Homeschool essentials: The best learning resources for teaching English, history and geography

Louise Whitbread
·7-min read
<p>If you’re once again the acting teacher in your at-home classroom, use these ideas to help you ace it </p> (iStock)

If you’re once again the acting teacher in your at-home classroom, use these ideas to help you ace it

(iStock)

Schools have been massively affected by the ongoing pandemic and for many parents, much of 2020 was spent homeschooling children, as they were shut or partially open to specific year groups.

Amid a surge in coronavirus cases, all mainstream schools and colleges are now closed, other than to vulnerable children and those with parents who are key workers, until February half term at least.

During a televised address, the prime minister acknowledged that the closures mean it will not be “possible or fair” for all exams to go ahead as planned this summer.

Juggling homeschooling with working from home is no mean feat, but we’ve found all the best resources that might just make teaching from home a little easier.

In April last year, the BBC launched an extended version of its Bitesize educational website. Students can now access BBC Bitesize Daily, where resources and lessons are helpfully divided up by age groups.

The website has had the help of British celebrities to engage children too, from Dr Who’s Jodie Whittaker teaching a lesson about outer space, to Spanish lessons from the footballer Sergio Aguero.

Best of all, Sir David Attenborough has given lessons on everything from animal evolution to oceans. The lessons were launched on 20 April and although still there and usable, some of the videos have since been archived.

When speaking about his involvement with BBC Bitesize, the legendary broadcaster said: “I am delighted to be teaching primary school children across the country about the things I am passionate about.

"I hope children will learn something new about animals, oceans and dinosaurs, and feel inspired by my BBC Bitesize lessons.”

But it's not all for children, as there's also advice for parents and carers on the site on how to homeschool.

For more information and ideas for teaching kids at home, we have read and reviewed the best homeschooling books at IndyBest, where our best buy was I Am The Seed That Grew The Tree, by Fiona Waters.

To help cut through the noise, we’ve picked out the best online resources available, most are free, covering all the subjects your child may be learning, from KS1 to KS4.

Here we start with the subjects English, history and geography.

You can trust our independent round-ups. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

English

TTS

For KS1 and KS2 students, TTS has free downloadable workbooks created by teachers to keep your child’s curriculum on track while they learn from home. It has literacy tools to help with grammar, writing, spelling, punctuation, guided reading, comprehension, handwriting and English as a second language.

It’s also created this essentials page full of educational resources such as whiteboards, reward stickers, worm words and spelling programmes to kit you out if your child learns better kinetically.

It also has a dedicated section of its site to secondary school students studying at KS3 and KS4 level, particularly pupils who may be struggling. It includes book packs to set reading goals and homework, creative writing, phonics and a guide for teaching children with dyslexia.

Fun Phonics

For younger children, Fun Phonics has made its digital products free for home learning which includes lettering, flashcards, word searches, objectives, name labels and spelling cards.

It ranges from children who are just developing key speaking words and vocabulary up until kids who can identify words using a digraph – when two letters put together to make a sound such as "ph".

The Story Starter

To encourage children’s storytelling imagination for a creative writing lesson, try The Story Starter which generates the first sentence of a fictional story which children then springboard from to write their own.

It’s accessible across all ages, but if you’re using it for homeschooling, we’d recommend it towards children in KS3 and above as some sentences may be too complex for younger ones.

Spelling Training

If you're looking to brush up your child’s spelling but aren't sure where to start, Spelling Training is a simple-to-navigate tool to aid you when teaching children in KS1 and KS2.

It creates spelling practice lists, tests and word games from a drop-down menu of subjects such as colours, the human body, musical instruments, irregular verbs and popular songs.

BBC Bitesize Learning at Home

The lessons on across all subjects are usefully organised by year group, from Year 1 to Year 9. They've been created with teachers and other educational experts and feature a mix of videos, animations, practice activities, quizzes and games, so kids won't get bored of the same style of learning.

After choosing the right age, you'll see the lessons are split up into subjects and days, so kids will get a good range of the subject over the coming weeks.

English lessons range from spelling to learning verbs and writing sentences for younger ages to learning how poets create meaning for the older years.

History

The British Museum

Although the actual museum has of course temporarily closed its doors, that doesn't mean we can't still access its enormous wealth of knowledge. It has created an interactive learning tool to allow you to visually explore history across the five continents through its artefacts; Asia, Africa, Americas, Europe and Oceania which goes from modern day all the way back to 2000 BC.

In it, you can pick from themes such as art and design, religion and beliefs and trade and conflict to allow kids to learn from all aspects of the artefacts and information currently housed in the museum. It’s suitable for KS2 and above.

BBC Bitesize

Each programme is 20 minutes and there are six a day from the BBC, with lessons available for students from KS1 to GCSE level.

Covering topics across local, national and international history, subjects you can expect on offer include Tudors and Stuarts, the Roman empire, the cold war and Vietnam, the British empire and more.

Lessons can be accessed all the way back to April too, so there’s plenty of choice.

What Was There

Another interactive tool is What Was There, which has photos from different cities across the globe, in different time periods, with dates and a little information on each picture.

While it isn’t as comprehensive as The British Museum, it is a good starting point for a lesson to help kids focus and learn a little about their own surroundings in history, such as what London looked like during the Blitz.

Geography

National Geographic Kids

This has a variety of facts, games, quizzes and activities to set KS1 children, such as finding plastic pollution solutions, how to make paper straws and facts about species of animals.

There’s also a detailed section dedicated to explaining the coronavirus to children and how it can spread across the globe and why travel isn’t permitted, which is a helpful tool in deciphering a strange, complicated time.

BBC Bitesize

Whether your child is in Key Stage 1 or studying for their GCSEs, there’s content for everyone.

Year 6 students can learn about settlements, while those in Year 4 have a lesson on maps, including learning how to read them and about compass points and Year 7 can learn about weather and climate.

Internet Geography

Developed by geography teacher, Anthony Bennett, Internet Geography is a GCSE-level resource which covers AQA syllabus, such as physical landscapes, natural hazards, population and urban issues.

The site also includes mock AQA exams, quizzes and case studies across ecosystems, coasts, climate change, earthquakes, environmental problems and erosion and weathering.

Each week, there's a different free homework task, called Geography in The News, that encourages students to engage with news stories that have a geographical element.

Twinkl

This online learning hub was initially created for teachers but it has adapted itself for homeschooling as a result of the coronavirus lockdown. It has lesson ideas, activities and live videos for KS1 to KS4.

There's lots of activities to download for free, including worksheets to label countries, flags, states and cities alongside packs of teaching materials, which include powerpoints and visual aids which have specifically been created to accommodate parents at home.

Its KS3/4 resources offer comprehensive tools with weekly themes to debate such as "should animal testing for medicinal research be banned?". They include research projects for students to polish their debate skills with for and against arguments to finally come to a conclusion and present their ideas.

Need more inspiration? Read more of our homeschooling tips

Best online lessons, from Joe Wicks to Dr Chips

Best homeschooling books to educate kids during lockdown

Best online baby and toddler classes for parents

The online resources for maths, science and computing

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