Here we go again except it’s a brand new school year. Brace yourself for one wild and crazy year! Keep reading to find out how you can prepare for homeschooling and then download my printables to get you started.
How to Homeschool When You’re Not A teacher Or A Homeschooling Parent- Part 1
Whenever the thought of homeschooling came to mind in the past I always thought NO WAY! I’m not doing that. That was just one more hat I didn’t want to wear as a mom. The only way I could ever imagine being a homeschooling family was on a beautiful sailboat, traveling around the world. We would have our lessons on the deck while basking in the sun surrounded by crystal clear, blue waters. Then the idea would quickly get struck down by the thoughts of me leaning over the boat railing, green in the face from seasickness. Not such a beautiful thought after all. I guess that’s how far fetched the idea was for me.
Well, Maybe I Could Homeschool
If you’ve read a little about me you know that I’m an elementary school teacher. So, teaching is my thing, but I’ve never homeschooled. The closest I have ever come to something similar is having my twin girls in my third-grade class at school. And I’ve never homeschooled and taught my classroom full of students from home at the same time. My girls had dreamed of the days they would attend my class since kindergarten. I’m not sure they had that same eagerness for me to be their teacher this time around.
That year in third grade was one we’ll never forget. It was an enjoyable unique experience together. So, when COVID hit in March and schools shut down, I thought, “No problem!” Although this time things would be a little different. We would have the ultimate combination class and I’ve never taught a class with more than one grade level. We would have a preschooler, a second-grader, two fifth graders, and occasionally 14 to 15 second grade students pop in my home via Zoom. Whew!
Thrown into the World of Homeschool
I try to keep my kids on top of homework, and I might throw in a few academic activities when we’re out of school for long periods. Other than that, I’m not teaching lessons at home. However, when we did get thrown into the world of homeschool, I was able to adapt quickly and get us all into some kind of routine. Schedules were flying around the internet, and parents and websites were sharing materials like crazy. Even though it was a scramble, it was great to see families coming together to help education continue as best they could. No matter how involved parents were in their child’s education, I don’t think any of us ever imagined we’d be playing this big of a role in it. The second time around is coming (unless your kids have already started back), and I’m hoping I can help you with some of the preparation.
Homeschooling the Second Time Around
The start of a new school year seemed so far away before but is now quickly approaching even with many delayed school starts. Regardless of what people believe is going on with COVID, parents in many cities across the country know that they will be homeschooling again. The anxieties of teachers and parents are starting to increase as they think about what homeschool will look like this time. How can they manage it better if it didn’t go so well the last time? How will they continue to work while caring for their children and making sure they are able to give their child an education. Some of you may have no choice to go to work and have to leave the academics to someone else.
Maybe with a little planning and preparation you might find yourself enjoying this time and learn something new yourself (It doesn’t have to be education related).
Setting the Stage to be Successful at Home
Teaching has to be flexible. Teachers plan lessons all of the time, but they never go exactly as planned. Remember that when you are reading a lesson plan or following a model to teach a skill. Education is not one size fits all, and no student learns exactly the same way. That’s probably one of the hardest things about being a teacher, trying to reach all of your unique students.
As a parent, you probably know how your student learns best. If you don’t, you will the more you spend time teaching them. When something doesn’t work, change it. If you know a better way to teach it, do it! Sometimes it is good for a student to know the strategy being taught, but if it isn’t one that works well for them, find one that does.
Don’t be upset with yourself if you don’t have it all figured out. Give yourself some grace. I think people often think teachers have it all figured out, or we should know what to do at all times. We don’t. If we could read our student’s minds then, maybe, but it can take many tries to find out what works best for students. We’re constantly adjusting what we do to meet our students’ needs. If we didn’t like the way we taught a lesson, then we change it for the next time. When a lesson doesn’t seem engaging enough, we might add in a little something extra. Too much information? Then, break it down into smaller parts. All of this to say, don’t be afraid to find what works while still teaching the concept, of course.
What Kind of Learner Is Your Child?
As you teach your children, think about how they learn best. Think about how you learn best. I’ve always found that children often learn in similar ways to their parents. Does your child understand concepts better when they are presented visually, auditorily, or prefer something more tactile? Acting it out or creating a movement can often help children remember.
Have a schedule
Create a schedule for the day, so your little students know what to do and when to do it. Kids work better when their day is predictable, so they know what’s to come. They can mentally prepare and take ownership in what they are doing. I don’t know how many times my students like to tell me that I skipped something, or I’m not following the schedule. It is also important to know that it is a guide. As I mentioned earlier, it is important to have some flexibility. If you have really young ones that are not quite reading, having little pictures along with the words will help them understand the schedule better. They’ll also start to pick up some new words.
A few more tips on schedules:
- Start with a morning meeting where you can discuss expectations, go over lessons, and connect with your child emotionally to see how they are feeling. In the classroom, we take turns sharing a number that rates how we’re feeling. We can share why we feel that way if we want to.
- School shouldn’t take all day. Follow the guidelines on how long each subject should take. I almost always take longer than the recommended time when I’m in the classroom with my students, but be mindful of their cues. For example, are their eyes glazing over from boredom or not understanding a word you are saying? If so, it’s probably time for a break.
- Don’t forget to include breaks. Take snack breaks, movement breaks, or brain breaks every 1 to 2 hours or more. You can alternate. Kids usually can’t go longer than 1 to 2 hours without eating or getting up and moving around. You can take a few stretch breaks or brain breaks whenever it is needed. Many times, just a change in the task is all it takes. Remember, the younger they are, the shorter the attention span. Google search different ideas for brain breaks or your teacher may provide some ideas.
Create a Space
Create a learning space that will help get them in the mood to learn. Try to remove distractions like toys from the area. I like to have my kids nearby so I can keep a watchful eye. I want to be sure they are actually working and that I am close enough for any help they may need. A desk in the bedroom can work, but it may be too far away, or there may be too many distractions. When my younger kids are farther away from me, they get distracted and want more of my attention. I also like to have everything they’ll need accessible. Because I am also working while homeschooling, it is important they can easily get to supplies without asking me.
Ask for Help
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Whether you are distance learning through a public school, homeschooling through a charter or private school, whatever the avenue, the experts should be there to help you along the way. The teachers want nothing more than for your child to succeed. Reach out to them if you find that your child or even you are struggling during this time. Don’t feel like you’re bugging them. Find out if they hold office hours and get in touch or send an email. As teachers, it is our job to help. If they can’t, then they should be able to put you in touch with someone who can.
I also recommend talking to others to see what they have put into place. It can be friends or family. They might be doing something that you want to try. One thing teachers know how to do is beg, borrow, and steal! Well, not quite, but we know how to find an idea and make it our own. When I’m on campus, I love to go into other colleagues’ classrooms and see what they’re up to or chat with them about ideas I have. It gets my mind to start thinking. It could be how I want to set up my classroom, how I can teach a lesson, or projects to try. Although it is fun to create your own project, it is not always necessary, nor will you have time to reinvent the wheel.
Tools to Help You
I’ve created a few tools that might help you during your homeschool day. Fill in your name and email address to download the free printables.
- Homeschool Daily Schedule (example and editable version)
- Website Username and Password List
- School Information for the Caregiver
- Monthly Work Focus Sheet
- Weekly Student Agenda
- Daily Check-In Poster (How Are You Feeling?)
I truly hope you have a great start to the new school year. You can do it! It will definitely look much different than it has any other year, but we are all doing it. Good luck! Don’t forget to watch out for Part 2.