Top 10 Homeschooling Tips for Beginners
Parents that decide to take up the challenge of homeschooling their children all have one thing in common: they want to be the best teachers they can be and deliver the best educational experience possible. However, it’s important to remember that the process of homeschooling is a large learning curve for both the student and the parent, and mistakes are almost inevitable in the beginning.
The top 10 homeschooling tips for beginners outlined in this article will help you to avoid many of the common mistakes that most new homeschoolers make. And together with our range of homeschool courses – including our Homeschool American History Curriculum and Homeschool World History Curriculum – will give you all the tools you need to make your homeschooling experience a successful and rewarding one.
Connect with other homeschooling families
If you’re new to homeschooling, joining an established home education community such as the Wild World of History Facebook group is highly recommended and is our top homeschool tip.
One of the main advantages of joining a homeschooling group is that you’ll get help and support from other homeschool families who are facing the same challenges and obstacles as you.
The growing popularity of homeschooling has led to an increase in home tuition blogs, forums and social media communities, so there’s now a wealth of help and advice available online. In fact, according to the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI), there were 3.7m homeschool students in the USA in 2020/2021. And from March to early May of 2022, 5.22% of all school-age children were being taught at home.
Joining a homeschooling group will also help to fill the gaps in your knowledge, which could help to save you money. If you find a subject too challenging to teach, there’s a good chance someone in your homeschool group can provide the advice and guidance you need.
As well as being a source of information and advice, homeschool groups may also provide you and your family to make friends with other people who have embraced homeschooling – particularly if the group organises local meet-ups.
Homeschool groups are also a fantastic resource for parents who are considering educating their children at home. Home education isn’t for everyone, so if you’re in the research phase, a group like this will help you decide if homeschooling is suitable for you and your family.
Set reasonable goals and expectations
Setting realistic and achievable goals for your homeschool students will help to ensure that their educational progress remains on track. The very nature of independent learning means that it’s arguably even more important to set the right goals and objectives for your children, as the homeschool curriculum is based on your students’ strengths, challenges and interests.
So how do you go about setting goals and objectives for your homeschool students? That’s where SMART goals come in.
SMART is a well-established tool that brings clarity and focus to your goal-setting process, helping you make the most of your time and resources when preparing your homeschool schedule.
To make sure that your goals and objectives are clearly defined and achievable, each one should be:
- Relevant; and
- Time bound.
In recent years, some authors have expanded the acronym to SMARTER to include additional focus areas: Evaluated and Reviewed.
SMART goals are a powerful technique for bringing a certain level of precision, measurability and clarity to your homeschool objectives. Moreover, they can also help you and your students to achieve them by providing an objective for completion and determining when this milestone will be reached.
Create a designated study space
A dedicated home study space can play a significant role in cultivating your students’ curiosity, sharpening their focus and encouraging their creativity, so it’s important to create a welcoming, distraction-free space that enables them to focus on learning.
With a little creativity and plenty of natural light, it shouldn’t be too difficult to create a suitable learning space for your homeschool students. There are, however, a few important basics to keep in mind, such as:
- Ensuring that the space is dedicated to learning;
- Making sure the space is free of clutter;
- Focusing on comfort; and
- Making the learning space visual;
Spending the time to create a dedicated learning space for your homeschool students will benefit them enormously, and will go a long way to making the homeschooling experience a much more enjoyable and rewarding one.
You don’t have to be an expert teacher
Regardless of what you may read or hear, you don’t need professional qualifications to become a homeschool parent – and you certainly don’t need to be an expert teacher to provide your students with an engaging and rewarding educational environment.
Whether or not you hold a teaching qualification is irrelevant to your ability to teach. If you’re capable of performing the three simple actions listed below, you’re already qualified to be a homeschooling parent:
- Use reference resources (such as books and Google);
- Find the answers to your own questions; and
- Foster a sense of curiosity in your children.
As long as you have the ability to find the answers to your students’ questions and are capable of cultivating a culture of curiosity, you have all the skills you need to teach your children at home.
We offer a free How to Teach History e-book and 40-minute training video, click here to receive that, obligation-free.
Make learning fun
Are you noticing that your students’ eyes are glazing over as you’re teaching them your curriculum? Are you finding it harder and harder to motivate your homeschool students? Do you feel like progress has stalled and that your teaching efforts are yielding diminishing returns?
If that sounds familiar, it may be that you need to make your homeschool lessons more fun!
Students who have fun learning are far more likely to love reading and learning, and as a result may even become lifelong learners – the holy grail for homeschool parents everywhere!
Injecting a little fun into your homeschool lessons doesn’t have to be complicated and time-consuming. And for most activities, you won’t even need to spend any money to make them more interesting and engaging.
So what are the best homeschool activities to incorporate into your daily lessons to help keep your students interested and engaged? There are many different indoor and outdoor homeschool activities to consider, some of which are listed below:
- Incorporate YouTube videos into your lessons
- Educate with games
- Get creative with art projects
- Incorporate music into your lessons
- Go on field trips
- Watch documentaries and films together
- Introduce cooking lessons
- Explore nature
- Create fun science projects
When learning at home, your children are unlikely to be surrounded by other students their age, and interactivity and engagement are more likely to be absent from the classroom as a result. It’s up to you, therefore, to compensate for that by ensuring you create a fun and engaging learning experience for your homeschool students.
Cultivate a sense of curiosity
One of the most effective strategies for any homeschool teacher is to focus on cultivating a culture of curiosity and a love of learning. Let your students follow their passions and learning will naturally follow.
Many things in life don’t necessarily need to be taught, as long as the child is inquisitive and curious enough to explore and experiment under their own initiative. Just as a child learns to walk and talk without being ‘taught’ these essential life skills, they also have the capacity to learn other skills and gain additional knowledge through general curiosity and trial and error.
When a child is forced to learn something, it’s more likely that progress will sometimes be slow; the child may become upset and the parent/teacher frustrated at their student’s unwillingness or inability to absorb information. The negative connotations associated with “forced” learning could also have a long-term effect on the child’s learning, as they may become reluctant to have anything to do with “school” or “learning” in the typical sense.
Cultivate a sense of natural curiosity among your students and you’ll find that they’re much more likely to embrace learning naturally.
Start the day with the most challenging subjects
Have you ever wondered why schools typically teach complex subjects such as maths and physics in the early morning rather than after lunch or in the late afternoon? It’s because many students absorb information more effectively when they are at their most alert, which is typically in the morning.
In Nolan Pope’s research paper “How the Time of Day Affects Productivity: Evidence from School Studies”, Pope noted how much better students who learned maths earlier in the day performed compared to those who took the subject near the end of the day.
Although it’s not conclusive proof that studying more challenging subjects in the morning leads to better results, it’s a strong indicator that teaching your homeschool students a difficult subject in the morning, when their brain is at its most refreshed, will yield better much results.
Incorporate different learning styles
Some children prefer to learn by seeing or hearing, while others absorb information more effectively by asking questions. One thing all students have in common is that they learn better when they receive information in their preferred learning style.
In 1987, a New Zealand teacher called Neil Fleming introduced a new model for learning: visual, auditory, reading/writing and kinesthetic – more commonly known as VARK.
Although the VARK model originally consisted of just four learning styles, modern studies have suggested that it should be expanded into the following seven different learning styles.
Visual learners are comfortable working with colours, charts, shapes, images, symbols and other visual concepts.
Aural learners prefer to listen to information and respond best to rhythm and sound.
Social learners, or interpersonal learners as they are often referred to, work best in groups and respond to social interaction and collaboration.
Verbal learners find it easier to learn and express themselves using words, both in speech and writing.
Logical learners excel whenever logic, reasoning and numbers are used to impart information.
Physical learners gain a better understanding of the world around them by using their sense of touch.
Solitary students enjoy their own company and prefer to study and work alone.
While it’s likely that your students will adopt more than one learning style, you may notice familiar patterns in their learning preferences.
It’s worth setting some time aside to evaluate how your students absorb information, because understanding how your students learn is one of the most effective ways to improve their homeschooling experience and accelerate their learning.
Choose the most suitable homeschool teaching method
Once you have identified your students’ preferred learning method, the next step is to select the most appropriate homeschooling method for your needs.
There are literally dozens and dozens of different homeschool teaching models to choose from, ranging from the unusual (the flipped classroom method) to the bizarre (self-organized learning environments, or SOLE). But the eight teaching models that are most widely accepted and adopted by the educational community are detailed below.
With a heavy emphasis on learning the Bible, the classical method of homeschooling is one of the oldest and most popular homeschooling methods around. Its main focus is on reading (mainly historical texts), language, logic and critical thinking.
The hybrid method is, unsurprisingly, a combination of two teaching methods: traditional schooling and homeschooling. Its popularity is growing by the year, and in many ways the hybrid method offers the best of both worlds: your child gets to socialize and interact with their peers, but you remain empowered to provide them with the individual education that they need.
Charlotte Mason method
The Charlotte Mason homeschool teaching method is a Christian homeschool style of learning that combines very short periods of study (around 20 minutes) with nature walks, journal writing, narration, memorization, observation and reading activities.
School at Home method
This system is analogous to conventional public education – sometimes making use of the same curriculum as your public school. The School at Home method is the teaching model most closely associated with virtual schooling and tends to be one of the more expensive teaching models to adopt.
This unorthodox approach to homeschooling is the polar opposite of the School at Home method and focuses on projects and activities that cater exclusively toward a child's passions and interests. Although essential skills such as reading and writing are still seen as vitally important, the manner in which they’re taught is unconventional, completely omitting tried and trusted teaching practices, such as exams.
Unit studies method
For the unit studies method, the homeschool educator selects a central theme and each subject is analyzed from that point of view. For instance, you could create Halloween-themed lessons for mathematics, literature, geography or any other subject.
The Montessori approach to teaching allows for a lot of freedom, unstructured time blocks for play and learning, interest-based learning and multi-grade classes. The Montessori method is a fantastic teaching model for young students and, while not as popular as some other teaching methods, has proven to be highly effective. It’s also special needs-friendly.
The eclectic model is arguably the most popular method of homeschool teaching. It’s basically a combination of all of the above teaching methods, placing a greater emphasis on the individual educational needs of your child rather than attempting to shoehorn them into a specific learning group.
Empower your students
There will be times during your homeschool journey when progress becomes painfully slow and you’ll start to doubt your abilities as a teacher. When that happens, remember that one of the most effective ways to motivate your students is to create a culture of involvement. As a homeschooler, you have the perfect opportunity to empower your students to become more proficient learners and more well-rounded people. The key is to foster a culture that prioritises learning.
Involving your students in the planning of their curriculum – and providing them with an opportunity to express their opinions about the topics you have planned for the semester – can help instil a genuine sense of accountability and responsibility in your students.
Allow them to make their own decisions about how they present their projects and assignments. Encourage them to use technology in the classroom. Allow them to self-assess their work. And inspire their learning by creating lessons driven by their passions and interests. Empower your students to drive their own learning and you’ll soon discover how rewarding and fulfilling homeschooling can be.
Putting these 10 homeschool tips into practice
Taking up the challenge of educating your children yourself can be overwhelming in the beginning. With homeschool lessons to plan, objectives to set, children to motivate and assignments to grade, staying organized and creating an engaging learning environment is no easy task.
The homeschooling tips detailed above will certainly help, but if you only put one into practice then make sure you join an established homeschool community. The importance of the help and support you’ll receive from other homeschoolers cannot be overstated, and it may well be the difference between giving up and making a resounding success of your students’ homeschool education.
Ultimately, the most important quality you’ll need to succeed as a homeschool teacher is perseverance.
That doesn’t mean trying the same thing over and over again and expecting different results; it means reading books, experimenting with different homeschool teaching methods, attending workshops and talking to every homeschool parent you possibly can about what they’re doing that works for them.
The right learning methods, teaching styles and motivational strategies are out there – you just have to be stubborn enough to not stop looking for them.
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