Because of COVID-19, a new wave of parents is embracing homeschooling this year. If you’re one of the thousands of parents trying homeschooling for the first time, it can be tricky to know where to start, especially when bad actors may try to steer you in the wrong direction.
With so many resources and options out there, you need to get your bearings so you can navigate the landscape with your best foot forward. As you consider what new tech and tools to use in your homeschool curriculum, it’s important to turn to educators you trust and brands you’re familiar with. These are the sources that will help you the most along your journey.
And it is a journey! Over the years, we’ve heard from several homeschooling parents and discovered helpful tips that have made homeschooling more manageable for them. As we enter a new school year, we’re eager to share these insights with new homeschooling parents.
Homeschooling Tips for Parents
To make this easier, we’ve come up with a list of five tips to help you get started:
1. Walk, Don’t Run
It has been a while since your children last spent a day at school, and it has been even longer since you were in school. To make this transition as seamless as possible, start slowly by teaching your children a single subject in the first week. The next week, you can add a second subject and see how your kid is responding. As you gain confidence in teaching, you can continue to add subjects. Starting slowly gives you the time you need to reflect on what’s working and what isn’t, make any needed adjustments, and consider ways to improve.
Introducing subjects one at a time also makes it easier for children to ease back into the school year. It can be a difficult transition from a schedule full of summer activities to a focused curriculum of learning exercises, so give your kid time to adjust. If you decided to relax your kid’s schedule a bit this summer, taking it slow is even more important.
Bonus: If the schedule you’ve made is beginning to drag, check out these tips to remix your kid’s schedule.
As both of you gain confidence during the transition period, you’ll increase your kid’s trust in this new approach to teaching, making it easier for him or her to learn the information that you're trying to teach.
2. Quality Over Quantity
You might start your homeschool experience thinking that you must teach each subject every day. You have an image in your mind of yourself standing at the front of your dining room table lecturing on one subject and then moving on to the next, covering six subjects a day. This isn't practical, and many educators have come to realize this. For that reason, many public schools only teach certain subjects like art, history, and physical education a couple of times a week.
In short, you want to spend as much time as you need on each subject. If your kid is struggling to understand a new concept, make sure to answer their questions and clear up any issues before moving on. Don’t feel the need to rush on to the next subject just because it’s next up in the schedule.
So, rather than trying to cram all subjects into every day class is in session, try creating a weekly schedule that’s flexible enough to ensure that you give equal time to each subject and then delve into the details of each. Build in time for questions or deep dives into what your kid finds most interesting about the topic. This will keep them engaged and help them retain the information better while avoiding frustration.
3. Look for Online and Local Resources
You aren't alone, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many parents are homeschooling their children right now. Reach out to other parents, do the research, and you can find resources that will help you with your lessons, improve your teaching, and reinforce the curriculum that you're implementing. Your local museums may offer special classes. Some cultural events in your area may offer discounted tickets to parents teaching their children at home. You can also turn to the internet and social media to help. Facebook has many groups for parents who are homeschooling kids. You can search for relevant Reddit forums, too.
The trick is to put yourself out there. If you ask for help and resources, you're likely to find them.
Check it out: We’ve created guides to help with socially-distanced learning, too.
4. Create Learning Objectives With Your Children
As you begin homeschooling, it’s important to identify the learning objective of each lesson. Setting weekly and monthly learning objectives can help to more easily plan classes and curriculum since all your efforts will need to be tied to a clear reason. Over time, this will ensure you stay on track as the school year progresses.
To make homeschooling more effective, have your kid be an active participant and let them directly influence their learning path. While you should be the one that’s outlining the initial objectives of your curriculum, the process that follows doesn’t have to be a closed loop. Instead, you can make it an open feedback loop and include your kid in setting or revisiting the objectives or goals for each lesson, subject, week, month, and so on.
Ask them what they want to get out of their lessons this week. Help them understand what they’re working toward and why each lesson is valuable to their overall education. Your kid will love having a say in creating their own learning goals, and it can encourage them to strive harder to meet those goals.
You and your child can come up with milestones to achieve these goals. Working with your child will help build excitement for both the learning and teaching process.
5. Remember: Your Classroom Extends Beyond the Home
When you're homeschooling, you aren't limited by the walls of your home. The world is your classroom and no special permission slips are needed!
With that in mind, you can teach your kids outdoors or take them on a trip to the park to break up the day. Plus, it's easier to teach your kid about the ecosystem when you're sitting in a park. With masks on, you can take a trip to your state's capitol building as part of a civics or history lesson. If you’re studying dinosaurs, see what relevant exhibits are nearby. You may even have the chance to be crafty and multitask. For example, if you need to pick up groceries for the week, consider taking a trip to the grocery store and teaching your kid about nutrition and math.
There are so many experiences and opportunities to teach outside the home. In homeschooling communities, a general best practice is to plan one outing per week as long as you follow all the necessary safety precautions.
The more time you put into making your kid’s homeschooling experience unique and engaging, the more they will get out of the experience.
Of course, that’s easier said than done, and it can be difficult to plan a new excursion every week. That’s one of the reasons why many homeschooling parents turn to our flexible educational tools. Robots like Sphero BOLT give your kid a multidimensional learning experience that can be tailored to fit any curriculum or learning objective. Whether you’re inside or outside, learning about science or history, you can use Sphero products to support your lesson. And with thousands of activities created by our team of former educators and the community, you’ll never run out of ideas.
Homeschooling for the first time can be overwhelming but if you follow these tips, you’ll set yourself up for a successful homeschooling experience. Homeschooling is rarely easy, but you can make it so it’s always rewarding.
For more ideas about possible lesson plans and activities to include in your homeschooling curriculum, check out the rest of our blog.