11 Tips to Help You Home School Like a Pro
by Sheila Qualls
When the World Health Organization (WHO) declared coronavirus a pandemic, it set off a pandemic of fear among moms worldwide. Just like that, COVID-19 has left “regular school” moms trying to figure out how to home school a child.
Curse you, coronavirus!
Unlike a disease-related pandemic, moms have no emergency plan or stimulus package to help them figure out how to home school. It may feel overwhelming or daunting. To describe it in two words: it’s scary.
I home schooled four of my five children through high school. I can say with confidence, you can do this like a pro.
When I started home schooling, I wish I had someone to tell me what to expect and how to be most effective. If I could go back, I’d do a few things differently, such as not trying to turn my home into a school. My poor kids were tied to their desks slaving over workbooks all day.
I want to spare you some of the mistakes I made as a new homeschooling mom and set you up for success.
Here are 11 tips I’d give a new homeschooling mom so you can home school like a pro:
- I wish someone had told me this when I started home schooling: You can teach your child. You were their first teacher. You taught them how to spell their name and helped them memorize their address and phone number. Sure, you’ll have days when you wonder if your kids learned anything or if you’ve done enough. Remember, you have a vested interest in your child’s success. Make this a time to remember.
- Have fun. Learning is important, but it’s okay to have fun while doing it. When you make learning fun and not stressful, you create a love of learning in your kids. Use games to teach skills. They’re a great way to learn. The best part about using games is your kids don’t feel like they’re learning. Use Connect 4 to teach critical thinking and reasoning. Do science outside. Take a nature hike. Re-enact history. Have a medieval feast. The world is now your classroom. Take advantage of it.
- Don’t make home a school. Don’t try to recreate school at home. One of the benefits of home schooling is flexibility. You’re not a “regular” school, so don’t try to act like one. Public school teachers work hard, and we appreciate them. But you’re not a public school teacher. One of the biggest mistakes I made when I started homeschooling was trying to “do” school the way it is done at school. You decide the hours and set the schedule. If something isn’t working, change it. If you want to sleep in and start a little later, that’s okay. If your kid wants to take a break and play outside between subjects, allow it. Set a schedule and structure your environment in the way that works best for your family.
- Set a schedule and establish who’s in charge. Setting a schedule keeps you on task, and it also lets your child know who’s in charge. Classroom teachers set schedules, and children have no doubt who’s in charge when they’re in school. If teachers didn’t set rules and schedules, they wouldn’t be able to get things done. Decide what time you’ll start the day, but also set an ending time. Your kid doesn’t need to do homework in the evenings. He’ll finish his schoolwork during the day. You set the schedule, but remember you can also change it.
- Avoid comparing your kid to others. It’s easy to compare your kids to others when you homeschool. You’re now responsible for your kids’ education. Their success is a reflection of you. Don’t buy into that lie. Push your child to do his or her personal best. Compare his math score today to his math score from yesterday, not to your friend’s kid’s score. When you appreciate your child and celebrate his accomplishments, you’ll build his or her confidence like never before.
- Figure out how and when your child learns best. Take a few days to figure out how your child best learns before setting up a schedule. One of the best things about home schooling is you can tailor learning to your kid’s style. Some schools have a one size fits all formula, which works great for some kids. Some kids learn well while sitting at a desk. Others may need to move around while learning. Some learn by touching and doing. Others learn by watching and hearing. Figure out your child’s learning style and tailor most lessons to fit it. Schedule subjects that are tough for your kids when they’re at their best. If your kid isn’t a morning person, don’t start the day with subjects that are difficult for him/her. Almost all kids learn well using manipulatives for math. Add, subtract, multiply and divide using edible manipulatives like M &M’s or Skittles. For every problem they get right, let them eat a piece of candy.
- Teach everyone together. If you’re teaching different grades, you can teach them together. “Regular schools” segregate kids by age, but that’s not necessary at home. You can teach the main lesson to the group, but tailor the homework assignments to each child’s skill level. If you’re learning about Ancient Times, assign a paper to the older students but let the younger ones complete a coloring sheet or act out a scene from history.
- Be patient when your kids challenge you. Invariably you’ll hear, “That’s not how we learned it at school.” Be patient. Let your child know there are a variety of ways to learn and teach. Explain that you’re the teacher, now. You’re going to teach in ways that work best for him/her. Ask for their input on how they think they learn best.
- Build a relationship. Never underestimate the power of your smile. Your child wants to please you. When you smile and encourage them, they will want to perform for you. In addition to educating them, you have an opportunity to build a relationship with your child and learn more about them.
- The Internet is your friend. When I started home schooling, most people didn’t have the Internet or computers. If I didn’t understand a concept, my only option was to phone a friend. The Internet is a great resource for homeschoolers. Anything you want to know you can find on the Internet. Don’t remember how to do algebra? Google it. Want to dissect without making a mess in your kitchen? Do it virtually. Can’t remember a date or a fact? The Internet places anything you want to know at your fingertips.
- Stick it out. Home schooling is hard. There will be days when you will literally curse coronavirus. There will be tears and fears. After 20 years of home schooling, I can say with confidence that it’s worth it for reasons that may not be evident to you right now. Don’t be hard on yourself. Your relationship with your child will grow stronger. Your confidence will grow as you learn along with your child.
Sheila Qualls homeschooled four of her five children all the way through high school. Two of her children have Bachelor’s Degrees, one earned an Associate’s Degree before enlisting in the Army, one is on her way to college in the fall, and the last one will resume lessons at the kitchen table compliments of coronavirus.