Goals and Priorities for Homeschool Families

Having a goal is important as it helps the homeschool family map it’s way through the school year. However it is equally important to set out priorities so that time and effort is not wasted chasing goals that can be reached at a later date. Here are some tips to consider as you get ready to handle your homeschooling and housekeeping.

Study Goals and Priorities

The state guidelines for what skills your homeschool student should master in the current grade are a good place to start setting study goals. Add in the material that interests your children to help them learn more about what they like. Then set up the priorities on what they need to get done every month and put it up in writing on the notice board so that they know what the broad goals and priorities for each month in the academic session are. Leave some slack time to make up for contingencies that you can not plan for.

Health Goals and Priorities

You need daily goals for food and exercise to maintain good health. Add in a monthly goal for expected health results in case you are working on weight loss to lose that baby fat. Again remember to make your own health a priority so that you are always hale and hearty and able to take care of your homeschool family’s needs. It’s a good idea to give yourself a number of different physical activities to choose from. That way you always have something new to look forward to even as you work towards your health goals.

What to do when falling behind?

Planning out everything in advance is a good way to start, but there are always some issues which will crop up and put you off track. This is where you need to maintain a positive attitude to get back to the old plan. Remember the main goals and if you can’t do everything, take a look at what you marked as a priority. Just stick to doing the most important stuff for a while and you will eventually get back to the plan.

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Organize Your Homeschool Classroom to Energize Your Day

One of the biggest problems for those just beginning to homeschool is finding the time to get everything done. There is the actual teaching in the homeschool classroom, followed in priority by the household chores that need to be done, and then there are additional demands on the time of the homeschooling teacher which can take any form. Amidst all this where is the time to plan nutritious meals, get some physical exercise in and get some me-time to rest?

The place to start is by organizing your classroom.

Get the Lesson Plans ready. They are the starting point for everything else to follow. Once you know what you are teaching and when, you can get around to finding the books you will need, the websites you need to bookmark, the assignments you need to print out and the tests that you will use. Now this gives you a clear action plan of what you will need to have on hand each day. Take a couple of hours at the beginning of the week to set up all this in advance. This frees up considerable margins of time in the daily running of the homeschool classroom which can be put to better use.

Bring the focus back to a healthy lifestyle.

It’s not enough to lament that your family is not living up to it’s true potential. As the homeschool teacher it is your responsibility to set an example for your homeschool students to follow. Ensure that you make the time for physical activity that you enjoy and gives you exercise. You don’t have to do the same thing everyday. Switch around a jog in the morning with a swim in the local pool. The idea is to ensure that you get some physical activity each day and your children see how much you enjoy that. Of course eating healthier is much easier to do when you have meal plans set out in the kitchen. Do your weekly grocery shopping to these meal plans and you will ensure that the entire family eats healthy all the time.

Most importantly, don’t berate yourself if you drop the ball occasionally. Just pick yourself up and get back into the routine. Consistency is the key to staying healthy.

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Using Standardized Tests on Homeschoolers

A standardized test is devised with the view to test the academic abilities of children of a specific age and grade in general. They are a prerequisite for some states if you are homeschooling your children. There are a number of tests available and you should be aware of which ones are most likely to suit the needs of your homeschool student.

Some Standardized Tests Available for Homeschoolers

BASI or Basic Achievement Skills Inventory is a standardized test used for grades 3 through 12. It tests maths and language skills for students. It is nationally standardized and meets all states requirements.

Brigance Diagnostic Inventories is another test which may be administered by homeschool teachers. It has a yellow level valid for children from birth to age 7. The green level is from prekindergarten to grade 9. It is a comprehensive test which works well with special needs children.

Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills is a multiple choice test. It can show how students are progressing in Reading, Math and Learning. A score of 50 is considered the national average.

Wide Range Achievement Test or WRAT tests reading, spelling and mathematical computation. It is shorter than other tests and quite acurate. This test is best for children who have a short attention span.

The Woodcock–Johnson Tests of Cognitive Abilities is a set of intelligence tests that include an oral evaluation by a psychologist or an education professional in addition to the written test. There are multiple tests which take about five minutes each to complete. These include seven cognitive standard tests and eleven achievement standard tests.

Picking Your Test

These are just a handful of the different standardized tests that are available to the homeschool teacher. States have their own tests such as the California Achievement Test or the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. Certain universities have developed standardized tests as well, for example the Stanford Achievement Test. Pick a test that serves the purpose of letting you know just how your homeschool students are progressing. Remember the scores on the test are just a reflection of what they are learning and not of your teaching techniques.

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The Memory Palace with Homeschool Students

Memorization is the key to learning new things. Studies have proved that equating known things with a list of stuff you need to learn and remember can make it easier to retain all the new things. This is known as the Memory Palace technique or memorization. This is how you can teach the technique to your homeschool students and help them get more memory power.

The Memory Palace Technique

Think about a familiar place. It could be the homeschool classroom, or the children’s own room. A place that they know the location of major furniture items, window placements, etc. Now think of the list of things they need to memorize such as the steps of the water cycle. Allot each familiar attribute in the room one step of the water cycle.

For instance the bedside table in the homeschool student’s room represents evaporation. Then the fan on the ceiling represents precipitation. In this manner allot each aspect of the room a step of the water cycle. Now take them through this memory association once or twice to reinforce the connection.

Once that is done ask them to close their eyes and think about items in their room while speaking out the steps of the water cycle associated with them. Most of the children will find it very simple to come up with all the steps of the water cycle using this method. This is how the Memory Palace technique works.

What Can You Use It For

Needless to say the method is easy to learn and can be used to memorize a number of listed items. You can even use it to remember your grocery shopping list if you have forgotten to write it down. Just think of your living room and each piece of furniture therein.

Now allot the bread the couch, the peck table the eggs, the music system the milk and so on till you have all the items on your list accounted for. All you need to do to fill up your shopping cart correctly is to mentally walk through your living room picking up the items associated with them. 

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Handling Homeschooled Teenagers

Teenagers are difficult to handle no matter where they go to school, but in the homeschool classroom it can be a bit easier if the homeschool teacher is better prepared. Think about what all your teenager is going through and consider how you can be supportive of them. Here are some things to keep in mind when interacting with your teenage homeschool student.

Actually Talk About The BIG Stuff

Dating, drugs, politics, and religion may not seem like ideal topics to speak about in the homeschool classroom, but ensure that you make time to talk to your teenager about these things. Give them a sense of what is right and wrong with each of these life altering topics. Allow them to share their concerns and opinions. Speak to them about your own beliefs and how they were formed. Give them the freedom to reach their own beliefs as well.

Listen to Your Teenager

It is easy to give instructions to younger kids and expect them to consider your word the final one. However with teenagers there is additional dialogue created with each instruction as they have their own input to add. Just because it is easy to play the dictator, don’t shut them down. Allow them to talk and actually listen to them as it will make the interaction much more meaningful.

Honesty is the Best Policy

No matter what you think your teenager wants to hear, it is best for the homeschool parent to be as honest as possible when speaking with a teenage student. Manipulation may often backfire, but if you are honest about what you want them to do and share why it is important, most often they will surprise you by not arguing at all. They need to know that you are being upfront with them.

Set Boundaries and Communicate Consequences in Advance

Growing up is about pushing the limits. So when your teenager challenges your authority in the homeschool classroom, you need to set clear boundaries. There should be distinct “that much and no more” attitude. Plus they should know that not doing what they have been asked to do will result in consequences. Make sure that these are well highlighted and communicated in advance so they know just what they are risking.

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Enhancing and Encouraging Creativity in the Homeschool Classroom

E. Paul Torrance was assured that creativity in education was the key to successful learning for students. It was his life’s work that led to the Torrance tests and the gifted programs which are run all over the globe today. The current school process does not have much scope for creativity to be involved in the classroom. However in the homeschool classroom creativity can be enhanced and encouraged in students.

Encourage “Out of the Box” Thinking

When your homeschool students need to solve a problem, let them think about outrageous solutions.  They don’t have to work perfectly, they just need to actually solve the problem. Let the inquisitive, young minds come up with new ways to do the same old thing. It will build their creativity. Give them all the time they need to come up with crazy, different ideas that they feel would work in the particular situation.

Keep the Atmosphere Congenial

No one wants to do something different if they are likely to be criticized or ridiculed for it. By keeping the atmosphere positive and congenial when the homeschools students suggest outlandish theories, the homeschool teacher will encourage them to keep being creative. Once the not so practical solutions have been vetoed you may find yourself with interesting, creative ideas that might just work out well.

Encourage Curiosity but Enforce Structure

It’s not enough to have crazy, creative and different ideas. These need to be put into a structure so that they are actually viable options. Encourage your homeschool student to come up with ideas that not only are away from the norm, but still manage to fit the parameters that an ideal solution may have. It’s okay if they don’t get it right initially, let them try again.

Don’t Enforce Your Creative Solution

You, as the adult will have a great many more ideas than the children in the homeschool classroom. This gives you the additional responsibility of not forcing them to come to the same conclusions that you have. Allow them the freedom to come up with solutions on their own, guide them, but leave them to spread their creative wings.

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Free University Run Courses for Homeschool Students

A number of regular universities around the world have embraced the MOOC model. The professors are happy sharing their expertise and tutorials with an audience spread across the globe. The best part is that it’s all for free. Using these courses as a stepping stone for your homeschool students to figure out what they like to study best is a great idea.

It’s not going to drain your pockets if they learn more about nutrition from a professor at Stanford University via Coursera, or about Greek Heroes on EdX. Besides sites like Khan Academy, Google Code University, Saylor.org, and Alison, there are some of the regular universities offering courses to net based learners. Here are a few sites to start off with.

MIT Open Courseware

A number of on-demand courses can be downloaded for self study from the MIT Open Courseware. The biggest draw is that the course is almost identical to what is being taught in regular classes at MIT.

Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative

There are a number of courses available for individual study on this website. There is a whole lot of content that you can access for free. All you need to do is set up a free account and you can browse through the full site.

UMass Boston Open Courseware

The UMass courseware has no videos or slides, but offers a number of courses in subjects such as  psychology, biology, early education, political science, history, and mathematics. They do offer the syllabus, assignments, and recommended reading.

 University of Michigan Open

A large number of programs are on offer here. You can read the synopsis and choose to download the program that interests you. There is no interactive element allowing students to network while they learn.

USQ Australia Open Courseware

Currently there are only ten courses on offer from this Australian website and the focus is primarily on technology. There are lecture notes and testing assignments for each module. It is mostly individual study based.

No matter what subject your homeschool student wants to explore, you will be able to find some course on these websites, for free, that can be used by him.

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How Should Homeschool Parents Give Feedback

Receiving feedback is an important part of learning. When a student gets a test graded, they are getting feedback about the level of competence they have in the subject being tested. However there is a whole lot of feedback that can be given by homeschool parents to their children which can help them learn better.

Feedback should not be mistaken for long boring moral lectures. There are many ways to give feedback correctly, some tips are mentioned here. They should get you started on providing constructive feedback to your homeschool students.

Feedback Should be Educative

The fact that you noticed some issue with your homeschool student is not enough to give feedback. You need to present the issue with a possible solution. Give the child a couple of options to try out. Otherwise you are merely stating a problem and it will be taken as mere criticism. That is not helpful at all.

Feedback Should be Specific and Immediate

Telling your homeschool student that he didn’t do well in a specific activity a week after the activity was done is not helpful. The actions that were wrong need to be pointed out immediately, as does the correction. That way the feedback is constructive and will be of the most use to the homeschool student.

Use the Feedback Sandwich

Compliment. Correct. Compliment. That is the feedback sandwich. The idea of giving feedback is to focus mostly on what the homeschool student is doing right. This boosts their confidence level, and keeps them receptive to the little corrections that you slip in with your suggestions. It is all going to show them how the learning experience can be improved.

Feedback Needs to be Sensitively Given

Everyone is not good at everything. As adults we understand that. However each student is an individual who may not know how to improve at a given skill. It may become a sensitive issue when he is called out or criticized for this skill. The homeschool parent needs to carefully moderate the words that are spoken to the child so as not to unduly upset the child.

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Make Homeschool Students Anticipate Their Lessons

Wouldn’t it be nice if your homeschool students were excited about what they are going to learn next? By building up anticipation in your children you can actually help them boost their learning. Here are some tricks you can use.

Build Up Suspense

When you know what you will be teaching next week, give your homeschool students little hints and clues to guess what they will be taught. Tell them the more appealing aspects of what you will be doing in the classroom. Let them anticipate the fun they will have. It is a mental game of seek which will have them guessing what part of the syllabus they are going to cover next.

Let Them Feel Accomplished 

Make a big goal and tag it on to the noticeboard on the wall. If they need to study 10 chapters make ten tiny sections below the written goal. Now each time they finish a chapter they get to color in one section. That way there is a visual representation of the syllabus that they have completed. As they see their progress every day they will stay motivated to keep learning.

Give Them Pleasant Surprises

A pop quiz does not have to be an event to dread. Instead of making the homeschool students fear it, have them anticipate it. This can be done by creating inbuilt rewards for them. Each question correctly answered can win them treats that they look forward to. Each pop quiz will then be eagerly anticipated as a good way to earn treats. The treats don’t have to be edible or even things you need to buy. Stuff like getting out of chores will also work.

Allow Video Games and Smartphones for an Hour Everyday in Class

They way we learn is changing as the technology we use changes. Pick a video game in which the decisions of the player are based on informed choices. This will help them learn more as they go into higher levels. Let them also get some time with the smartphone to fill in answers to questions that may have arisen during the actually learning process. Both events will be anticipated eagerly.

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Online Resources that Make Homeschooling Simpler

There is no denying the fact that a homeschool teacher needs all the help she can get. Books are a great place to start, but ever so often they are limited in their scope and going online to get reinforcements is a common practice for homeschool teachers. Here are some resources that can truly make the experience of homeschooling so much simpler.


This online encyclopedia is a phenomenal resource. Free to use, it has material on any number of subjects and topics. It continuously grows thanks to the ability of everyone to contribute to it. The data may needs some double checking at times, but on the whole it is a credible resource for the use of homeschool students.

About (dotcom)

This data mining site is written by experts in different fields. If you are looking for a very specific answer to something, chances are you will find it here. From advice to parents, to information for students, there’s something for everyone in the homeschool classroom at this website.

Homeschool (dotcom)

A comprehensive list of everything needed for homeschooling, plus links to a great many paid as well as free resources can be found on this website. It doesn’t matter if you are new to the experience or that there are many years of homeschooling under your belt. This site will always have something to offer you.

Coursera (dotorg)

There may be nothing more exciting than the fact that your homeschool student may be taught a certain course by an expert professor from an Ivy League college. Sitting at home and for free. This MOOC site is a popular place to get quality education for free for not just the homeschool students but also the parent.

Freecycle (dotcom)

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. This site allows you to give away stuff that is lying around to someone who may find it useful. It also allows the homeschool parent to eliminate waste and get resources that they may need for free. Next time you need something check out the website before you head for the market to buy it. Same goes for something that you may be looking to throw away.

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