Homeschooling is increasing in popularity across the US with 2.5 million children undergoing homeschooling in 2019. That figure increased in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic closed schools and forced distance learning and homeschooling for students who were unable to attend school.
If you are thinking about homeschooling your child, then there are a number of ways you can prepare to make it as successful as possible.
Create a dedicated area
Kids, like most adults, are easily distracted. If you have space, create a dedicated area for homeschooling that keeps them separated from the TV, video games, and toys. Space doesn’t have to be huge, but something you can use specifically for homeschooling. You could even get creative with a purpose-built pod in your garden or put some glass replacement windows and weatherproofing on the summer house. Wherever you decide to do it, it will help your children avoid distractions and get their minds in the right place to learn.
Once you have your space, you can fill it with all of the materials and equipment you’re going to need.
Do your homework
There are a lot of things you need to know yourself before you can successfully teach. Firstly, you’re going to have to get to grips with all of the regulations and paperwork around homeschooling. These vary by state so you’ll need to research which ones you’ll need to comply with. Many states require that you file a notice of intent to homeschool and register with an umbrella school. You’ll also need to know how to report on your child’s academic progress to the authorities.
Next, you’ll need to get to grips with the curriculum. Again, this varies by state. You can’t teach what you don’t know so you’re going to have to brush up on all of your subjects. It will make you a more confident teacher and you won’t believe how much you’ve forgotten since you graduated.
Assess your child
You’ll need to get a grasp on your child’s ability so that you can pitch your teaching at the right level. This can be difficult for parents as they often find it difficult to objectively evaluate their own children. Most subjects will have guidelines or pre-tests you can give in order to get a good baseline. If your child is moving from a school environment, you can ask their former teachers for their assessment.
Decide who will teach
As the name suggests, homeschooling happens in the home but doesn’t have to be done by parents. Not everyone has the aptitude to teach, or maybe both parents work. If this is the case you can still homeschool
There are other ways to learn in this environment. This includes using specialist tutors, online resources. Get recommendations from other parents when choosing who to use.
Get advice from other successful homeschoolers
Don’t try and go it alone. Chances are, whatever problem you’re encountering has been solved by someone else at some point. There are lots of homeschooling resources out there that should be able to help and inspire you.
Find a forum for parents who homeschool. They can become a very important part of your support network when you need advice, guidance, or even just some moral support when things aren’t going to plan.
Prepare your children
If you’ve been homeschooling from the get-go, this isn’t going to be necessary. But if your child is moving from a school environment to homeschooling, it can come as a bit of a shock. Some respond to it really well, others take some time to get used to the new environment.
Explain to them why it’s happening, how it’s going to work, and what is expected of them.
Plan your lessons
One of the benefits of homeschooling is that you can tailor your approach. There are no one-size-fits-all when it comes to learning. In fact, you might start off with one approach and switch if you feel your child isn’t benefitting from it.
Many parents choose to stick with the traditional Unit Study style of teaching. This is where children are taught skills and knowledge in a sequence that builds on a particular topic.
Others go for the Classical approach, which has a greater emphasis on the liberal arts of grammar, dialectic, and languages.
There are many more styles to choose from and they vary widely in their approach. It all comes down to your personal preferences and the learning style of your child.
There’s a great article on the Family Education blog which lays out a homeschooling timetable.
Draw up a daily routine
Even though you’re child isn’t attending a school setting, a routine can ensure that your child is spending enough time learning, playing, and relaxing. It needs to be something that works for your family routine too.
Structure the day so that there are defined start, finish, learning, and break times. Remember, you’re running a household too so you’ll need to factor in any daily errands or chores that you have to do.
Create other ways to socialize
One of the biggest criticisms of homeschooling is that children miss out on socializing with their peers. By scheduling in time for your child to mix with others at sports clubs, play dates, or similar, you can still give your child this social interaction. If you live in an area with other homeschooled children, perhaps you can set up regular meetups. It will give you a chance to socialize with other parents too.
Give them time to adapt
Homeschooling can be a culture shock for both parent and child, a new dynamic. Some children will thrive immediately and others may be resistant. After all, they may not associate you with schooling and try to fall back into the family relationship roles you traditionally play at home. This is to be expected and you need to allow time for them (and you) to become accustomed to this new way of learning.
Homeschooling can be extremely rewarding for everyone involved but it does take a lot of work. To give yourself the best chance of success, preparation is the key.