Teaching at Home

Seven essential habits of a great home-school parent

BY Kristin Reeser


Last year, home schooling constituted only 3.4 percent of education in the United States — a mere 2 million children. However, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, home schooling has become a new, unlikely trend. As families are challenged to ensure a quality education amid raised health and safety concerns, many are turning to this alternative method.

To clear up any misconceptions, this is not public school at home or cyber school, which many families will also be doing this fall. In this type of home school, the child’s parent is responsible for providing school instruction. It requires filing a notice of intent with the state and following compulsory attendance laws.

Operating a home school can be a challenging but rewarding endeavor for those ready to take the plunge. That said, every first timer likely wonders, “How can I become the great home-school parent I’d like to be?”

I certainly asked that question, but now, as I prepare to begin my third year, I’ve reflected on seven essential habits that great home-school parents practice.

Understand your “why”

Beyond the pandemic, reflect on your family’s motivations for home-schooling. What does it mean for you? What potential benefits do you and your child expect? Great home-school parents clearly understand why they choose to home-school. You may have an informal checklist in your mind but take the extra step and write it down — maybe into an official mission statement.

Big companies and organizations understand there     is power in identifying “your why.” You are not building a company, but you are building a school! A well-defined, strong purpose behind it can help solidify your level of commitment. A great home-school parent knows “your why” will become an anthem for the good days and an anchor for the more challenging ones. In other words, it’s what keeps you going. 

Formulate A Plan

Great home-school parents recognize that while home school can be characterized by lots of flexibility, it still requires a plan for success. Flexibility should never be confused with an absence of schedule, organization and consistency. Your child will still need this, and you will too.

Create a plan that considers the unique advantages and needs of your family and then monitor how your plan is going. Spoiler alert: Things won’t always go as planned. For this reason, great home-school parents also understand that plans should be flexible and written in pencil. Embrace a habit of having grace with your plan, your child and yourself. 

Ditch Self-Doubt

If this is your first year, you will likely more than once doubt your ability to deliver the best for your child. By confronting the reality that challenging moments will come, you’ll be more ready to deal with those days. Stand firm in the fact that you can do this and surround yourself with people who declare those words over you and your school.

Engineer Your Learning Space

Great home-school parents design a learning environment that works well for their child. Indoors, outdoors, sitting at a desk or sitting on the floor — there is no wrong answer when it comes to creating your school space. If you have multiple children, this may require a combination of spaces.

Feedback from your child can be helpful. Fidget toys, comfortable seating, snacks, soft music, essential oils and so many more customizable options can all be a part of the benefit and freedom of this education model. Build a perfect space that is unique to your family.

Practice Lots of Praise

Like any other area of parenting, home schooling can really test your patience at times. Great home-school parents realize it can be easy to get caught up in what is not going well. As a result, they make it a habit to be generous with praise.

Another person that needs generous and regular praise is you. Go ahead and be proud of yourself every day — even if things didn’t go as you expected. You have undertaken an amazing assignment. Celebrate that and don’t forget regular self-care. Your productiveness and level of satisfaction relies on a habit of praise. 

Embrace Resourcefulness

Contrary to what some believe, you do not have to spend hundreds of dollars on home education. We are living in the age of information. Great home-school parents know there is no shortage of material and so much of it is free.

The library is a wonderful place to supplement, or even build, a curriculum for history, geography and science. Holders of a home-school certificate might qualify for an educator card that allows them to keep books signed out longer. 

The internet and YouTube are also rich with content and videos. Of course, be careful to plan and prescreen all content first as not all of it is child-friendly or designed for optimal learning. 

Find Community With Other Home-Schoolers

Great home-school parents recognize that home education requires outside influence and social opportunities — for the student and the parent. Your school will be more successful when you surround yourself and your children with other parents who care about your family.

Make every effort possible to find connection. Research organized cooperative groups and decide if one works for you. If not, simply make it a habit to gather with other home-school families that share your style. The importance of togetherness should not be underestimated.  

Home education can be a beautiful opportunity that will forever change you and your child. You may find yourself on a journey you never expected. You may home-school your child for one year, or this may be the beginning of something much longer. Either way, focus on developing habits that will help your home school be its very best. 

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