If you are just getting started with homeschooling you may have visited online forums where other homeschooling teachers say that they are constantly teaching their children. When you are currently struggling to get that first month’s lesson plans in order, this may seem just a bit intimidating. How do you plan to ensure constant learning for your homeschool students? Isn’t it a bit too much to ask to schedule a lesson every single minute of the day? Well, that’s not exactly what constant learning involves.
Homeschool Learning is Different from Regular School Learning
In a regular school a certain number of fixed skills are taught to the students, while they pick up additional skills at home and in other co curricular activities. School taught skills would include learning to read, write and understanding proper grammar. While home taught skills would include learning to tie shoelaces, making your bed and packing your school bag for the next morning.
With a homeschooling family, most of these formal and informal skills are taught at home. Consider the situation where a homeschool student finishes morning lessons and steps in to the kitchen with the homeschooling parent. Instead of picking up a tray in the cafeteria of a regular school and getting in line for food, the homeschool student gets to pick a plate and help put together their meal. It’s a different skill and it involves learning.
Constant Learning is Simple with Life Skills
There is constant learning for the homeschool student because each day lunch is different. Have them help with meal planning and focus on things they are able to make or assist you in making. This could be a sandwich on Monday, soup on Tuesday, nachos on Wednesday…you get the general idea. In a similar manner the homeschool student learns how to help with chores around the house by learning new skills such as loading the washing machine, using the dryer, folding the laundry, dusting and vacuuming.
They may not seem like much, but trust me they are important life skills that your children will use in the years to come. It is this that homeschooling parents realize is important and teach literally non stop throughout the day to their children in terms of constant learning.
If you are serious about homeschooling, there is a considerable amount of advance planning that you need to do. There are also some other basic things that you should consider doing if you have not done already.
Get Involved with the Local Homeschool Community
This makes sense to do before beginning homeschooling for a number of reasons. First, you will meet like-minded people who can guide you on what to expect. You can also make friends who will support you through your homeschooling adventure. And of course each family with a child in your child’s grade or age group can become an asset when it comes to socialization. The community will open up a number of new opportunities for learning and fun that you may never have thought of on your own: think sports clubs, combined field trips, class exchanges and a whole lot more that can make your homeschooling journey a whole lot easier.
Attend a Homeschool Conference (or Seminar, or Convocation)
No matter what they call the event, it is a window into the soul of present day homeschooling. You will meet experts who have been through what you’re just starting and you can learn a lot from them. You can physically check out study material, stationary, reference books and other related paraphernalia with merchants and vendors at the venue. This will give you a good idea of what you will be comfortable using in your own homeschooling classroom. Often you will be able to pick up products at a discount at these events.
Learn About Homeschooling Styles
For most first time homeschoolers there is little knowledge of the variety of styles of homeschooling available. They usually just think of homeschooling as school at home and in doing so miss out on the many simple pleasures that the flexibility of homeschooling allows a family. This is why it is a good idea to read up about different homeschooling styles and if possible talk to others using them. Even if you are not sure what style will suit the needs of your children best, you will get a good idea of what all you can attempt to do.
Google is a blessing for homeschooling families on a budget. The Google search engine allows you to hunt for free homeschooling resources, the Google Alerts app allows you to stay on top of new blog posts and news, the Google Calendar is a fantastic scheduling reminder, and you can access any of the large number of educational videos on YouTube. This alone makes Google invaluable….but wait, there’s more.
Have an ebook that you would like your children to read? Upload it to Google Books and allow them to access it on your devices. This way you can have them busy reading in the car while you drive to get the groceries. Plus the books are available to you in digital form at any time and any place without having to bother about carting them around and storing them.
Not sure if you will need to reuse this particular worksheet? Want to save an essay that your homeschool student wrote? Scan it and send a copy to your Google Drive. All the paperwork that takes so much space to store can actually be scanned and stored on Google Drive for future retrieval. Just about any digital document that you deem useful can be easily stored and accessed from here.
Want to start blogging about the homeschool experience? Or encourage a budding poet or author in the homeschool classroom? Start a free Blogspot blog. You can pen your own feelings down, share experiences, and even connect with other homeschool bloggers on Blogspot. What’s more as the popularity of the blog increases, you may even be able to monetize it with Google Adsense, but that is a whole other topic.
Visual records of field trips, science projects, and even everyday homeschooling can be stored in online albums. Store and share your images on Google’s photo editor, Picasa. Don’t worry about exposing your images to the entire internet community. You can use the security settings to make your albums public, private and even password protected. That way only the people who you want to see the images can get to see them.
Say the word Google and you will probably think of its most famous tool, the search engine. However Google has a great many apps that you can use in the homeschool classroom with great ease to increase your efficiency. Here are some Google apps that you may like to consider using.
If you use a Gmail account for your email it is very simple to set up Google Alerts for a specific keyword. For instance if you want to know about “robotics” you can set up a Google News Alert for the term and get the latest information in the field delivered right to your email inbox. If you want “homeschool worksheets” you can set up an alert for new ones on any blog in the blogosphere. You can set up different alerts for each subject and have them filtered into different folders in your email address. That way you don’t waste endless hours trying to sift through them.
Learning new languages is always fun, and very often in books we read or movies we watch we can hear new foreign language words. By having Google Translate handy in the bookmarks of your browser, you can instantly search for the meaning of the foreign words and even hear how to pronounce them right using the little icon for sound below the main field.
At the beginning of the school year you can set up your homeschool schedule on Google Calendar and then forget about it. Each day the calendar reminders will let you know what you are supposed to cover in the homeschool classroom for each student. Of course the initial keying in can take some time, but once its all set it can be a wonderful way to keep on course throughout the year.
The sheer volume of good videos on all subjects available on YouTube is phenomenal. Find a few good channels to follow per subject and you will have interesting videos to share with your homeschool students for just about every topic in their study books. Subscribe to popular channels to be alerted when they post fresh videos.
There are a certain number of instructional days per year required of you legally in each state when you homeschool your children. What is important for a homeschooling parent to remember is that there is no restriction on when these instructional days should take place. Unlike regular school, you do not have to work weekdays and take a break on weekends. So work through Sundays if you want! You can take three weeks of schools non stop and then skip the next two weeks and take off on a short holiday. You can school in the evening rather than in the morning. There is no end to setting up the schedule to suit the individual needs of your homeschool students and your family’s schedule. The flexibility accorded to you is tremendous.
Focus on Quality not on Quantity in the Homeschool Class
Use the time in the homeschool classroom wisely. Remember the success of learning does not lie in sitting for hours together over the same topic, but in understanding what is being taught and utilizing it. As soon as your homeschool students have received their ‘AHA!’ moment with the topic you are teaching, you can move on to the next topic. Some topics take longer than others to master, that is also normal. You can not expect them to pick up all topics at the same pace. Just remember to focus on teaching them what they need to learn.
Identify the Strengths and Work on the Weaknesses
Just because you are scheduled to do a certain subject on a certain day is no reason to continue with it once the homeschooling student has it mastered. Instead you can switch topics to work on something else with which the student may be struggling. For instance, if you read a story book and finish that faster than you thought, you can always go ahead and revise multiplication tables in the time left over during the school day. It could be different with each homeschooling student and you know best what the strengths and weaknesses are. Just make sure that you cover what you set out to in the beginning of the year goals and the schedule will take care of itself.
Each homeschooling family requires a support group that can step in when things don’t go according to plan. It is not humanly possible to homeschool your children day after day and not require a break, so there needs to be something for the homeschool parent to look forward to as well. Here are some people who can be a part of your homeschool support group.
Grandparents and other relatives
There is no one you can trust like you can trust family. So if you are lucky enough to live close by to the children’s grandparents or favorite aunt or any other responsible family member, make sure you schedule one day a month to spend with them. The homeschooling parent needs to drop off the children and take the rest of the day off as a breather. Of course the spouse can also be asked to handle the children on a day off, but that may not work very well in all families.
Other homeschooling moms close by
It is a good way to get your children exposed to another adult teacher by taking them for classes to another homeschooling family. This can work really well if the homeschooling parents arrange to teach all the children a specific subject each and the child move in rotation from family to family. This should be a much looked forward to activity and should take place about once a week.
Members of Homeschool Clubs
In most cities social media forums such as facebook and twitter allow you to connect with homeschooling families near you. There are reading clubs, debate societies, musical recitals and even drama clubs that your children can become a part of. It is a good idea to socialize with them by planning a field trip together so that the children get to spend time with other families. Also these are the people who would be able to step in on short notice if you need help. It just makes sense to have your children already comfortable with them.
Remember there is enough help available but you need to choose to accept it. Allow yourself to develop a good homeschool support group and your life will be simpler and richer for it.
The internet has a huge amount of information available that homeschool students can tap into. As a parent you may be worried about how they interact with websites and who they get their information from. You can set up a simple framework for your child to access safe and trustworthy sites in three simple steps.
Step One : Bookmarks
The best way to monitor the sites children are using is to provide them with a list of sites for each subject. They can be bookmarked by the homeschool teacher in the web browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera, etc) that they use. The homeschool student only needs to click on the bookmarks folder to access each subject related website. This offers a very restricted access of online reference sites to the students and is ideal for young children in elementary school.
Step Two :Safe Search
As the children grow older the homeschooling parent should use the internet browser’s settings to allow the children to access reference websites safely. Add settings for parental control with a program such as Web Nanny, so that the children do not inadvertently end up on a website that is inappropriate for their age group. You could also give them a written list of sites such as National Geographic, Maths Forum, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Fact Monster, and Scholastic.
Step Three : Check the Web History
It is natural for children to want to check out sites that may not always have parental approval. Gaming sites, music downloads, ebooks and a whole lot more can entice them away from their lessons. They need to know what is happening in the popular world as well. Try and give them some freedom, but keep a check on the internet browser’s web history to make sure that they are not accessing any site that could have a potentially damaging effect. If you find something amiss in a specific website, you can block it in the browser settings to prevent your homeschool students from accessing them. A little prevention is worth a pound of cure!
While formal records are needed legally, you should also consider making an informal record of your school year that your children can flip through when they grow up. Academically you need to keep separate records for each one of your children, but socially they should have some way to preserve memories to revisit in the future. It could take the form of a scrapbook or a video. Even a few things that your homeschool students used daily can be stored in a box. Here are some suggestions you can use, feel free to improvise and add your own ideas.
This would probably be the easiest to store and hand over to your homeschool students at a later date. You can add a sampling of their school paperwork, pictures of science projects. Then stick in some small hand crafted items and photographs of the regular homeschool classroom as well as special field trips photos and souvenirs for the year. Have each child contribute something to the scrapbook. You can even make one for each child if you have enough material to go around.
A Short Video
Since everything is digital these days why not create a video in the scrapbook style? You can use Movie Maker, or Stupeflix to make your own personalized video. Have the children hold up projects and worksheets and explain what they did in them. They can make short clips from field trips and add them to the movie. Use sound bytes from each child to describe what they liked best in that academic session. Have them make projections for the future. The video can be as long or short as you want it to be, however about half an hour’s duration would be ideal.
The Memory Box
There are some things that each child is super attached to while growing up, and a few years later he won’t even look at the same thing twice. These are more your memories than the child’s and you can use a large box to store such day to day items that the children would play with non stop. You can share the stories with them when they grow up. Or you could write down a brief history of the item and tag it in the box itself.
There is so much you can do. Please use these ideas as springboards and find out what works best for your family.
In most states some level of record keeping and progress documentation is compulsory for homeschooling families. Keeping records of attendance is simple enough. You can use an attendance register and mark the school days on it. However the problem arises when you have to keep record of the lessons done and progress made. The simplest way to do this is to mark off the original lesson plan you made for the academic session. Although that can be a bit sparse on the details of what all you actually covered in class. Let’s look at two good ways to keep records.
Keep the Paperwork in a Bin
Get plastic bins that can accommodate the size sheets that you usually use for your homeschool students. Label the bin with the name of the student and the grade. Now you have storage for each child’s paperwork. From worksheets, artwork that comes off the fridge, printouts from the internet, all of this can go into a bin. In case you have built models or projects which are too large to place in the bin, take a photo, label it with all the details and toss that into the bin. At the end of the year you can go through all the material and see what is superfluous and chuck it. The rest becomes an archive for the student’s grade year. Get a new bin per student for the new session.
Software for Record Keeping
If you want easy access to all the records that you have perhaps you may like to use a software such as Homeschool Tracker, Homeschool Minder or Edu-Track. These are paid software and you will need to purchase your own copy for use. If you do not want to pay for the record keeping software consider using freeware such as Homeschool Skedtrack or Homeschooling Records. These software programs have a number of records that you can maintain, not all of which you need to get familiar with and utilize. Use the features you need and leave the others. Revise at the end of the year and take hard copies as needed for state records.
A field trip is a highly anticipated event for any student. In regular school, the opportunity to visit another place and learn more about it is a rare event. This is why is it much looked forward to. In a homeschooling family the parent has the flexibility to take the homeschooled students on field trips much more often. This does not make it any less popular.
Where Should You Go
There are any number of places that you would like to take your homeschooling students to, but as you get embroiled with the academic section of the school year you tend to forget all those big plans. So here’s a simple suggestion, make a homeschool field trip wish list. It can have everything on it from one hour library trips to camping in a national park to three days in Disneyland. Let your imagination go wild as you add to the list. Remember any outing out of the home can be converted into a field trip if the children get to learn something new.
Think Educational and Fun
Ideally speaking, your field trip should have something educational and something fun. The point is to enrich the minds of the children while they enjoy themselves. Each state has museums that could make a good trip and over here is a list that could help you plan out some of your field trips. You can make up your own bucket list of field trips and see how many of them you can manage in your many years of homeschooling. Field trips do not always have to be to exotic locations. Even a visit to the local mall to buy ice cream can be a math class as the children buy their own ice creams and collect the correct change.
One way to formalize an outing into a field trip is to make the homeschool students write a report on what they did. The written report can be embellished with photographs taken on the trip and must mention the new things that they saw and did. This is also a good way to maintain a formal record for your academic session activities.