Why You Shouldn’t Try to Teach a Sleepy Homeschooler

There are some homeschool students who wake up bright and early and are rearing to go at their lessons in the beginning of the school day. Then there are those who can not manage to open their eyes in the morning and wish that they could keep their heads on the pillow just for five more minutes.

Why You Shouldn’t Teach a Sleepy Child


When they get to the class, you might find them dozing off just when you begin to teach them something that you know is going to be important for them to pay attention to. Don’t yell at them or ask them to sit straight because the brain is not going to obey you when it is sleepy and you will simply get more upset. Remember that sleep allows the toxins accumulated in the brain to be swept away, so that better brain activity is possible after the nap is over.

What Does This Mean?

Essentially speaking, you need a clear brain to learn. However it is also important to take a break and sleep, so that the brain can consolidate what you have just been learning as well. This is when the superfluous details are cut out and long term memories are strengthened. It is often found that you end up dreaming about something that you have just read or seen. This makes the memory better when you wake up. However if you are sleepy to begin with and can’t pay attention, you will not be able to learn at all.

What Should You Do?

Stop teaching! A homeschool parent may object saying that if they stopped teaching each time the child was sleepy they would never get any studies done. This is not true. What you need to do is switch the class to a more active mode physically so that the homeschool student wakes up. Then you can resume the original lesson plan. Here’s a simple trick, start playing a game like “Sit/Stand” in the class where you say either word and everyone in the homeschool class must do that. Between sitting and standing up and waiting to hear the next word, the child will become more alert and after about five minutes you can resume the class.


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Teach Your Homeschool Students “The Pomodoro Technique”

The Pomodoro Technique was developed by Francesco Cirilli in the eighties. The word “Pomodoro” literally means tomato in the Italian language and he used the word because most timers look something like a tomato. He used the technique with great success as a undergrad student. Today it is essentially considered a great tool to beat procrastination. If your homeschool student has trouble with a certain subject and has a tendency to not want to study it, choosing a relatively easier subject instead, you may want to introduce the Pomodoro Technique to them. This is how it works.

1. Decide on the task that needs to be completed.

2. Set the timer to 25 minutes.

3. Now focus and work on completing the task that you have set yourself for the duration till the timer rings.

4. Reward yourself for the total concentration you have given to the task that you would have hopefully completed in the 25 minutes.

If you are distracted by a thought during this period, just write it down on a specific sheet of paper and return your attention to the task at hand. Most people tend to procrastinate learning new or unfamiliar skills because they feel a sense of discomfort as they move beyond the boundaries of what they know. By following the Pomodoro technique and focussing on the task or skill to be learnt, one is able to move past that initial scary feeling of moving out of your comfort zone. Plus it allows the homeschool student the opportunity to see that the big boogie was really not such a big problem when you began working on it.

In order to have a truly effective day in the homeschool classroom, you could have a set of four tasks set up for the day. Once the first task is done tick it off the list, take a ten minute break and then restart the Pomodoro Technique with the second task. Once you have ticked off the four main tasks for the day you are sure that you have had a truly productive day. Now get set for the nice reward that you have promised yourself for completing all that work.


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Some “Don’ts” in the Homeschool Classroom

There’s a lot of advice on what you should be doing in your homeschool classroom, but here’s some of the things that you should be avoiding doing with your homeschool students.

Not Using a Textbook

While you may not want to follow a formal curriculum and textbook, its a good idea to have some reading material available for your homeschool students. The written word is a powerful recall tool. It specially comes in handy if your child has a photographic memory and actually relates to words written in a certain part of the page. Even if you don’t use the same book for all the teaching you do in a subject, ensure that you have something for your child to read when you teach a new topic.

Passive Rereading 

As a busy homeschooling parent you may consider it a easy way to get your child to revise what has been taught earlier on. However most students do not actively get involved in the rereading process. They may be saying the words, but they are not registering whatever they are reading with their brains. Ever so often you will find this to be true when you ask them a question about something that they just read out loud, but did not take the time to register or understand. That blank look on their face is not what you want when you set them a task of rereading a lesson.

Getting Sidetracked

Turning Study Sessions into Play Sessions can happen if you manage to get distracted by what your homeschool student wants to share with you. While it is important to know what’s on the mind of your children, make sure that they tell you their opinions at a specially designated time during the day. If you allow them to disrupt each lesson with something that they just “have to” tell you, you will end up getting consistently disturbed. That way you will never manage to finish your day’s school work and will also have to cut into the breaks that you have planned during the day. So stick with your agenda and promise them that they can share their thoughts after school is over for the day.

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Nine Ways to Improve Learning

While you teach your homeschool student in the best possible manner, there is always room for improvement. Here are ten relatively simple practices which will make it much easier for your student to remember all that you have ever taught him.

1. Actively Use Recall

Once you have read a page in the book, or shown him a short video on a topic, shut it down. Now ask him to recall exactly what was read or seen. As his ability to recall what was learnt improves, so will his actual learning.

2. Test All The Time

Use Flash Cards, ask spot questions, or take pop quizzes on an unrelated study day. It will keep him learning and recalling constantly.

3. Use Chunking

Teach your homeschool student to chunk some set of steps together. This will allow for better recalling as with a single step all the rest will flow.

4. Spread Out Repetition

Repetition is a good thing, but by taking some time off in between each one you will encourage stronger recall of the facts for your student.

5. Switch Teaching Techniques

When you teach from a book most problems are only ever solved in a single manner. Instead get your students to solve the problem using a different technique. That way they learn to apply what knowledge they have.

6. Take a Break

By taking short breaks you allow the student to decompress and assimilate what has been taught better. So make sure that you schedule breaks throughout your school day.

7. Analogies and Metaphors

Using examples from every day life to depict what topic is being discussed makes it much easier for the homeschool student to understand what is being explained. It also makes recall easier.

8. Developing Focus 

The actual duration when a child can focus on a topic is very short. You have to ensure that your homeschool student is able to give his complete attention and focus to you for the short duration that you are actually teaching him.

9. Tough Stuff First

There is a tendency to do the easy things first and leave the tough stuff for later. Instead of doing that, be honest with yourself and pick the toughest thing to do and do it first thing in the school day.


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Focused Mode Vs Diffused Mode of Learning in the Homeschool Classroom

Are you struggling with teaching methods in your homeschool classroom? Knowing how your homeschool students learn, can make it easier for you as a homeschool parent to teach them. There are two primary ways in which the human brain learns.

The one that we are most familiar with and one that as a homeschool teacher you are most likely to use is the Focused Mode. This is where the homeschool student pays attention to what you are saying and learns from that focus. It works well for common tasks that they need to repeat time and again. The whole thought becomes like a well travelled road in the brain and the homeschool student can remember what has been taught easily. As long as he has been paying attention and focussing on what has been taught.

What then happens in the Diffused Mode of learning? Here the homeschool student is allowed to look at the big picture after being introduced to some basic concepts. The homeschooling parent simply facilitates the student in areas where he hits a speed bumper. However the idea is for the student to think about the topic being learnt on his own. He figures out how things work, and if he can’t he creates and tests theories about this.This encourages the student to follow up on different aspects of the topic that interest him, ones which you may not have even included in your original lesson plan.

The Focused Mode is like having a fixed spotlight which can not be moved. It focuses only on the single object in the light beam and that is about all the student can pay attention to and learn. With the Diffused Mode, think about a hand held flash light. It will have a narrow beam of light which illuminates just a small area ahead for the student. However the student can move that light in any direction he wishes to go. Ideally a combination of both learning modes should be used in the homeschool classroom to give you a chance to understand what really works best with your student.

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The 30 Second Rule for Summaries

Summaries are important not just in the homeschool classroom, but almost everywhere else as well. The ability to cut to the chase in a long winded conversation is appreciated just as much as the ability to pick out the most important points during a presentation in the work place. As a homeschool teacher you can impart an important skill to your homeschool students when you get them to understand and use the 30 second rule.

What is the 30 second rule?

This is a simple life skill which can come in handy after every lesson, meeting or significant life experience that your children may have. At the end of the event you have to ask your child to simply take 30 seconds to summarize the most salient features or important points that they picked up during the lesson and write them down. That’s it. No waiting for later to write a detailed report, or getting lost in the sludge of additional information provided.

Why does it work?

Firstly it forces you to immediately introspect on whatever it is you have been told. So you pay more attention when you are listening to what is being said. Secondly it helps you avoid the details trap by making you work at figuring out what is truly important. So you don’t drown in a million unimportant sentences. And lastly it helps you interpret what you have been told faster as you prioritize the information that you constantly receive.  This allows you to make good decisions based on solid facts rather than being bogged down with the information gained.

How to get your homestudents to practise it?

The more this particular skill is practised the better it is honed, so find excuses to make them summarize just about everything that they have experienced. Make them do the 30 second rule summary at the end of each class highlighting what they have actually done. Make them write down what they experienced in a field outing as soon as they return home. The best part is that they get precisely 30 seconds to think of what they did before they get writing. Its not a lengthy process and can be interjected into the day for any activity.

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Teach Your Homeschooler to Write Good Summaries

Having a summary of a chapter can really help a homeschool student quickly recap everything that it contains. Writing a good summary involves paraphrasing all the important ideas contained in a text. With a little bit of help and guidance from the homeschooling parent, a student can begin to write good summaries consistently.Tell them the following tips to help them come up with fast and good summaries.

Highlight or Underline

How often is it that you know you have read something in the text the first time, but can’t seem to find that statement when you speed read through it again at a later date? Besides being irritating, it is also a huge time waster, but it has a simple solution. The first time you read a text and something happens to strike you, just mark it. You can highlight what caught your eye or simply underline it with a pencil. The idea is that the bits that stood out can be found easily when you come back to read the text again.

Reread the Text

Once you have finished reading the whole chapter or lesson, take a short break. Focus on something else for a while. If you don’t have much time to waste before you begin to write your summary, simply get up and go drink a glass of water. Now come back and reread the text paying special attention to the bits that you have marked out before. This helps in better assimilation of the text as a whole, and also allows you to filter out the truly important points that you would like to add to your written summary.

Write Self Explanatory Notes

While writing down what is written in the book is a simple way to put a summary together, it may not be as effective as paraphrasing. That is to say that you read the sentence in the book, understand the meaning, and then re-write in in your own words. This ensures that there is no scope for doubt. It also serves as self explanatory notes for the subject when you are studying for a test at a later date.


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Moving Focus From “What” to “How” in the Homeschool Classroom

As a homeschooling teacher you have probably put together enough lesson plans and scheduled activities to ensure that your homeschool students are in absolutely no danger of missing out on learning important stuff that they should know. Unfortunately ever so often the homeschool parent tends to focus so much on what needs to  be taught that they don’t pay as much attention to how well the homeschool student is assimilating what is being taught.

You need to focus on how the children are learning the material you are teaching so that they can remember what they have been taught for years after they have finished the pop quiz this week on what they learnt. Understanding the context and retaining the learning is a more important goal and will only be met if the students are using appropriate learning techniques. Here are some tips that can help.

# Let them self test themselves on what they learnt. This allows them to clear concepts.

# Give them practice tests on material that they have not yet been taught. This allows them to be more curious in class.

# Distribute practice of the concept over a longer period of time. This way they have to keep coming back to the basic concept to solve the problems given.

# Interrogate them on why they thought a particular answer is correct. This allows them to debate about what they have understood and clarify any doubts.

# Reread the material after a break. This allows them to pick up things that they may have missed the first time over.

# Let them summarize their learnings. This allows them to clarify the ideas in their heads and express them in written.

# Set up Mnemonic Keywords for them to make it easier to recall. Understanding the concept is not enough, they need to be able to recall it at will if they are to use it in real life.

These are just a few suggestions that you can incorporate into your homeschool classroom while teaching to ensure that the students actually remember all that they have been taught well beyond the academic year. You can come up with more ideas that are better suited to your own classroom.

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More Memory Work Topics for Homeschoolers

While scientific facts are important, they are not the only memory work that you can set for your homeschool students. Here are some additional choices that you can use when giving out memory work assignments in the homeschool classroom.

Reciting poetry is a good way to get homeschool students interested in its rhythmic nature. It will also allow them to learn poems that span generations and can be easily shared with other people like grandparents, uncles and aunts. Some poems are truly evergreen favorites, like “If” and “Gunga Din” by Rudyard Kipling, “Stopping by Wood on a Snowy Evening” and “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost,  “Wynken, Blynken and Nod” by Eugene Field, “The Charge of the Light Brigade” by Lord Albert Tennyson,  or “The Tyger” by William Blake.

This is just an indicative list. Poetry of any kind that you and your family enjoy can be used during memory work. Another step in the same direction would be memorizing Scriptures. Some good ones to start with could be the Ten Commandments and basic prayers. The Sermon on the Mount may also be an interesting addition to their repertoire.

Shakespeare and his works are also a great place to add material for memory work. From his Sonnets to the St.Crispin’s Day Speech from his play Henry V, to the famous balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet and how could we forget Hamlet’s famous soliloquy on “To be or not to be”. The bard has inspired countless generations and being able to fluently quote him and his works, is not a bad idea.

If you want the homeschool students to be more aware of American History, you could start with asking them to memorize the Declaration of Independence. Another good document is the Bill of Rights. Some may even prefer Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech. Speeches are also a great way to prepare for public speaking. Consider having them memorize the Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln or even the Inauguration Address by John F. Kennedy. There really is no dearth of things that you can pass out as memory work to homeschoolers.

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Some Science Facts That Homeschoolers Must Memorize

There is a lot of memory work involved in learning basic science facts. Just as they must know their multiplication tables, these facts are also considered essential for a well educated person to know. Here is a ready list of science facts that can be used as filler when you are not ready to start a whole new lesson, but at the same time want your homeschool students to be gainfully occupied for a while.

Names and Order of Planets in the Solar System

While there may have been some confusion in the exact number of planets there seem to be in the solar system recently, it is a good idea for your homeschool students to learn the names and order of planets. This could be extended to include the satellites, comets and dwarf planets as they go into higher grades.

Names of Organs in the Human Systems

It is a good idea to have them draw out and label the organs in human organ systems to give them a better grasp of how their bodies function. The digestive system is a good place to start, add in the circulatory system, muscular system, endocrine system, excretory system and you have a few hours of busy work ready for them.

Elements of the Periodic Table

Have them memorize a group at a time so as not to overwhelm them. Once they have the names down pat you can increase the difficulty level to include the atomic numbers and atomic masses for the elements as well. It may seem like a great deal, but remember it is not necessary for them to learn everything in one go.

Newton’s Laws of Motion

If they are going to be active with science experiments around the homeschool classroom, and I sure hope that they are, it’s a good idea for them to know about the basics of the Laws of Motion. This will help them predict what is likely to happen in hypothesis’ that they are working on with more ease. They are the most used laws in everyday and it would be a good ability for them to be able to identify them in real life.

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