Question: How can I simplify schooling my children at home? (Part 2)
Please read the introduction and the first two parts of this topic from last week’s blog…
Point 3: Use Your Adult Schedule to Frame Your Plans
When I was in college working as a mentor for high school girls, I remember setting up meeting plans. The advice I read said something like, “You are the only non-negotiable member of the group, so make the meetings work for your schedule.”
You are the only non-negotiable member of the group, so make the meetings work for your schedule... your leadership is the only immovable factor.”
This was smart advice. In my naivete, I may have tried to make all of my students’ plans the centerpiece of my intentions. The trouble with that is:
1) Teenage plans are generally a moving target
2) There were too many of them to synchronize; someone was always unavailable.
When planning at home instruction, your leadership is the only immovable factor. You need to make this project realistic for your life situation. However, you don’t have to be physically present in rapt attention with your learner 100% of the time. Your job is to deploy and to monitor an age-appropriate scholarship agenda.
Depending on the age of your children and the number of students you are educating, you can be creative in your plans and schedules. Who says that learning at home has to be during public school hours of 8 AM to 3 PM? Who says it has to be only on weekdays? This is YOUR family plan.
There is no reason that you have to fill the same number of hours per week exactly as public school will. It is a prudent idea to have an actual schedule—but you get to make it to suit your annual, monthly, weekly, and even daily goals. Your school doesn’t necessarily have to be 5 days a week or a certain time of the day or night. You will likely accomplish much more in less time, simply for the smaller student to teacher ratio.
You are facilitating and managing the program, but you do not have to be the program in and of yourself.
Also, harness what educational psychology calls “scaffolding,” by utilizing supports into your child’s educational day. Whether it be an online learning tool, an impromptu field trip to the grocery store, a neighbor, grandparent, or older sibling—there is no reason that you have to be the one that does all of the teaching. You are facilitating and managing the program, but you do not have to be the program in and of yourself. Discuss with others who can contribute what your goals are for the children, and let them find ways to teach that you would never have imagined.
Point 4: Collect Resources
Finding materials to teach your child does not have to be expensive. Recall in Colonial America and during Westward Expansion that resources were makeshift and imported from a far distance. We have so much information and “stuff” at our fingertips now. Perhaps the difficult part lies in sorting out what is actually useful for your learner.
My suggestion is to aggregate a few user-friendly learning items, depending on that term’s goals. You can quickly call or email most folks and ask if they have ideas or supplies useful for a thematic topic or specific subject. Let them do the filtering for you! Look into multiple places such as:
1. The internet – free and paid sites
2. A local library
3. A neighborhood school that may be discarding items
4. Neighbors and friends
5. Older siblings and cousins who know what should be learned at lower grades
6. Relatives with interesting professions
7. A homeschool co-op
8. Thrift stores
9. A retiring teacher or anyone who has worked in schools (They have so much to give!)
10. Teacher’s stores
11. Regular shops that may provide free samples or advertising materials
12. A newspaper or magazine company (yes, they still exist!)
13. State agencies, such as Departments of Education and Literacy Campaigns
14. Safety agencies such as fire, police, paramedics, and courthouses
15. Doctor or other professional offices
16. Charities that work with children (they may have items to borrow or know other vendors)
17. Travel agencies
18. Cultural centers and tourist sites in your area
19. Restaurants and wholesale markets
20. Private companies who might benefit from positive, word-of-mouth marketing
21. Pen pal programs
22. Retirement centers who may have residents your child can learn from
23. Homeowners Associations or local Chamber of Commerce
24. Your and your spouses’ place of employment/home
25. Your child! They know what they want to learn-- and sometimes where to look!
You can quickly call or email most folks and ask if they have ideas or supplies useful for a thematic topic or specific subject.
Point 5: Is It Working?
It is understandable that a parent not trained in education might worry they are unqualified to school at home. I believe once you start seeing progress with your child—perhaps faster than they would have made in a “normal” setting--that insecurity will evaporate.
You need a simple way to monitor if your child is reaching learning targets. Borrowing from Point 1 in last week’s post, it is helpful to track progress based on the goals planned for the end of the year State test. Although you won’t formally administer the test to your kids during the year, (a local school will need to proctor it in the Spring), you can use adaptations of the exam to parallel your lesson and assessment protocol. Owing to that, let’s plan backwards from there.
Even if you only had your child retake the end-of-year practice test (or different form of the test) 2-4 times throughout the year, you can show progress by comparing the attempt quality and scores.
For example, if you child is expected to write a paragraph by May as a 2nd grader, what are they able to write in August, November, January, and March? Hopefully, they will add length, clarity, organization, and detail to the same basic paragraph structure. This is how you know they are learning. You can use these writing samples to course correct, finding patterns of deficits and errors.
The same principle of progress monitoring can be applied to reading and math. A simple basal reader (grade-leveled reading textbook) or math workbook can provide you a sequence of practice for weeks and months. You can examine quiz scores, error types, reading rate, fluency (smoothness and speed), and lack of comprehension as you student works through the material.
Workbooks do not need to be the entire program of home school, but they can provide direction and definition to what sorts of content and sequence you might apply with your kids. You may find some useful systematic curriculum at a teacher supply store, or my favorite place for curriculum, Teachers Pay Teachers.
The best part of this plan is that you don’t also have a classroom full of 35 students to also monitor! You can tailor the next day’s or week’s practices based on what your son or daughter understood--or not. This is what teachers call “monitoring and adjusting.”
I recommend that you have students go back and correct selected errors with you so that they are not reinforced accidentally moving forward. This is one way in which mastery learning can be implemented. Your child can continue on as fast or slowly as needed or wanted. Track and acknowledge their accomplishments—but more importantly, praise and reward their effort and growth. Students who take intellectual risks are those who are not fixating on mistakes, other than to gain accuracy from them.
Tailor the next day’s or week’s practices based on what your son or daughter understood--or not. This is what teachers call “monitoring and adjusting.”
Parent, you can really, REALLY do this! I don’t know if there has ever been a time where it has been more important for loving families to engage in the educational process. It is a meaningful investment not only for your own kids, but for the world you are launching them into as they become adults.
And if you need more help, just shoot me a message here. I am with you and your family all the way!