It is estimated that 3% to 4% of children in the United States are homeschooled. That is around 2.5 million kids, and the recent CoronaVirus pandemic has led to a surge in the number of parents considering homeschooling a viable option for their kids. There are many different reasons for homeschooling, but most people who homeschool their children do so because they want to provide a safe, nurturing environment tailored specifically to each child’s learning style and needs. Other families are compelled to homeschool for religious reasons, or due to personal choice, and still more due to its flexibility and convenience compared to conventional school.
However, it is essential to understand that for every benefit to homeschooling, there are also a few drawbacks. These range from the challenge of taking your child through every stage of their development without a school-supplied framework to the possibility that you may not be qualified enough to teach them everything they need to know. Because homeschooling can be a gratifying but challenging endeavor, you must gear yourself for this undertaking before you begin. But what is homeschooling, and what constitutes successful homeschooling? This article will answer these questions comprehensively.
What is homeschooling?
Homeschooling refers to the practice of educating school-age children at home. Although it is most often thought of as a recent phenomenon, homeschooling has been practiced for hundreds of years by cultures all around the globe. In homeschooling, parents take on the role of both educator and administrator with the goal of providing their children with an education that is both intellectually stimulating and well-rounded. Parents who homeschool their children may follow a prescribed curriculum, or they may customize the curriculum to fit their learning style. It is also not uncommon for homeschooled students to participate in some organized extra-curricular activities or sports.
Tips for Successful Homeschooling
It is often said that there is no single right way to homeschool your children, but there are a few guidelines that are worth following to ensure that your children receive a quality education. These include:
Research your homeschool options
Before you take the plunge and homeschool your children, you should invest time in researching the options available to you in-depth. Doing this will help you understand what each option you consider entails, whether it is right for your family and which choices would be best for your child’s individual needs. This includes subscribing to various educational resources and materials, such as newsletters and periodicals, visiting the library and reading books, or talking to people who homeschool. You can also search the internet and take advantage of online resources, such as forums where you can discuss different options with like-minded people or join a local homeschool organization.
Investigate your state’s homeschooling requirements
The laws governing homeschooling vary widely from state to state. As such, you must learn and familiarize yourself with your state’s legal requirements before you begin homeschooling. These requirements can include issues such as the number of hours your child must be taught in a week, whether or not your child is required to be evaluated by an outside source, whether or not you are required to file a declaration of intent with the local superintendent, and whether or not you have to file regular reports with the state, etc.
Join a homeschooling group
Joining a local homeschooling group can help you to make the most out of your homeschooling experience. You will get to meet like-minded people, talk about homeschooling and learn from other parents who are successfully homeschooling their children. Besides, you will be able to get practical advice, such as teaching tips, curriculum suggestions, pitfalls to avoid, age-appropriate activities that kids can engage in, etc. You will also be able to find answers to your homeschooling questions and concerns, and your child will have the opportunity to meet and interact with their peers, which is vital for their social development.
Decide on homeschool curriculum
One of the most crucial decisions you will have to make as a homeschooling parent is the right curriculum for your child. The curriculum you choose will be the framework for your child’s education, so it is important to make an informed decision. Some questions to ask yourself when choosing a homeschool curriculum include: What subjects do I want my child to learn? How well does the curriculum reflect my values and beliefs? Is the curriculum compatible with my child’s learning style and needs? Will it provide my child with a quality education that is both challenging and engaging?
Once you find the correct answers to these questions, purchase the desired curriculum and get down to the task of homeschooling. Curricula can be purchased through mail order catalogs or at online stores. Keep in mind that curricula come in various forms. For example, curricula in the form of textbooks and workbooks that cover all the subjects required by the state, curricula that focus on specific subjects such as math or science, and interactive curricula that are developed to allow your child to study at their own pace and proceed through different levels as they grow older.
Do homeschool supplies budgeting
Once you have decided which curriculum to use, you should do a budget exercise to determine how much it will cost to purchase everything your child needs. Setting up a homeschool supplies budget can help you to stay on track as a homeschooling parent and avoid unnecessary financial stress. You should be prepared to purchase the necessary supplies for your child’s education, such as textbooks and workbooks, educational software and computer programs, teacher guides, tests and answer keys, art supplies, calculators, computers, music, and science-related equipment, etc.
Prepare a designated homeschool space
To have a well-organized and functional homeschool environment, you need to prepare a designated space where learning will take place. You should ensure that you have all the necessities, including desks, chairs, a calendar for scheduling lessons, a chalkboard or blackboard, bookshelves, etc. Your space should be spacious enough to allow your child to work comfortably, and it should be well-lit and decorated with appropriate themes and colors to encourage learning.
The learning space should also be free of clutter and clean, organized, and safe from hazards. To keep the homeschool space organized, consider devising an efficient system for storing all the homeschool supplies in a manner that is easily accessible such as in labeled drawers, shelves, or boxes.
Follow a homeschool schedule
One of the core advantages of homeschooling is the flexibility it offers. Unlike in a conventional school setting where a routine is followed, and lessons take place on a set day and time, homeschooling is a flexible process and is essentially a self-paced learning experience. However, this flexibility can pose many problems for inexperienced homeschooling parents. For example, without a structured schedule, parents can easily get distracted and lose track of their child’s progress and what is expected from them. The best way to tackle problems associated with a lack of structure is to create and follow a homeschool schedule.
A homeschool schedule is a way of covering all the subjects that your child is expected to learn in a systematic manner. The schedule outlines what subjects will be taught on what days and at what time. It also includes time slots for breaks, social activities, and other extra-curricular activities such as sports, music, art, etc. Homeschooling schedules can be as simple or as detailed as you would like. There are many different types of homeschool schedules, so choosing the one that best suits your child’s needs is essential. You should consider, among others, the following types of schedules:
- Yearly schedules
- Weekly schedules
- Four-day week schedule
- Traditional five-day week schedule
- Block schedule
- Loop schedule
- Daily schedule
- One-subject-a-day schedule
- Extra-curricular and class-driven schedule
- Alternating home/out schedule, etc.
Although setting up a routine can be challenging, it will help you to stay on track and ensure that your child’s homeschooling experience is as beneficial as possible.
Avoid social media during homeschooling hours
It is common for parents to become distracted during their time with children when they have access to various social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. This has often resulted in interruptions that make it hard for children to concentrate on their studies. To avoid such problems, it is important to try and minimize your use of social media during homeschooling hours by:
- Set up a family computer specifically for school and limit your use of other devices that allow access to social media sites
- Create a distraction-free workspace for yourself and your child by turning off the WiFi or phones during homeschooling hours.
Schedule breaks together too
Homeschooling is a challenging experience and can be draining both emotionally and physically. To ensure that you and your child do not burn out, it is essential to schedule regular breaks for socializing, exercising, or engaging in other interests. For example, consider scheduling some time for your child to play sports or other extra-curricular activities in the neighborhood, interact with friends via social media, or use their hobbies such as painting or model building to relax.
Encourage fun activities too
Sometimes, even when you and your child have a full schedule of homeschool lessons to keep up with, it might be hard for both of you to maintain the necessary motivation and enthusiasm for learning. Therefore, it is crucial to encourage various fun activities that will have both you and your child looking forward to doing school together. Such fun activities include participating in hands-on projects such as baking a cake, cooking, growing a plant or making crafts together, visiting the museum or local tourist sites, volunteering in the neighbourhood, playing board games and solving puzzles, going swimming, playing sports, visiting the library, among others.
Set learning goals together
One way to ensure that your child is entirely focused on their homeschool educational experience is to set learning goals. Such goals might be to learn a foreign language, play the piano, play basketball, etc. Learning goals should be set considering the level of understanding and proficiency your child has reached but not so high as to overwhelm them. Your learning goals will also likely be based on State or National requirements, your personal educational philosophy, and your child’s interests.
Once you have clear learning goals, working with your child to devise a plan for how these goals will be achieved is essential. This might include devising a schedule for schoolwork, choosing learning materials and resources, etc. When setting learning goals, remember to be flexible in your approach and set goals that meet the SMART criteria (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound)
Take learning beyond the classroom
Typically, homeschooling aims to provide your child with a quality learning experience that will enable them to be well-rounded individuals who are not just academically knowledgeable but also socially and emotionally aware. Therefore, it is important to widen your child’s homeschool learning experience beyond the confines of the classroom setting. You can realize this goal by encouraging your child to participate in hands-on and educational activities that will challenge them academically and in an environment that provides a wealth of experience and knowledge.
For example, you can start a blog together where you will share your homeschooling experiences and support each other while learning to write in a way that engages readers. You can take them to nearby museums and libraries or attend educational conferences together. You can also arrange to volunteer together at local community activities and organizations or take your child on family trips and vacations. Inviting other homeschooling children to your house for a fun game of Scrabble, Monopoly, Chess, and other board games is also an excellent way to develop a well-rounded curriculum for your child, so is encouraging them to learn basic household management skills such as cooking, doing laundry or simple budgeting.
Save house cleaning for the weekend
One of the most common pitfalls that many homeschooling parents encounter is trying to keep their homes clean and tidy while teaching their children at home. This can be quite difficult because you will likely have to cater for housework and your child’s school work. This often results in a situation where you feel overwhelmed, overworked, and under-rested, and your child cannot focus on his/her schoolwork due to constant interruptions.
To avoid this problem, it is best to try and save the major housecleaning for the weekend when you have more time to spend on these tasks and less need to worry about getting caught up with schoolwork.
Consider common homeschooling pitfalls
It is also important to be aware of the common pitfalls many homeschoolers fall into and avoid them where possible. For example, some parents find themselves obsessed with their child’s academic progress instead of their character development or interpersonal skills. This can result in a situation where they are overly controlling and overly demanding of their child and, at the same time, unable to give unconditional love and support.
Another common pitfall is the state of boredom that many homeschoolers find themselves experiencing when there is not enough room to provide lively and engaging homeschooling activities. Homeschooling poses other common challenges, such as feeling isolated, committing to a curriculum too early, and finding out that it does not suit your child’s learning style. It is also not uncommon to encounter the challenge of adapting to the freedom and flexibility that homeschooling offers, leading to a situation where some homeschool parents find difficulty in setting and following a structured schedule.
Another common pitfall is letting the school year slip away without making specific plans for homeschooling the following year. This can lead to a chaotic situation where you find it challenging to pick up the threads of the previous year’s homeschooling activities, resulting in uncertainty regarding how to proceed with your child’s homeschool experience.
To avoid these pitfalls, make sure that you create a positive home environment for your child by setting firm but reasonable standards for school work and behavior. If you find yourself struggling with boredom, try and get your child interested in an exciting homeschooling project or a homeschooling group. You can also get in touch with other homeschooling parents to find out how they overcome the challenges of homeschooling and what strategies they use to deal with them effectively.
Consider using online resources
With the increasing popularity of the internet, many online resources provide helpful information and educational resources for homeschooling parents. These include websites, blogs, chat rooms, bulletin boards, social networking sites, free pdf/eBooks, audio materials, video tutorials, and other learning resources. The advantages of these online materials are that they are readily available, updated regularly, unlimited, and cover a wide range of topics.
Don’t compare the successes and failures of your children with others
Kids learn in different ways, at different speeds, and generally with different interests. You will find that some of these differences are marked even in the early stages of your child’s homeschooling experience. For example, you may find that they are ahead in subjects that interest them and behind in subjects they do not enjoy as much. You should also be aware that their interests and learning preferences can change over time. Try not to get frustrated over the differences, and keep in mind that your child may need more time to adjust to the homeschooling experience and to discover their true strengths and interests, therefore never compare the successes and failures of your children with others as that can be very discouragaging for them.
Devote some time daily or at the end of each week to reflect on your child’s achievements and celebrate their small successes with them. This goes a long way to boost their self-esteem, motivate them to do well at their homeschooling activities, and increase the likelihood of their continued success.
Ease into school
Given that you are coming back from a long vacation or starting proper schooling after a period of absence, make sure that you ease your child back into school gradually. Your child may be a capable and enthusiastic homeschooler, but they still need time to adjust to the school environment and build a natural routine.
Try to find ways to make the transition into the school environment as smooth as possible by starting small – for example, by trying out a simple homeschooling project such as an art project or a baking project at the start of the school year and then gradually increasing the level of sophistication in your child’s activities at home.
You can also solicit input from your child during this transition phase by asking them what they would like to learn or do next and giving them a little freedom to experiment with different activities and skills.
Homeschooling is a demanding and challenging task requiring a lot of effort and patience from parents and children. But if done right, it provides many benefits that both parents and children will enjoy. Try to be consistent, work with your child’s interests in mind and think of the ups and downs as the start of an incredible homeschooling journey. In addition, take into account all the advice that homeschooling experts and other parents provide, as well as the effective homeschooling tips discussed in this article, and you will be well on your way to being a successful homeschooler.