There’s a number of things that you need to finish handling even before the next homeschool academic session begins.
Ensure the Legal Paperwork is Done
There are different requirements for homeschooling in different states. Make sure that all the legal paperwork that needs to be filled in is done before the beginning of the academic session. Understand the requirements that you need to meet and ensure that you have organized yourself to meet them.
Set up a Day to Plan out the Year’s Schedule for Each Homeschool Student
If you have more than one kid being homeschooled, you need to be organized. This means that you need to have a week by week break up of what each of your children is supposed to be doing all through the academic session. Set aside a day each for every child and figure out their syllabus and weekly schedule for each subject. Make sure to factor in the breaks and field trips that you are going to add.
Get the Children Involved in Setting up the Homeschool Classroom
The basics of having enough number of notebooks per subject, pens, pencils, rough work papers and different types of art supplies can be left to the children. Give them a list of things that they should have ready to use once classes begin. Then have them give you a list of the things that they are falling short of on the list. This makes it easier for you to restock the material that you will need for the next academic session.
Cull out the Papers Floating Around the Homeschool Classroom
Each homeschooling year has a tendency to generate a whole bunch of papers. While you may need to keep some of them to record the progress of your children through the different grades, you can definitely take them out of the homeschool classroom and store them elsewhere. Sift through all the papers from the previous year and sort what you need to keep. Then cull the rest and destroy them. This will make it easier to find storage for the new material that is sure to be generated.
When there is no formal distinction between classes and the homeschool students simply drift from one lesson to the next in their own sweet time, there may creep in a level of tardiness which prevents them from completing the day’s scheduled activities. Should this continue to happen over a period of a week, you may have a large number of lessons pending with no time to cover them in your weekly schedule.
The homeschool teacher needs to put in a system against being tardy in the homeschool classroom to avoid this kind of lag in the studies. This allows better control over how the school day proceeds. Here are some tips that should help you formulate a system that works best with your homeschool students.
Awareness of Schedule
The first thing that the homeschools students need to be aware of, is the schedule for the day’s classes. They need to be clearly told about the number of lessons that they need to finish in the school day. This gives them a chance to mentally space out how much time they have for each activity that they need to undertake. The homeschool teacher can even allot specific time slots for each of the activities that they need to complete initially, to give them a better idea of how to handle their time.
If they are unable to finish their work on time, there needs to be specific and consistent consequences. In some cases, the homeschool parent may allow the student to shift to the next activity only when the first one is finished. In other cases the activity left over will be shelved and the rest of the day’s work is continued. Then the homeschool student needs to stay back and complete the left over activities after the formal homeschool day is over.
Since rewards and praise are much better motivators than criticism and punishment, it may be a good idea to set up a reward system for the homeschool students who are not tardy. The reward could be a star on a performance chart, a treat such as being allowed to do something they enjoy or even allowing them to pick the next family outing.
The local homeschool co-op is a good place to find used study material at a a cheaper rate. It is also good for finding other homeschool teachers who are willing to take classes for subjects that you may not be proficient in, especially in the higher grades. However, the homeschool co-op is also a nice place to share social activities as well as give homeschool students an opportunity to indulge in team sports. Here’s a sample of the stuff that you can do.
A Homeschool Students Sports Meet
Children enjoy playing. Adding a competitive element is more fun for everyone. While no one expects the young homeschool students to compete like they are qualifying for the Olympics, a little bit of competition is a good way to motivate them to push themselves harder to excel at their respective sports. A homeschool co-op can organize a mini- sports meet with up to three sporting events. Races, cycling and basket ball would seem like simple events that could be added to the sports meet.
The Social Aspect
The sports meet can be started in the morning with the first and second event. Follow that up with a light meal. The last event and the prize distribution ceremony can be held post lunch. This will space out the sports and the socializing nicely. The homeschool students can enjoy their time out while learning a sense of community. The homeschool parents can look forward to meeting more like minded adults who have chosen to homeschool their own children.
Plan it Out
The key aspect to make a grand success of the sports meet is to ensure detailed planning and delegation of responsibility. Depending on the number of people attending the meet, ensure that every homeschool parent has a duty to take care of. Have each sport being officiated by at least two people, that way if one is unable to make it the other can take over. Food needs to be brought by all participating members. It can be like a giant pot luck with everyone sharing what they brought. A little planning can go a long way at such an event.
If there are specific subjects that you don’t feel comfortable handling in the homeschool classroom, you can form a homeschool co-op that allows your homeschool students to take classes with someone who is an expert at the subject. In exchange you can offer classes to students in subjects that you are comfortable with. This works out more economical than having to hire a tutor, or paying for online classes for your homeschool students. Here’s some pointers to get the homeschool co-op class exchange started.
Pick the Participants
There will always be people in the homeschool community who have children in similar grades to your homeschool students. Get in touch with them about your idea to hold a homeschool co-op to teach different classes. See who all are interested in participating. To be fair, each child who is enrolled for a class should have a parent who is taking another class for the other homeschool students. Most homeschool parents will be happy to pick up a class if their children are going to attend one taught by someone else.
Distribute the Subjects
Once you have clarity on the number of people who will be teaching the classes, have them pick the subjects and grades they want to teach. The homeschool students should also be divided up on basis of the subjects that they need to be taught. Ask the teachers handling a particular subject if they feel comfortable handling different grade students in the same session. Most of them should not have a problem with that considering that they are homeschool teachers with different ages children in their own classrooms.
Design the Schedule
This will probably take the most amount of time as you will be coordinating with a number of people about the best timings for them in the week to take classes as well as send their children to classes. However once this step is done, all you need to do is take a printout of the schedule sheet and hand it over to all participants. This can be used as the basis for the schedule for the next year as well.
A homeschool co-op is a good place to find study materials for your homeschool students at a reasonable rate. Depending on where you stay, a homeschool co-op may already be in existence and could be traced through other homeschooling friends. However if there is no active homeschool co-op in your area, you may consider starting one of your own. It’s not really very difficult and will provide ample saving for the little time that you invest in setting it up. Here’s how you can go about it.
Set a Venue
If you have a place that all the homeschool families in your area can congregate to, it will serve well as the venue for your homeschool co-op. However, if there is no place close by you can simply host it in your own home. If the other members of the co-op are willing, you can have it by turns at each homeschool co-op member’s home.
Have a Schedule
It is important to have a fixed date for the homeschool co-op meeting each month. Pick something generic like the second Monday of each month at 10 am. Make sure that the majority of the homeschool co-op members are comfortable with this. Now you don’t have to spend hours trying to find out which member is available on what date in a given month. Then schedule the hosts for each month in the year on the first meeting in your house. This makes it easy for people to plan ahead.
Clarify Guidelines and Roles
Do make sure that people understand that it’s not a social event. The host should not be expected to serve food and drink. The focus of the meet is to drop off material that you are not using and to pick up stuff that you do want. Having food and drink around will be actually bad in case of spills. Also the host of the day should be able to direct the others about where grade wise material needs to be placed.
Offer a Material List
Not everything may be claimed at a homeschool co-op. Stuff that can still be made available should go on to a master list that you can maintain online. Mention the material available along with the contact information of the person offering the material. This will make it easier for people to sift through the material available.
There are a number of websites on the internet and it makes sense to help homeschool students understand which ones can be used for factual research, and which ones are likely to misinterpret data. Here’s a list of things that they can be asked to check for, to ensure that the website is a legitimate one offering correct information.
Who is the Owner of the Website?
Is it an individual who collects information and shares it? Or is it a company which is distributing the data? Check who are the administrators of the website. One can usually get in touch with them using the ‘Contact Us’ page via the form or the email id that has to be provided on this page. If a website does not have this page, it is illegal as regulations require all websites to allow visitors to contact them. It is also a sign that the information on the website may not be represented truly.
Date of Creation and Age of Website
We often see a slew of websites popping up around a topic that is trending in the news. This is usually done to tap into the short term desire for information that people may have on this topic. Often such websites are left untended after the initial trend dissipates. Check to see when the website was created, also if the administrators are adding any current information to the website via a blog or new articles. If the homeschool student is using the website for research, the website should not have old information.
Purpose and Design of the Website
One good way to check if the website can be used for accurate research data is to see what it’s purpose is. Does it seek to inform visitors or does it seem to sell products? Is the website seeking to entertain the readers or is it merely stating facts. The design of the website also gives clues about the seriousness of the content. A good website will have well organized data which is easy to trace and find. The links will be helpful to navigate the site as well.
In this era of fake news, rumor mongering and spoofs, it can be difficult for a homeschool student to understand exactly what is true and what’s not. Since they will be getting a lot of their information online, it behooves the homeschool teacher to ensure that they are able to sift through the information available online and figure out what to trust. Here are some ideas to help them tell the difference.
Simplify the Path
The best way to help them find correct information is to give them a list of websites that you know will take pains to verify their facts before printing anything. Let them know that websites ending in .gov are more likely to give the correct data as they are from the respective state governments. Also certain sites with .edu may be more likely to give a balanced view point than a website with .com which may be producing sponsored content.
Discuss the Label of Sponsored Content
In may cases the website will mention a single line disclaimer saying that the post given on the page is sponsored content. Explain to your homeschool students that this means the product seller is hoping to showcase the product in a favorable light to draw more customers. Take them to sites which will give a free and fair review of the same product and show them the difference between such reviews and sponsored content. Ask them to look for the sponsored content signs and labels on websites they visit.
Describe Tools to Create Fake News
One of the prime reasons a piece of writing looks true, even when it is fake, is when it is supported by a newspaper headline image. It may be a good idea to help your homeschool students make a few such fake news headline images to understand how easy they are to falsify. A number of photo editing websites allow users to take a thumbnail image and create a fake headline image. Doing this once will be fun as well as drive home the fact that you are planning to make to the homeschool students.
Is it worth investing in a computer just for your homeschool classroom? Yes it is. It may not seem like it initially, but it is a wise investment. You will do so much with the computer that you will recover the cost in terms of man hours within the first month. Here are some ways to ensure that you get the most out of this teaching aid.
User Ids for Each Homeschool Student
Set up a laptop with different user ids for each of your homeschool students. Ensure that you retain administrator rights on your user id. It will allow you to restrict their access to programs that you want them to use. It will also enable you to mark the progress that they make on their different assignments. Make sure that they know that the passwords can not be changed. Also ensure that they do not log into their sibling’s user ids or you will have a problem. This will allow all data on the user id to be preserved as well.
Your Schedules, Reports and Lesson Plans
A homeschool teacher has to do a lot of paperwork. Now when you create a digital version of a document, you can use it as a form to fill in later ones. The amount of time spent duplicating these sheets for formal record keeping or simply trying to keep track of what you need to do will reduce drastically. In addition the lesson plans that you make for a specific grade can be easily stored and reused when the next homeschool student reaches the said grade. It’s easy to have a standard weekly schedule form and use it for different weeks.
Worksheets and Printables
Having your dedicated laptop and printer for the homeschool classroom makes it easier for the homeschool teacher to design and take printouts of customized worksheets. Often worksheets online may include questions of stuff that you may not have taught. You can look over stuff on different websites and then design your own so that your homeschoolers have worksheets based on exactly what has been covered in the theory class.
The aid that technology provides a homeschool teacher, is great. So many aspects of teaching will become simplified by using gadgets such as a digital camera, a projector, and a laptop connected to the internet. While a person who is not too comfortable with gadgets may say that traditional schooling with books is all that is required, there is no denying the advantages of using more technology in the homeschool classroom.
Prepare for the Future
You may not want your homeschool student to be addicted to screens, but there is no denying the fact that your child will need to learn how to handle them at some stage in the future. He needs to be able to use a computer, work a basic camera and download images, not to mention learn how to access and use different apps on the smartphone. You are not doing them any favors by keeping them away from basic technology that they will need to master to survive in the future.
Easier Collaboration on Projects
If your child wants to work with other friends on a science project, it would be far easier for them to use technology to keep in touch than meeting up everyday in person. By using email and other software that is easily accessed via the internet your homeschool students can work on the same project and make good progress even when they are apart physically. It is also easier to keep track of how the experiments are proceeding and record the results. Proving it easier to make reports on the science project as well. It can also help your homeschool student learn how to function as part of a team.
Engage Students and Free Up Teacher’s Time
The biggest advantage of using technology in the homeschool classroom is that you can set students tasks using gadgets that do not require your constant supervision. By setting them up on a computer based learning program, you can ensure that the homeschool student is being tested as he proceeds to learn more about a topic. All while you are freed up to handle other tasks in the homeschool classroom.
Since homeschool students do not have a bus to catch to school, they could start the morning later in the day. However the ideal time to start teaching in the homeschool classroom has been an often debated topic. There are those who feel that allowing the children to run through their daily chores in the morning and begin studying after an early lunch may be a better way to use the whole day productively.
While others may argue that the children’s minds are fresh early in the morning and should be used to concentrate on studies at that time. Also what works for one family may not work as well for another. Plus the age of the homeschool student makes a difference. Younger children need less sleep than a teenager would, making it easier for them to wake up in the morning and begin school work. If you are sitting on the fence of this debate and wondering where side you need to fall on, here are some considerations.
The Circadian System in Teenagers
It is now supported by scientific research that teenagers need nearly 14 hours of sleep as compared to adults who can get by just fine with 8 to 10 hours. Mary A. Carskadon, a sleep researcher at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University has found that most teenagers are sleep deprived due to waking up early for school, and not going to bed early to make up the difference. The lack of sleep has been linked to lower academic performances as well as an increase in petty crime rate for the sleep deprived teenagers.
What Can You Do About This?
As a homeschool teacher of teenage children, you may want to get your homeschool students tucked into bed at a regular hour, relatively early in the evening. In addition you may want to allow them to sleep in late enough to complete about 10 to 12 hours to sleep. Also get them to take that nap in the afternoon to make up their sleep deficiency. You will find that after they get their full quota of sleep, you angry teenagers are actually doing better at school work.