Home education: Subjects to teach


If you are home schooling your child, there are a number of different subjects they will need to learn about. 

The following pages can be used as guidance to help you start teaching at home. 

There are also a number of resources available to help with home schooling.


It can be difficult to start home educating before your child can read. 

Useful beginner guides and exercises can be found:

Reading to your child is helpful when teaching them literacy.

Libraries are full of appropriate picture books, and you don't need to stick to the words in the book, instead you can:

  • talk about the pictures
  • get your child to guess what happens next
  • make up new versions of the stories together

Make it clear to your child that reading is important to you, by reading for yourself.


  • Learning to read includes learning to break words down into to individual sounds and then building words from their constituent sounds.
  • Learning the sounds that letters make is an important next step, but it is also important to learn to recognise patterns in words and some whole words.
  • Reading for understanding is important so that the child can check what they have read. This means that they can check for sense and go back to correct themselves if what they have read does not seem to make sense.

Once your child can make their way through an age-appropriate book, it would be helpful to take them to your local library.

Libraries often have readings, workshops and other activities taking place in the holidays and after school hours.

Try to get your child to read different types of text- magazines, comics, newspapers, websites etc.

Boys often tend to prefer factual material to fiction, and some read less than girls.

Make sure both boys and girls have opportunities to read different material.


Try to provide opportunities for your child to develop skills in writing for different reasons, including:

  • stories and essays
  • instructions
  • reports
  • diaries
  • shopping lists
  • picture captions

Most children are willing to put a lot more effort into a piece of writing if it has a "real" purpose.


The law says that a home educated child must be prepared for life in today's Britain. This includes understanding measurement and money.

A useful starting point is to spend a couple of days doing normal things but listing when numbers and mathematics are being used.

Measurement means answering simple everyday questions like:

  • How tall am I in centimetres?
  • Can I lift a kilogram of sugar with one hand?
  • What does a litre of milk look like?
  • How far is it when I run or swim 100 metres, or walk five miles?
  • The park looks close on the map, but how far is it in metres?
  • How many litres of emulsion or square metres of carpet will we need for the hall, stars and landing?
  • How many seed potatoes do we need for four five-metre-long rows using thirty-centimetre spacing?
  • How long will it take us to drive from South Shields to Southampton?
  • What time is the next bus / metro train, using the bus / Metro timetable? How long does the timetable show me it will take to get to the destination?

Include the idea of scale like maps and plans.

Multiplication tables can be useful, and learning them can be fun. (Seven nines are?)

Money uses addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, and it also often means dealing with percentages:

  • Is it worth going out of our way for a 10% discount on a £7 bill?
  • Is 28% a reasonable APR? How much will we end up paying?
  • What are our chances of winning a small prize in the lottery?
  • How many Euros can I afford?
  • How much is that in pounds?
  • Budgeting

If you're not very confident with maths, you could borrow or buy a textbook. They can be found in libraries and bookshops.

If you've got access to the internet searching "free maths" in Google can come up with helpful websites.



Get ideas for at home science experiments online, try typing "science experiments for kids" into google.

The Discovery Museum in Newcastle is very child-friendly. Current activities can be found at Discovery Museum.

Point out to your child the science involved in:

  • boiling a kettle
  • cooking a sponge cake
  • lighting a fire
  • blowing up a balloon
  • planting a seed
  • using a magnifying glass

You can use these everyday things as starting points for big ideas.


Science textbooks and children's popular science books are easy to find in libraries and bookshops. Many have pictures and introductions to most parts of science, and can be read by children of all ages.

You can find out more about science theories from stories about scientists. You can find age-appropriate biographies of scientists in the library.

Science also includes learning about pollution, resources, threats to wildlife, climate change etc.

Point out and talk about the science issues that are shown in the television news, and watch science documentaries together.

History and Geography

In South Tyneside

There is history and geography all around us.

In South Tyneside, there's the Coast, and the River Tyne.

There's the transport system - Tyne tunnel(s), (the cyclists and pedestrians tunnels), the Metro system, road transport, and the Shields Ferry.

There are local museums and historic sites including:

There is history and geography in every street:

  • What are those square, bricked-up holes at the backs of houses?
  • How do sand-hills form?
  • What happened to the rock arch at Marsden?
  • What was Cassius Clay doing in South Shields in 1977?
  • What made people come here from Scandinavia? Rome? Normandy? Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Cornwall? The Yemen? Bangladesh? Eastern Europe?

What went on in:

  • Templetown (1805-1826)
  • St. Hilda's (1810-1940)
  • West Harton (1844-1969)
  • Boldon (1869-1982)
  • Marsden (1879-1968)
  • Whitburn (1879-1968)
  • Westoe (1909-1993)?

Outside of South Tyneside

There are a number of places you can go to in the north east to learn about history and geography:

  • Durham
  • Beamish
  • Newcastle Station
  • Newcastle Airport
  • Roman Wall

You can find relevant museums and galleries in:

  • Newcastle
  • North Shields
  • Gateshead
  • Sunderland

Things to do

  • Get a day ticket and travel the whole of the Metro system, from South Hylton to the Airport and South Shields to St James's Park (via Tynemouth)
  • Go to your local supermarket and find out which countries the food comes from
  • Find out the types of cars in your street and research where they were built
  • Ask people who lived through them about the Second World War or the Sixties

Try to plan ahead. For example the Romans in summer, transport in autumn, wars and conflicts in winter, and jobs and industry in spring.


  • Books - You can find books on history and geography in bookshops and libraries
  • Television - you can watch relevant documentaries on the television


Learning to play a musical instrument seems to have a positive effect on other areas of education.

When a child becomes good at playing an instrument, their maths and English results seem to get better.

Music lessons and resources

Music doesn't need to be expensive - you can buy a new recorder for under £5, or a playable secondhand guitar for about £20. You can also ask around your family and friends as they might have some old instruments already.

You probably know someone who can play the guitar, so persuade them into giving your child a few free lessons.

There are free online instrumental lessons too. Use a search engine or, for example, take a look at the Guitar Compass website.

You might even know how to play something already, so pass on that skill. If not, why not learn together?

Music projects

Once your child gets to a good level of playing an instrument, check for local opportunities to play with other young people.

South Tyneside Youth Orchestra

The Youth Orchestra are classical musicians who meet every week.

Tuition is also available, although there is an annual fee. Phone 0191 519 1909.

For more information, contact the Chuter Ede Education Centre.

Music events in South Tyneside

South Tyneside is a great place for free live music, especially in the summer, so keep an eye open for live events.


Your child might feel a bit self-conscious about their drawing skills, but the more they do it, the better the results and the greater the confidence. And when you're educating at home, your child's first few tries at art don't need to be shown to everyone.

Drawing and painting are also great ways to organise thoughts or fix memories or explain things to other people. And a pencil and some drawing paper are not very expensive.

Art galleries and museums

In South Tyneside

The Customs House offers a number of Saturday morning sessions. Please contact them directly on mail@customshouse.co.uk to see what is on offer.   

South Shields Museum and Art Gallery on Ocean Road.

Art on the Riverside is a fourteen piece art collection along the riverside. It includes the three major works the Conversation Piece, Landing Lights and the Spirit of South Shields.

Tyne and Wear museums

Tyne and Wear has a number of galleries. Search online for "Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums" to see what's available and see the current programme.


Exercise is helpful in developing physical and psychological health, as well as developing social and other skills that are useful in adult life. This may be difficult for home schooled children.

However, there are a number of activities you can do as part of physical education:

  • Walk to places.
  • Get a bike for both of you. If a place is too far to walk to, try cycling.
  • Swim. There are some great pools in the area, and in summer there's the sea. Swimming is great for developing survival skill, muscle development and stamina.
  • Play against each other. Racket games can be played all year and, apart from the discipline of following a set of rules, knowing how to win or lose in a dignified way is a useful skill to have.
  • Use the public playgrounds.
  • Join a club. There are a lot of teams and organisations for young people which provide physical activities as part of their programme. Tennis, football, rugby, cricket and athletics clubs usually have junior sections and teams.
  • Borrow a book from the library, and draw up a home gym programme. If you don't have exercise equipment, you can make your own weights. Steps and flights of stairs provide great aerobic exercise.
  • Get some simple equipment that develops hand-eye co-ordination such as balls, frisbees etc.
  • Encourage your child to play computer games that develop balance and overall fitness.
  • Grow some vegetables. Digging will be good for both of you, and so will the fresh food. Your child will learn some biology and food science, notice the seasons and the weather, and cook something they've grown. If you're lucky enough to get an allotment, you'll also meet some nice, wise people.


The computer is not a teacher; it is a learning resource, and using it should be collaboration between teacher and learner.

Home learners tend to be heavier users of the internet than children in schools, partly because they rely more on distant learning and partly because there's not as much competition for hardware.

Staying safe on the internet

You should always know what your child is doing on the computer and who, if anyone, they're in contact with; if you don't, you should at least know they're safe.

A good website that teaches children how to stay safe online is Kid smart.

Using the computer and the internet

Open Office is a free office suite you can download instead of the commercial office suite. Office suites are programmes like word processor, spreadsheet, database, presentation software etc.

You can download open office and find links to help and training on how to use the programmes on the Open Office website.

You can learn more about how to use the internet better at Internet 101.

Design technology

Design Technology is about making things, keeping things going, and a lot of problem-solving.

Design technology includes things such as:

  • cooking
  • Lego
  • car maintenance
  • web design
  • fashion
  • toy-making
  • wallpapering

You can get a lot of useful information about design technology online. Enter the words design technology into a search engine to find websites.

The Design Technology Department is also a helpful website.

Learning how to make something

You might have particular skills that you're happy to pass on, or you know someone who has.

If any of your friends have relevant hobbies, persuade them to give your child a taster session, even if they don't have time to follow that up themselves.

If your child already has a practical skill that they're happy to use and develop, see if it's possible to extend that.

Once they are interested in something, ways can usually be found to build on their interest. It may be possible for you to learn together with your child.

You might find it useful to make a list of the skills you think your child will need. Everyone's list will be different, but this might be a starter.

  • Assemble a flat-pack sideboard
  • Hang a set of curtains
  • Clean a cooker
  • Screw down a loose floorboard
  • Plan a week's food shop
  • House-train a dog
  • Sew on a button
  • Change a tyre
  • Clean a budgie cage
  • Wash a car
  • Empty a vacuum cleaner
  • Boil an egg
  • Iron a pair of jeans
  • Decorate a Christmas tree
  • Hang a picture
  • Swap a SIM-card