If you have chosen to home school your child, you are probably looking for ways to support them through this process. It can be a difficult transition for some children, so it is important to make sure they feel supported. Here are 10 ways to support your child through homeschooling:
- Make sure they have a designated place to do their schoolwork.
- Encourage them and praise their efforts.
- Help them stay organized and on track with their work.
- Let them take breaks when needed, but make sure they don’t get behind schedule.
- Be patient
- Be consistent
- Make sure that your child is involved in your community
- Don’t skip things because they don’t seem important
- Get help if you’re not an expert
- Let your child be a child
Make sure they have a designated place to do their schoolwork.
This will help them to feel like they are in a school setting and it will be easier for them to focus on their work.
It can be very difficult to find a place for your child to do their schoolwork in a busy home, but it is well worth the effort. Having a designated space for them to do their work will help them stay more focused when they are in that space.
As a teacher who has helped many students with their homeschooling, having a designated learning space makes a big difference. Students can do their schoolwork while sitting on the couch or on their bed can work occasionally and let your child feel like they have some agency, but you do not want this to become a habit.
When choosing a space for your child to do their schoolwork, you need to consider the layout of the space and whether or not they can have everything that they need nearby. Sound and distraction is also a very important thing to consider. One of the huge benefits of homeschooling is that you and your child have so much control over where you do your school work; you’re not limited to a noisy, bustling classroom.
A separate room is not necessarily required, but a desk or table is. The kitchen table works well for many students, but if there are a lot of people home during the day it may be worth looking into getting them some noise cancelling headphones especially if they are moving into high school.
Encourage them and praise their efforts.
It is important to encourage your child and let them know that you are proud of their efforts. This will help them to stay motivated.
Praise is one of the first things that they teach you going into a teaching degree. It’s one of the most important strategies that teachers use to support students in their learning, behaviour, self-esteem, and really any part of their lives. Homeschooling can test even the strongest of relationships with your child, but making sure that you are clear in your praise and always regard your child positively even if they are having a bad day can do wonders for your relationship and their learning.
Process praise is something that is definitely worth looking into if you haven’t encountered it yet. This is about praising the process that someone has gone through to make something or solve a problem as opposed to just praising the actual person.1 Pointing out exactly what they did well and what you are proud of will have a much greater impact.
Help them stay organized and on track with their work.
If your child is struggling to stay organized, offer to help them. This will make it easier for them to stay on track with their work.
There are a huge range of strategies that you can use for this, and there are a lot of templates for schedules and organisational tools that you can find on Teachers Pay Teachers. The trick with this is that not every tool or method will work for every child, so you may have to test a few out before you find one that works.
It is well worth involving your child in this process as well. They may have a better idea than you do about what will help them stay organised, but they also may not. Being organised, managing time, and staying focused are skills that often need to be explicitly built and taught. Everyone’s brain works differently as well, so this can take some time as well as some trial and error.
For many children (and adults for that matter) staying organised and on-task can seem absolutely impossible. If this is the case, it may be worth making an appointment with a doctor or seeing a psychologist. While there may be absolutely nothing wrong, these people may be able to suggest techniques that you can try. Some of these techniques may be counter-intuitive, so if you’re getting really stuck it might be worth getting some tips.
Let them take breaks when needed, but make sure they don’t get behind schedule.
It is important to let your child take breaks when they need them, but make sure they don’t fall behind in their work.
You’d be surprised how much work students in a formal school actually get done throughout the day. While it is a bit different for seniors, primary and middle school children spend a lot of time discussing ideas, talking to their friends, and playing. It’s not all just books out and doing work at their desks all day, and there is a reason for this.
Children also need to be aware of when they need to take breaks and how to effectively take a break. Sitting on your phone may not be the best use of a break because your brain is still working and sifting through information, so you may not be any more rested when you do get back to work.
Shifting between different tasks is also a skill that often needs to be taught explicitly, and teaching your child how to take effective breaks can help with this. It is important to remember that learning is difficult. You are literally tearing connections in your brain apart and building new ones, which takes a lot out of you. Children who are learning new things all day need to make sure that they also get plenty of rest so that their brains have a chance to build back better and stronger.
This is a difficult transition for some children, so it is important to be patient with them. If you are just starting out with homeschooling, it will take some time to get into the swing of things.
I learned this the hard way when I began working from home. It does take time to fall into a routine that you can maintain yourself, and you suddenly need to hold yourself more accountable for your own actions and habits. It can be easy to lose patience with your child, but these things do often come with time.
Even if you have been homeschooling your child for a while, there will be days when they will resist. They won’t be in the mood, or they will be distracted and acting out. This is completely normal, and you need to be patient with them. It is worth turning this into a learning experience; when you are feeling this way, what strategies could we use to get back on track? Looking at our schedule, what are the couple of tasks that we absolutely need to get done today?
This is not the only time that your child will have to deal with not wanting to do something in their lives, and it is a good opportunity to help them build some coping mechanisms.
It is important to be consistent with your child’s homeschooling schedule. This will help them to feel more comfortable and less anxious.
The key word here is consistency, so you want to make sure that you set schedules and habits that you can be consistent with. You can of course fill gaps with whatever needs to be done on that day. It is worth keeping the schedule a little vague so that it’s easier to be consistent and still work around appointments as well as your child’s needs on a particular day.
You might find it works best for you if you commit to getting up every morning at 8:30, having breakfast straight away, and then writing out the list of things that you need to do that day by 9am. If you do this consistently every day, it will go a long way towards building good study and organisational habits that will help your child in the future.
This means that if you get up and get to 9am and your child is feeling really sick or down and needs a bit of an easier day, you can then still write a list of the things that need to get done, and maybe add some fun or relaxing things as well.
Another one that works well is committing to doing half-an-hour of numeracy and half-an-hour of literacy before lunchtime. This means that you can get it done around your schedule if you need to, and there is plenty of room to extend that depending on the day and how your child is feeling. It is a lot easier to consistently commit to these kinds of schedules, especially if you’re just starting out with homeschooling.
Make sure that your child is involved in their community.
Homeschooling can be isolating for some children, so it is important to make sure they are involved in your community. This will help them to socialize and make friends.
As a teacher who works with many ex as well as current students going through homeschool, this is something that they often say that they miss and would like more of. They may not feel confident asking their parents though, or may not know exactly what to ask for.
It can be as simple as going to your local library a couple of times a week to do some study. Maybe you want to attend an event at your library, which will be good not just in itself but help your child build some relationships with the staff as well as other people in the community.
It is also well within the scope of schooling to spend some time down the local skate park if that’s what your child is interested in. It will be great for their physical education and will give them a space where they can interact with others in a different way. You need to be aware of other people, share, and even approach different people to ask for help or advice. All of these things are essential parts of learning.
Ask your child what they want to do as this will help you get more buy-in and they will learn more from it. Online groups such as gaming groups can work as well, but make sure that this isn’t the only social activity that they are doing. Variety is also a very important factor, here.
Don’t skip things because they don’t seem important.
Every subject is important and skipping subjects can make it difficult for your child to understand the material.
I’ve seen a lot of homeschool parents focus an awful lot on literacy and numeracy and leave out some of the other subjects because they didn’t see them as important. Strangely enough, I’ve seen parents who focused too much on numeracy and completely forgot to teach Maths, not realising that they are actually different.
Whatever curriculum you are using, make sure that you get one that has been written by experts and that you cover as much of it as you can. You may not be able to see how everything fits together or is relevant, but the people who write these documents are highly qualified to know what will help your child the most.
That doesn’t mean that you need to follow the documents 100% either though, and many teachers don’t do this. You need room to explore and let students follow their own interests and passions, but they need to have the opportunity to access every area of the curriculum.
Get help if you’re not an expert.
If you are not an expert in homeschooling (and honestly, just as with teaching, I think there’s no such thing) there are many resources available to help you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
These aren’t just books either. I’ve helped a lot of parents organise their homeschool schedule and curriculum and even then we can’t answer all of their questions. Teachers are also not experts in homeschooling; in fact, I know many fantastic teachers who have tried to homeschool their own children and fail miserably.
I’ve mentioned psychologists already, but there may be extra-curricular groups that your child could join if you’re not confident in a subject area. I know that there are a lot of programs at science centres, museums, libraries etc. that can cover areas from PE to tech that you could go to for some advice. You may also be able to find someone who is happy to mentor your child, which has fantastic benefits.
Let your child be a child.
Homeschooling is a lot of work, so it’s important to let your child be a child. This means letting them play, have fun, and relax.
In most schools, sitting at your desk all day is not expected. There are lots of activities that involve moving around, applying what they’ve learnt to the real world, and interacting with other people. These require skills that are actually included in most curricula and are an important part of education.
Sometimes the best use of your day may be going for a long walk in nature. You can talk about all of the things that you notice, and discuss how the local plants, animals and waterways work. This doesn’t need to be a structured lesson with worksheets or a task to do when they get home – if you make these kinds of things just a part of your child’s world you will be setting them up to continue noticing, thinking and learning for the rest of their lives.
Another good one is going shopping. For everything that you put into the grocery cart, add up the amounts in your head. Set a budget for the trip and help your child prioritise items or even put some back to keep the running total under budget. There are a huge number of learning opportunities that will actually help your child more in the long run.
Homeschooling can be a difficult transition for some children, but with the right support, they will be able to succeed. These 10 tips will help you to provide that support and make the homeschooling process easier for both you and your child.
It’s important to remember that your child won’t be the only one learning through the homeschooling process – you will need to go on a bit of a learning curve as well. Remember to also be patient with yourself and seek the support that you need to best support your child.
1Kamins, M. L., & Dweck, C. S. (1999). Person versus process praise and criticism: implications for contingent self-worth and coping. Developmental psychology, 35(3), 835.