Ms. Rita's Top Five Survival Tips for Home Schooling
We can do this ... together!
What do I know?
As a school teacher for many years, I have had experience in public, private, home, and online classes. I love working with children of all ages and feel the best gift I have is remembering what it was like to be a child myself. Because I homeschooled our 5 children (and others), I have a thing or two to say about homeschooling. Here are my timely tips for not only surviving this unique space, but actually learning to love it, or at least like it.
Trust me ... there is no perfect way to do this. You"ll make mistakes. You'll learn and grow. Teachers and children both need to keep their sanity with their self-esteem intact. The parent needs to continue to be a loving and caring parent (advocate, not always friend) and maintain a healthy relationship while achieving the results required. Each case will be different according to your state laws, family situation, child's learning style, and if you are enrolled in a school or not. When I reached a tight spot (we all do), I had a great trick. I stopped and took a breath and excused myself and went to the bathroom with my phone. My husband often joked about my bathroom office. I did not speak other than to excuse myself and leave. Sometimes just catching my breath helped. Yet, sometimes I needed more. I had a list of resources and I used them in my private office. ... see Resources below.
#2 Get Out of the Box
My biggest challenge when I became a stay at home teacher was that I had been educated as a "real teacher." Ha! It was like a curse. I wanted to have my regular little classroom and neat little daily structure that would not be changed. The number one reason for failure is that parents/or remote teachers set themselves up to teach with that traditional model in mind. At first, things may go smoothly, yet for many reasons, the traditional classroom model is not sustainable at home. It's okay because there is a better way. And we can do it. The notion that learning only occurs in a classroom (even an at-home classroom) is wrong. We want our children to love learning and keep that attitude going, no matter where life takes them. The curious, eager to learn, child has had someone in their life that has kindled that spirit of asking questions and learning in every situation.
As far as doing our lessons, many times, we worked together as a family. So many projects we did involved every age level. The kitchen was our lab. Other times, it worked best for us to have separate areas to do our work. Again, that is the beauty of homeschooling. We were close but separate. Someone was always at the kitchen table, someone else at the desk in the den, and someone may be on the floor using the coffee table for a desk, someone could be reading on the couch, and someone else might be in the adjoining dining room at the table.
One of the best ways to get out of the box is to get out! Research field trips you can take. If your child has a keen interest in dinosaurs, find a museum or expert somewhere in your area. Doing as opposed to just reading about it makes the experience real and meaningful. Seek out the best of the best. Get out of that box! Keep reading ...
#3 Stop. Look and Listen to Your Child
There is a certain amount of rewiring that goes on at the beginning of this journey for you and for your child. Every seasoned homeschool parent will tell you this. Consider it a special gift to take some time to get to know your child better and for them to get to know themselves better. It is a time where you can access the situation. A reality check on your child's strengths and weaknesses and your own as well is needed. Figuring out learning styles, personal interests, and needs take time. Don't rush into buying a curriculum you may or may not use. Do your homework first during this observation period.
First, stop and really look at your child. Yes, I really need to say this and it sounds so simple. Make eye contact. Resist the temptation to respond to them while texting or looking at your device, etc. Give your child the same respect that you would give to your cohorts at work. Keep in mind that your child sees themselves through your eyes. So how you see your child is how they will see themselves.
Do your child's eyes look bright, rested, and ready to go? Look at their body language as well. Are they slumped or spread out, or are they sitting up comfortably prepared to listen? When a child starts wiggling or squirming during a lesson, then stop. Children were not built to sit for long periods. Stand up and stretch. Do some jumping jacks or something silly. It just takes a moment, and when you return, they can now focus for another bit of time. Pay attention to what your child is displaying physically.
After looking I suggest listening to your child on a deeper level. Listening really goes hand in hand with looking. Is your child's voice high pitched or whiney? Angry? Low? A child's energy can come through their voice. Your child may be hungry, tired, overwhelmed, or showing low self-esteem. Their voice is another piece of the puzzle of really getting to know your child.
Practice active listening ... where you repeat back what you thought you heard. Let them repeat back what they heard from you as well. Maybe the instructions were not clear. Perhaps the task that has been given to them is overwhelming and needs to be broken down into smaller pieces. You have heard it before ... Listen and Learn. Then, you can address the issue at hand before it becomes a bigger problem.
#4 Plan Your Day Before Your Day Begins
This tip is big. Really big. You will thank me over and over if you master this tip. My calendar sits on my desk, open at all times. I have my daily lists of what I want to accomplish and the monthly and yearly list in my planner. Seeing the big picture, as well as the smaller picture, is essential. For each grade level, there are benchmarks to reach.
If you have not written out a mission statement and a vision statement it is time to do so. Your Mission is what you are doing and how and your vision is why you are doing what you are doing. Don't make it harder than it is. Simple does it and write it so you can see it often, perhaps at the top of your planner. It'll remind you of who you are and why you are doing what you are doing. Sometimes we can get off track. You may want to read other family's mission statements.
The key to planning ahead for your child's day is to, at some point, involve your child. We teach them responsibility when we let our children have a part in structuring their time. The child will be more apt to buy into the program if they have been a part of the decisions on how to structure their day.
The schedule offers a loose framework for the day. If it has been raining all week and a momentary patch of sunshine comes out, then, by all means, go outside for a bit and take your lessons with you! If a learning opportunity pops up, ALWAYS take it. Stop and talk about it and maybe the plans change a bit ... or a lot. That is the beauty of homeschooling. Go with it. Sometimes that means you have a sense of what you are doing is just not working. Then guess what, you are in charge. If it is not working, you can change things up. If Spelling is the subject, grab a quilt, go outside, spread it under the tree, and play a spelling game. Make it fun. Or maybe do multiplication tables on the trampoline. Jumping activates the brain. Be creative and spontaneous. Get out of that box! Play learning games. Your kids will appreciate it. Again, that is the blessing of being in the world (outside of that box) with abundant resources.
Now I need to say something here. Another HUGE difference in doing school at home is that the day will be finished much quicker. There is no downtime waiting for others to finish or get in line, etc. What is accomplished at school in 7 hours can easily be performed at home in 3 hours. So don't hold your kids back by holding them to a strict time schedule. Reward them for finishing their work by letting them have their free time. Preferably outside. Keep in mind, a child's definition of play: "Play is what I do when everyone else stops telling me what to do." See my blog on free time, and exactly what that can look like for the stay at home family. https://www.diaryofastayathomefamily.com/post/a-child-s-free-time
Pay attention to your child's finished work and if you realize they have skipped over some areas then go back and hold them accountable with appropriate consequences in place. Example: "Your work needs to be finished before you __________." A repeated saying in our family was, "Finish your work before your play."
Not only academic structure is needed. Mealtimes need to be structured into the day; otherwise, there is always someone foraging around in the kitchen for food and needing help. (another post on this topic coming soon) Bedtimes, chore times, practice time for musical instruments, computer time, sports practice time, outside time ( rain or shine), free time, and basic academics need to be considered in the schedule. Start with the non- negotiables. Figure that out. Have your child work them into their structure, and then everything else works around them.
#5 List Your Resources and have them Ready
What are your resources? If your child is enrolled in a school and is doing online learning, is there someone to call if they have a question? Perhaps the teacher is available for the child to text. Refer back to any written instructions your child received from the online teacher or school. Read what is expected each day from your child. It is helpful to have the number of other children or moms in the class that could be called.
When you have reached a breaking point, what can you do? Again, is there someone you can call? I used to retreat to my office, the bathroom, and call my husband. A warning here, if your husband is not 100% on board and/or his schedule is so that it is not wise to call him, then find someone else. I was very fortunate because my husband is good at defusing me. He knew what to say. He would usually tell me to stop and change things up. Have the kids put their running shoes on and jog around the perimeter of the house. Pull an educational game out.
Have a plan in place. Read about other families and what they do.
Go ahead and make a list of your resources. I have included a list of resources at the bottom of this article as well.
The day is done. Now its time to gather on the couch after baths and dinner for Hank the Cowdog, or another fun book to read aloud together. Contentment comes from looking back at the special moments shared. Tomorrow is a new day. What doesn't get accomplished from today's list is merely moved over to tomorrow's list. Easy Peasy. Well done, teacher! Oh, and by the way, the answer to the question I asked, Are you ready to be your child's teacher: As a parent, you are already your child's original teacher.
We can do this ... together!
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