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Coronavirus: ‘Let anxious kids play online games’: Perthshire-based home educator’s advice as schools eye closure

Mark Nixon home educating his daughter
Mark Nixon home educating his daughter

Parents educating their children at home should take a different approach to teachers in schools, it has been argued.

Mark Nixon, the Perthshire-based vice-convenor of Home Education Scotland, said he has been taking calls from concerned parents who are either already self-isolating, have withdrawn their children as a precaution, or are preparing for potential closures.

He said: “This is a specific situation. Children are hearing lots and lots about coronavirus too and parents should think about it from that perspective.

“If they want to sit and play an online game with their friends then I think that’s ok because the social thing for them has gone.”

Home Education Scotland is a newly-created membership body, which plans to create training materials and lobby around home education.

Preparing for this week’s announcement of school closures, education officials have been preparing homework packs and distance-learning materials.

Mark home educates his 11-year-old daughter at home in Blackford, near Auchterarder, while his 14-year-old son currently attends school.

He said he would advise parents not to try and replicate the classroom.

He said images of home educating parents sitting around the kitchen table ploughing through course work with their children were often wide of the mark.

He said: “Most home educators do not follow a curriculum. We try not to do lots and lots of formal teaching. Try and keep children comfortable and be led by them.

“If they want to do a maths worksheet, then there are lots of resources online. If they want to sit and read then that is ok too. Stop worrying about trying to keep up with school.

“We don’t do school at home because it’s not a school environment and that can go on to create tension and that is what we do not want at a time like this.”

He said it was “very easy to worry about children falling behind” but as long as they “are comfortable and happy” then the learning experiences would come.

He said some parents could be anxious because “they found school difficult themselves” and they are aware they “are not teachers”.

“People have been in touch asking what do I do with them during the day,” he said.

“We cook, read together, watch documentaries and discuss them. That is the kind of thing we do as home educators.”

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