Did you know more than two million U.S. children* are homeschooled? With the increase in online learning services available, that number is continuing to grow. Whether you’ve been homeschooling for years, you’re making the leap to homeschool for the first time, or you’re being forced to homeschool due to social distancing, there are a few things to keep in mind when learning at home. Following these tips will reduce stress and ensure your kids get the most out of their at-home instruction.
1. Learning at Home Must Be Consistent
After working in both classroom and online education for more than 10 years, I have learned consistency is the key to teaching in any setting. In the classroom, we find that kids act out more when their schedule becomes inconsistent due to inclement weather, state testing, or too many assemblies. At home, we find that kids also tend to act out more when their schedule is irregular from day to day.
One thing you can do to keep learning at home consistent is have a daily schedule. With homeschooling, it can be tempting to allow kids to sleep late or take time off school for travel, but kids need a consistent schedule. Make sure there are clear expectations about what students are expected to do each day and when they are expected to do those things.
In addition to having a defined schedule, the schoolwork needs to be consistent. I had a friend ask for help because her child did not want to do their schoolwork. When I observed her at-home instruction, I realized she was just assigning a lot of busywork to the child each day without providing a clear explanation of what the child was supposed to learn and why that information was important. Kids can sense when they are just being given work for the sake of having something to do. If they sense that the only purpose of schoolwork is to keep them busy, they will be resistant to doing it.
2. Create Movement Activities for Kids
Whether learning at home or at school, incorporating movement is important for a child’s health. The CDC recommends that school-aged children (ages six to 17 years) should be active for at least 60 minutes** per day. In addition to the health benefits that come with movement, taking time to move will also help your child focus when doing schoolwork. When homeschooling, be sure to take breaks throughout the day and encourage your child to move. Examples of at-home movement activities include:
- taking a walk
- playing outside
- playing an active game
- using kid yoga videos found on YouTube
3. Don’t Reinvent Homeschool Curriculum
One of the most overwhelming aspects of homeschooling is determining what lessons, activities, and curriculum to use. If you are homeschooling for the first time, don’t feel like you have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to learning at home. There are so many teaching resources that already exist. I also have a store with lots of lessons and activities that will save you time planning and make learning fun for kids. Some of my most popular resources for home learning include:
- U.S. History Units
- U.S. History Escape Rooms
- U.S. History Task Cards
- Science Units
- Science Task Cards
- Math Interactive Notes
- Math Task Cards
4. Use Online Learning Websites
In addition to using teaching resources that already exist, take advantage of free online learning websites that already exist. I have created blog posts for teachers that list some of my favorite free learning websites for kids. Many of these websites are also free to you as a parent and a homeschool teacher. Click on each of the images to view the lists I created for math websites and ELA websites.
5. Learning at Home Should Be Fun
One of the biggest challenges I hear about from homeschool parents is getting their kids to do their schoolwork. Since they’re at home all the time, it can be difficult for kids to create a separation between school and home. They may just view the home as a recreational place and want to play all the time.
One of the best ways to keep kids focused and on task when it is time for school is to make learning fun. When kids like doing something, they don’t resist doing it. I have created a series of blog posts where I explain fun, at-home activities for each of the core content areas. Each of these posts includes a variety of games, projects, experiments, and activities you can use to keep your kids engaged when learning at home.
Homeschooling is becoming an increasingly more popular option in the United States, with more families switching to learning at home each year. While homeschool does offer some benefits, there are also some challenges any parent must address when transitioning to at-home learning. By following the recommended tips in this post, you will reduce the stress that can come with starting as a homeschool parent and make learning at home fun for your kids.
*Prothero, Arianna. “Homeschooling: Requirements, Research, and Who Does It.” Education Week. Editorial Projects in Education, January 2018. https://www.edweek.org/ew/issues/home-schooling/index.html.
**“How Much Physical Activity Do Children Need?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, January 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/children/index.htm.