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Cornish mum gives top tips for home schooling your children

Cornish mum gives top tips for home schooling your children

Published by Sarah Yeoman at 6:28am 23rd March 2020.

Written by Richard Whitehouse, Local Democracy Reporter

A mum who home schools her children has given her best hints and tips for families who have suddenly found their children at home due to schools closing for the coronavirus.

Beth Gillespie has four children who she home educates and said that she likes to have structure to her day.

“That is the kind of person I am. I like to know what is going to happen and that I have achieved what I want to achieve,” she said, “I like tick lists.”

“But not everyone is like that, there are lots of home ed parents who are not like that.

“If you are used to the routine of having to get the children up, get them dressed, having breakfast and then going to school then it is useful to keep that routine.

“A total paradigm shift is probably not the right thing right now.”

Beth, who lives with her four children and husband in mid Cornwall, recommends that parents don’t try and “sprint” with their children.

back to school

“For a lot of people there will be that first part of the day where they are rushing around and getting everybody ready before then being able to get back home or go to work.

“Home school is not like that, it is more like a marathon and you have to pace yourself. You have to think how are you going to survive 24/7 with your children.

“I like to make sure that the house is relatively tidy and doesn’t take over us. We will all work together on that and we use the language of teams. We say that having somebody put the laundry away is just as important as Daddy going out to work.

“I also have to plan times of rest, when I will make a cup of coffee, sit down and read. We have done our school work for the day and then get the kids to go outside and play while I sit down for half an hour.

“Or when making tea I will let the kids watch a show and I will pour a glass of wine and cook slowly.

“If you view everything as a sprint and try and get everything done at once you will burn out.”

When it comes to learning Beth says that she has learned how to get the best out of the week with her four children.

“We find that we have more energy on Monday and Tuesday and less on Friday. So we will do more intense academic subjects in the early part of the week and then at the end of the week we relax and do things like art and going outside.

“Similarly I am a morning person and my kids are way better in the morning so we school from 9 to 12. Others will start later and go from 1 to 4. That is up to each individual family doing what works best for them.

“You also need to work out when to do each subject – nobody wants to do the same subject every day. It’s about pacing yourself and not being overwhelmed.”


Beth explained that her two children aged eight and 10 will work together on subjects while her eldest, aged 12, will work more independently and will sometimes work into the afternoon as he has more work.

But she explained that her role is largely “encouraging and motivating” rather than teaching.

“I will set them up with work and will then encourage them and help them if they are struggling.

“A lot of it is independent and it is more about encouraging and motivating rather than teaching.

“For parents at home now teachers will be preparing work and it will be things that their children can do. They need to motivate and encourage – including the odd motivating brownie!”

But Beth said that it is important that parents remember that they can’t do everything and there will be times when they may not be able to help.

She explained an incident recently when her son was tackling some algebra which had reduced them both to tears.

“I didn’t understand it, he didn’t understand it and we were both tearful and frustrated.

“I just said, let’s stop today and that night I reached out to people I knew would be able to explain it to me and then we could return to it the following day.

“I will always ask for help and there is a lot out there. I have already seen a lot of posts on social media from teachers offering support to people who might need it which is great.

“I have had to recognise my limits and reach out for help when I can.”


One of the key pieces of advice is to keep calm and do other activities.

“Whenever I have let the academic stuff become too big and worried too much the whole house has suffered and so they have a stressed out mum and parent.

“We play board games every day, we build Lego together, we go for walks together and we do gardening.

“Those things are just as important developmentally as academic subjects.”

And there is the importance of exercise:

“We do exercise every morning, which is something schools do with their wake up, shake up – we like to get the body moving.

“There is a PE teacher who does a workout every morning on YouTube that parents can use.

“We will run around, or dance along to our favourite music. It is a much better way to start the day.

“And if ever I see that they are struggling or overwhelmed I will get them to go outside, run around, do some jumping jacks or go on the trampoline.”

children online

And Beth’s final piece of advice?

“Don’t go following loads of Instagram home schooling accounts as you will feel like a failure.

“Facebook is much better as there are lots of home schooling groups there with people who can give real advice and support.

“You will get real thoughts from real people and not polished photos from people not showing their laundry piles.”

Beth also highlights a number of free online resources which are available including Twinkl – which has made its resources free for the next month. And museums which have free online, virtual tours.

The mum said that she was having to change her routine as well with her children’s usual clubs and socialising opportunities curtailed by coronavirus.

She added: “It is hard for everyone and will be a whole new shift for everyone. It is for us having four children trapped in the house together.”

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