you create online visual timetables and routines. They currently have a 90 day free trial.
6. Communicate clearly and be flexible

Communicate clearly your expectations, but be prepared to be flexible. Every family will approach learning in a different way – there’s no right or wrong. Agree a set of simple rules but be prepared to revisit it if things aren’t going well. 

Twinkl offers a range of choice cards and behaviour reward charts.

Social Stories can be used to teach routines, explain changes or help children learn how to behave in new situations and manage expectations. Choose from a wide range of resources on their website.

7. Get reading

You can read all sorts of different things with your child - stories, books, magazines, newspapers and comics. Read with your child, alongside your child or share the same audio book or eBook as them. Talk about the content and ask them what they felt and thought. We have a great blog from a deaf mum with more tips for reading with your child.

Find out more about audio books, eBooks and signed stories at:

  • Signed Stories have a wide range of well known children’s stories and books in BSL. Some stories are currently free.
  • Clicker is software that helps children to write simple texts. It is currently free to download.
  • Words for Life is the National Literacy Trust’s website for parents. It has activities for developing language, communication and literacy for 0-11 year-olds.
  • Audible is currently offering free access to a range of audio books.
  • Find study guides and book summaries, as well as more than 2000 classic texts at Bibliomania.
  • Don’t forget to check out your local library online to access hundreds of free eBooks and audio books.
8. Try out some free internet resources

There are loads of free internet resources out there. Give them a go and share your feedback with us. Don’t worry if they’re not accessible to your child – you may be able to do what they’re doing better yourself. They may give you some good ideas. Ask your child to tell you what they enjoyed and what went well or, if it didn’t work out, why it didn't. Check out some of them here:

  • Stem has a range of hands-on activities for families to use at home, suitable for ages from 4-16.
  • Do you love board games? Boardgamearena is the site for you. Mum Sara has also written a great blog for us about sharing board games with her deaf child.
  • There are loads of virtual tours and live webcams you can follow, including the NASA webcam, an Edinburgh Zoo tour and you can even explore a Roman fort. Find them all here.
  • The Special Needs Jungle Facebook page has lots of ideas for other fun activities.
9. Find a quiet space

If possible, create a designated quiet space where your child can do some focussed learning. Make sure windows and doors are closed and the TV is off. Here are some ideas for more formal learning:

  • The Department for Education has recently published a list of online education resources – these are for parents and teachers to help children to learn at home. The list includes subject-specific resources for English, Maths, Science, PE, Mental wellbeing and Special Education Needs and Disability (SEND). We’ve audited the Department of Education’s list and have made some comments around their level of accessibility.
  • The BBC is expanding its education offer to bring 14 weeks of educational programmes and lessons to every household in the country - whatever your child’s age.
  • EdShed delivers literacy, maths and spelling activities through videos and interactive activities in which you can compete against your friends.
  • Get revising provides resources by exam board and by specification.
10. Get sharing and interacting online

Most children learn best when they can share their thoughts and ideas and interact with each other. If you have the time, learn alongside your child, even if it’s only for a short period a day, and try out different ways of keeping in touch over the internet with friends, family, school and classmates. Options include WhatsApp, Skype video calls or webchats, FaceTime, Zoom conference calls, Google Hangout, and Microsoft Teams.

If your child wants to learn a new skill, British Sign are offering subsidised sign language courses to both children and adults for a limited time. 

You could also take this opportunity to learn to touch type at TypingClub.

However your child is learning online, don’t forget to keep them safe. Visit National Safety Online for some top tips.