Are you ready to home school your kids this school year?
If you’re among the parents who registered for the first time, you might be feeling anxious about this new arrangement. Homeschooling is a big responsibility and it will require considerable adjustment for you and your kids. If you’ve already chosen the curriculum and drafted your program outline, here are a few more helpful steps to ensure that you’re on the right path to helping your kids learn better at home.
8 steps to homeschooling success:
Prepare their learning environment
Creating an environment conducive to learning is a must for homeschooling kids. Home is usually where they relax and unwind so it might make it hard for them to focus on studies. Designating a quiet, clutter-free room or area will help them shift their mindset to work mode. They should have:
- A table/desk and an ergonomic chair (to prevent back problems).
- Good lighting, both for reading and using the computer.
- Easy access to books, arts and crafts supplies, and other educational materials on a shelf or cabinet nearby.
It’s also important to reduce distractions that might make them procrastinate. Make sure to:
- remove devices and toys near their study area.
- move unruly pets to another room.
- have a “no social media or no mobile phone” rule during class time. If they’re using their personal computer, check if you need to disable some apps or consider turning the wi-fi off when appropriate.
Follow a schedule
Help them adjust faster by having a consistent routine. This is especially important if your kids attended regular school prior to homeschooling. Children are said to undergo a period of deschooling where they adjust to not being in the school system. A schedule will help them have a bit of the structure they used to have.
Start by setting sleep and wake times. Have regular school hours so they’ll know what to expect for the day. It will also teach them how to manage their time efficiently. If possible, set more difficult tasks during the part of day when they are most alert and engaged. And don’t forget breaks. Allow time for snacks, exercise and play. This will not only keep them healthy, it will also improve their attention.
Review the schedule on a regular basis and don’t forget to include your children in the process. Ask them if it’s working for them and if not, make the necessary changes. Your schedule should be consistent but adaptable to your child’s changing needs. It’s all about balance.
Supervise but don’t hover
Provide clear instructions at the start of every day (or every period). You can also set goals for them for each subject or task. Be clear about what they need to accomplish. Write them on a white board, poster on the wall, or a document in their computer so that they can check it on their own (you can also do the same for their daily schedule). Children need to learn how to work independently and stay focused on tasks. Be available for questions and support but you don’t need to be at their side all the time.
Open communication lines
Prepare for a ton of questions. This is a good sign that they are eager to learn. If this is intimidating to you, remember that you are not expected to know all the answers. Use the moment to find the answers together with them or to teach them the process of research (especially for older kids). They should be able to use available materials like documents and books, and explore the internet using search engines. Arrange a field trip to the library so you can teach them how to find the books that they need.
Really listen to your kids. Ask them what they are interested in and what they want to learn. If they get fidgety, explore integrating more active, hands-on learning like for example, going to your garden and showing them parts of a plant. Some parents introduce lessons on life skills such as washing the dishes, boiling water, finding help (using 911), budgeting and other practical things. Use different methods of instruction and see how they react. Homeschooling is a great opportunity for you to design education that best fits your child’s interests, needs and learning style.
Provide encouragement and positive feedback
Children need affirmation and encouragement in order to thrive. Positive feedback increases the likelihood that they will engage in appropriate behavior. You can do this verbally (make it a behaviour-descriptive phrase, for example: “Wow Angelo, you washed your hands by yourself! You didn’t need to be reminded!”) or through visual representations like a star sticker on their homework.
Worried about socialization?
Your kids won’t be missing much in terms of socialization compared to kids attending regular school this year. Physical distancing will be imposed plus, they’ll be wearing masks which can restrict communication. In comparison, your kids at home will not be prohibited from having close interaction with their siblings. They could learn, laugh and play together without the fear of getting infected.
Explore alternative ways if you have an only child. For example, video chatting with old friends from school or if you’re a member of a homeschooling group, ask other parents if they’d want their kids to have a virtual play date or chat group. You can also take your child on field trips to keep them from feeling isolated.
Look for support
One of the most important things you can do while homeschooling is to reach out to others. Having a support group is good for your morale and a great source of advice and tips that will improve the experience for you and your kids. Join a local homeschooling group like the Manitoba Association for Schooling at Home (MASH), the largest homeschooling group in the province. You can also find MASH on Facebook or Youtube. See this list for other homeschooling groups you can join: Homeschooling Support Organizations in Manitoba. If other parents in your community or ethnic group also decided to home school during the pandemic, consider making your own group so you can support each other and share experiences.
Allow time for adjustment
Homeschooling can be overwhelming if it’s your first time. No matter how much you prepare, it’s not guaranteed that everything will go smoothly, especially at the start. Don’t expect to do everything all at once or to see results right away. Most importantly, don’t try to replicate the regular school experience exactly at home.
Spend some time observing your kids to know their strengths and learning styles. See what kinds of activities they like, what things are difficult for them, what makes them bored. Tweak your learning plan, instructional materials and methods to fit them better. Explore different resources, offer a variety of activities, and just keep learning.
Homeschooling takes a lot of work and patience. Remember to be always kind to yourself and your child.
Manitoba Government Resources
Homeschool Planning: The ultimate guide to planning your homeschool year, The Canadian Homeschooler
Homeschool Canada HSC Learning Resources
Online Resources for Manitoba Educators
Canadian Home Education Resources
The Home School Mom
Sources: My Learning at Home, MB; Distance learning: 8 tips to help your child learn at home, Sean J. Smith, PhD, Understood; Navigating Life as a homeschool parent, Chris Wasko, Goop; These online learning tips will help parents prepare for a successful school year, even if it is virtual, Karina Zaiets and Janet Loehrke, USA Today; and Why I don’t worry about my homeschooler’s socialization, Annie Reneau, Simple Homeschool. Accessed August 28, 2020.
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