Last year, we faced unprecedented levels of uncertainty amid COVID-19. The pandemic challenged everything we did in America — including education.
Parents faced at minimum the prospect of their children staring at a computer for hours while distance learning or, when schools began to open, social-distanced, mask-wearing all day.
Many parents did not like either option. They went searching for alternatives and a lot turned to home schooling. A U.S. Census survey showed that home-schooling families doubled last year.
The first year of home school can be a huge, doubt-ridden pitfall for unfamiliar parents. What does a successful school at home even look like? As a veteran to the practice, I knew this feeling from experience. So last fall I shared “Teaching at Home: Seven essential habits of a great home-school parent” (September 2020 WBM).
Fast forward a year, many once new-to-home-school parents are more confidently geared up for year two. That said, there are still challenges in being both parent and teacher.
You may be wondering how to raise the stakes for you and your child. Here are seven ways to improve your home school this year.
Routine. Routine. Routine.
Home schooling affords lots of flexibility. It’s such a relief not to be tied to a tight timeline. But compromising this flexibility too much can result in an unmotivated child and/or parent.
Establishing a healthy routine that leaves room for compromise, while also communicating to the child what to expect daily is vital. This becomes increasingly true as children get older.
Children do well when they know what to expect. It may be tempting to break the routine when your child is struggling in any core subject (reading, writing or arithmetic), but consistent discipline in this area is all the more important if you want to see progress.
Embrace some independent work.
One-on-one instruction with your child is a priceless opportunity. This is especially true if you have previously experienced your child being “lost in the shuffle” of a large classroom. But home-school parents need not overlook the important skill of fostering students who can work independently during their instruction time.
It’s expected in public school, and it shouldn’t be completely disregarded at home. Set your child up for success by beginning with a subject strength. Then, build their independence in other subjects.
Get serious about your curriculum.
The growing popularity of home schooling over the past few decades has created a wealth of materials. Invest some time in researching options. Choosing a curriculum that aligns with your values and your child’s learning style is not only possible but is vital to a long-term plan for success.
The four-day school week.
For disciplined parents and students who commit to their lessons, a four-day schedule is 100 percent attainable. Whether you long for consistent three-day weekends or a mid-week break, the standard way of doing things simply need not apply as long as you meet the required number of school days.
In more ways than one, your school is not going to look like the public-school schedule. Quantity is not quality. Rest easy in your ability to create the lifestyle that works for your family — so long as everyone does their part and progress is being made.
A culture of service.
Having a servant’s heart is a learned behavior. Public education requires service hours in high school, but not before. Why should fostering an attitude of service only be reserved for older students? Consider building in regular service opportunities as a family and give your child volunteering choices they can really get excited about this year.
Homework in home school?
In short, yes. Don’t be afraid to assign a small amount that occurs outside of your typical school hours. Your school days are likely not nearly as long as average public-school days. With that in mind, there is plenty of time for your child to enjoy the added leisure of childhood and still complete a moderate amount of homework.
Begin your own home school cooperative.
This was a brave, new endeavor that I embraced last year and I’m glad I did. Teaching history, science, music or art can be so much fun in the company of other like-minded families.
If you are ready to add this to your routine, begin with one or two other families. Staying small the first year is important. Find a day you can all commit to each week. We also found that it helped to rotate homes and share teaching responsibilities. Commitment to your new co-op is also more easily achieved when you have a pre-planned weekly agenda and schedule that you follow.
For those who would rather find an existing co-op, local organizations like the OCEAN Homeschool Center and Christian Home Educators of Wilmington may be helpful.
Keep calm and home school on.