tips for homeschooling parents

An Educator’s Perspective: Tips for Homeschooling Parents

As a homeschool parent, getting tips from someone with experience in the education field is always helpful. 21stCentEd Homeschool was able to chat with Rebecca about her perspective on an educator turned homeschool mom. Let’s dive in and see her tips for homeschooling parents. 

Differences Between the Classrooms

21stCentEd Homeschool: What are the biggest differences between teaching in a classroom setting and homeschooling?

Rebecca: Having taught in both, one of the most notable differences is how childhood is treated. A typical classroom setting is a junior version of a full-time job. Clock in at your own cubicle, do your work, get a short lunch break, then come straight back to class. No playing around; just work on your papers. And sometimes there’s even take work home. Then they do it all over again the next day! 

This environment trains good factory workers or prepares them for office jobs, but it cuts childhood short. The rigidity of a classroom just doesn’t fit with the necessary and wonderful energy kids have. On the other hand, schooling at home allows kids to continue to be kids. 

Yes, much learning is involved, but it’s only within the context of their childhood. They can play, rest, be comfortable, eat when their bodies need more fuel, take a brain break to run in the yard or cuddle with a pet… or pack the whole school day up and take it to a different childhood setting (park, backyard, forest, friends’ house).

Keeping Students Engaged

21stCentEd Homeschool: Keeping a classroom engaged can be difficult. Do you have any tips for keeping homeschoolers engaged that you pulled from your time as an educator?

Rebecca: Whenever students become disengaged, it means the subject matter is no longer grabbing them. I would often stop my lesson, put a timer on, and play freeze dance with a fun song like “Happy” or a favorite Disney song. If they were bored of my voice, we got up and moved. Squats while counting by fives or tens. Marching in place while spelling. I would put on some interesting instrumental music in the background to keep the other side of their brain engaged while quietly working on papers. Piano Guys was always a favorite. 

I still use these tricks with my own kids during our homeschool days. While I was an educator, I only made them sit still at their desks during a test. Otherwise, they could sit in whatever crazy way they needed to in their chair to concentrate. We also had a reading corner with a soft, fluffy rug and long throw pillows they could flop down on— just to get them away from their desks and into a comfortable and more kid-adapted way of learning. I carried so much of this over to my own homeschooling. We start our day with couch time before moving on to our writing subjects.

Different Learning Styles

21stCentEd Homeschool: Do you have any tips on tailoring your curriculum for different learning styles?

Rebecca: Each of my children learns differently and has different strengths. This can be seen in any traditional classroom nationwide simply because every child is unique. I have one child who is very auditory-inclined. I will often read him the questions for his more difficult subjects, and he’ll answer them out loud rather than writing them all down on a worksheet, alone and frustrated with himself. Sometimes, I record his answers in a notebook, and sometimes, I still require him to do a page by himself here and there. However, this is not as much as my others, who are more tactile and hands-on and love coloring and doodling on every part of their work papers. And while this can be messy, it works for them and helps them concentrate. 

However, each different learning style should still be challenged to learn in a way they aren’t as comfortable with. I have one child who would rather work with his hands than listen to lessons or lectures. He sighed deeply every time I turned on a story podcast or audiobook, but now he has learned to enjoy this study method and often guesses the ending of the story or mystery before the others. Making auditory-prone students do something constructive with their hands, like cursive writing or even Lego building, while listening to a read-aloud or lesson enhances both avenues of learning. Making tactile learners listen to a lesson being read aloud or a podcast about science or culture while drawing or watercolor or building something forces their brain to learn in multiple ways at once, ultimately doing better in each.

Tips for Homeschooling Parents

21stCentEd Homeschool: Any tips for parents who might feel unqualified or not educated enough to homeschool their children?

Rebecca: In our post-Covid world, many homeschooling resources are available online. Not just courses you could enroll in but also classes for you as the parent or video series on how to plan and gather material or curriculum. We are less alone in this homeschool endeavor than ever before. Besides that, remember that you are your child’s best and primary caregiver. No one knows your child and loves your child like you do. No one can give them the individualized education you can as their parent. At the end of the day, what we have to offer them, with love, stretches and becomes enough.

Evaluating Progress

21stCentEd Homeschool: As a homeschool educator, how do you assess your child’s progress? Do you have any tips for homeschooling parents on how to do this outside of testing?

Rebecca: I’m not as concerned about how well my children stack up against other kids in their designated grade. All I want to see is their progress from year start to year end. We don’t have to get to all the topics every year. But we can keep some main goals in mind for the year as a whole, and as long as I hit those goals by year-end, I count it as an improvement. 

This year, my overarching big goals were teaching my youngest two to read and reading more books together out loud as a family. Of course, we’re doing our math curriculum and handwriting and phonics, etc. But I wanted to hit those two main goals hard. As we end this year, I’m happy to say both my kindergartner and preschooler can read sentences and short, reading-level-appropriate books. And together we’ve read nearly 300 books from the library. I’m happy with that. Mission accomplished. Maybe next year we will focus on American history and geography or cursive writing… but I have no guilt about not nailing those down as hard because I know we hit our main goals. As long as the kids are doing something they could not when they began the school year, it’s a win. Whether that’s narrating back a history lesson in their own words or remembering all their special vowel sounds without prompting, if it’s something they have learned since the start of term, it’s a success.

To Conclude Our Tips for Homeschooling Parents

Rebecca’s passion for homeschooling is evident as she chatted about her journey as a homeschool mom. She looks forward to continuing her teaching journey away from the confines of the classroom and sharing the joy of learning with each of her children. 

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