From Shakespeare to drawing sausage dogs: the best TV for homeschooling | Television

Written by Mamie M. Arndt

If you’re a parent of a school-age child, there is a good possibility that you have already experienced a few days of the endless waking hell that is home schooling. All of it is horrible. Sacrificing your own working day. Navigating the impossible labyrinth of devices and apps and log-ins. Watching your children take the mickey much more than they would with their teacher, because they understand that they’re more than just a professional commitment to you. All of it is the absolute worst.

Still, things are about to get infinitesimally easier. From Monday, the BBC gets to burnish its public service broadcasting credentials by handing over great chunks of its schedules to educational programming. What’s more, there’s a wealth of content online that could help to liven up the dismal fug of the next three months. Here’s the pick of the bunch.


The BBC’s Bitesize site.
The BBC’s Bitesize site. Photograph: True Images/Alamy

CBBC – Every weekday of lockdown, CBBC will set aside three hours of educational programming for primary schoolchildren, from 9am. On Monday, this block will include episodes of Bitesize – the corporation’s free study support resource – along with favourites such as Celebrity Supply Teacher (in Monday’s episode, Geri Horner becomes a teacher for a day), Horrible Histories, Our School and Art Ninja.

BBC Two – Meanwhile, BBC Two will set aside two hours each weekday for secondary school pupils. Although the details of this are still TBC at time of writing – unless documentaries about Gregg Wallace visiting sock factories are suddenly part of the national curriculum, the schedules have not yet been updated to reflect the changes – but we are promised more Bitesize “complemented by Shakespeare and classic drama adaptations alongside science, history and factual titles from the BBC’s award-winning factual programming units”.

Online – As well as the television offering, Bitesize online has been beefed up. Primary schoolchildren can have structured lessons in maths and English for all year groups, pupils in years seven, eight and nine have two-week learning packs for English and maths, and those in years 10 and 11 will be able to tailor their studies to their exam boards.


Dr Xand (left) Dr Chris van Tulleken (right), seen here with Dr Ronx.
Dr Xand (left) Dr Chris van Tulleken (right), seen here with Dr Ronx. Photograph: Karl Attard

As with previous lockdowns, creators have chosen to use their forces for educational good, primarily in the fields of science and art. Here are some favourites.

Science – Doctors Chris van Tulleken and Dr Xand van Tulleken are offering daily videos, starting with an exploration of bones, at 2:30pm on their YouTube channel. Meanwhile, CBeebies’ Maddie Moate is teaming up with her partner, Greg Foot, to offer new half-hour episodes of Let’s Go Live, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 11am.

Art – Illustrator Rob Biddulph’s sensationally popular YouTube series Draw With Rob continues into the new lockdown, teaching children how to draw anything from wizards to sausage dogs. Similarly, Olaf Falafel continues to gun for the title of New Tony Hart with his Art Club series, where each week he teaches you to draw and offers quick and funny biographies of famous artists. This one really is a treat.

Other resources

The ever-incredible BookTrust is continuing its HomeTime series, with authors and illustrators offering small bursts of education. Cressida Cowell is reading a chapter of How to Ride a Dragon’s Storm a day and Ed Vere is offering drawing lessons. Younger children can also take part in a number of making and colouring activities.

On a similar bent, Puffin’s Festival of Big Dreams from last summer is still worth discovering, with authors and illustrators playing games, reading stories and taking part in challenges. I might be slightly biased – I’m in there, drawing a pony – but this is terrific.

For kids who aren’t super-powered enough to keep up with Joe Wicks, Ragdolly Annas offers fun and simple dance and movement classes targeted at younger children.

Finally, just in case you need it, the Mindfulness in Schools Project is restarting its daily drop-in sessions where children can log-in on Zoom and be talked through a 20-minute mindfulness exercise. Not strictly educational, but probably quite useful after a day of trying to navigate Google Classroom.

About the author

Mamie M. Arndt