Homeschool life can be a dream come true, but it’s also inherently challenging. With this approach to education, you retain not only all the usual difficulties of parenting, but also, the hard work of finding a curriculum, planning lessons, and, of course, keeping your children engaged.
Thankfully, today’s homeschool parents enjoy access to more tools and resources than ever before. While these can sometimes distract kids, they also provide the ability to increase engagement and obtain feedback on learning methodologies. Of course, traditional methods are also available.
With a little support, it’s possible to implement a homeschool curriculum that’s carefully tailored to meet your kids’ unique needs. The result? Happy, focused, and passionate children who love learning.
1. Integrate Your Children’s Favorite Topics Into a Variety of Activities
Homeschooling offers a unique opportunity to explore your children’s passions on an in-depth level. While you may not always understand or appreciate these areas of interest, it is crucial that you grant them careful consideration as you develop a customized curriculum.
Your child’s passions hold the power to make even the most dreaded subject matter interesting. With a little creativity, you can easily find ways to integrate seemingly disparate topics. Beyond attracting your child’s attention, this will ensure that your child retains important information.
Depending on the topic of interest and the other material that requires coverage, related lessons could take on many forms. Don’t be afraid to get creative. For elementary students, for example, an interest in birds could be parlayed into several subjects: reading books about birds, writing short essays about them, or conducting birdwatching experiments to gain practice with statistics and the scientific method. Older children and teenagers can focus on writing papers, developing video content, or launching their own research projects.
Don’t forget the value of field trips. These are far more accessible for homeschool families, which can easily get up and go on a whim. As a homeschool parent, you don’t need to worry about signing permission slips, arranging for buses, or corralling dozens of kids. Simply select a location that allows your children to explore their interests. This can serve not only as a wonderful learning opportunity, but also, as a valuable incentive to get your kids through tough at-home lessons.
2. Use Everyday Household Items to Level Up Lessons
The more relevant subject matter is to your children’s everyday lives, the more they’ll take away from homeschool lessons. This concept should extend beyond the content of the coursework to include the equipment used to present that material. The kitchen, for example, provides countless opportunities for teaching your children about math, chemistry, nutrition, and more. Grab those measuring cups or nutrition labels and use them to provide practical information that your children will remember in years to come.
Helpful learning tools are just as accessible outside your home as they are within. From your car to yard maintenance equipment, a variety of items can add both interest and depth to lessons. Feel free to delve into complex items as you work with older kids. Air conditioners, light fixtures, and other intricate systems provide exceptional learning opportunities and could even get your children started on the path to a future career.
3. Take Advantage of Online Learning For Older Children
Aspiring homeschool parents often hold a vision of quaint interactions involving pen and paper. This image of homeschooling can be tough to shake, especially as we’ve romanticized several aspects of traditional learning.
In reality, however, modern homeschooling takes many forms — and some of the latest and greatest technological innovations provide far better learning outcomes than would otherwise be possible.
Older children, for example, respond well to online learning programs. These solutions help kids explore a broader range of subject matter while also mastering the many tech skills they’ll need in years to come. From educational games to YouTube videos and research resources, the opportunities are endless.
Used appropriately, technology can dramatically improve engagement among even the most distractible or reluctant homeschool students. Its ability to get students invested in learning is evidenced by a growing body of research. Hence, its frequent use not only among homeschooling families, but also in public and private institutions.
Another oft-forgotten benefit of online learning: homeschooling parents with multiple children can provide more and better-quality one-on-one instruction when some of their kids are occupied by online instruction. This approach frees up both the time and mental capacity needed to give children the individual attention they need. Furthermore, some children take to online solutions so well that they can provide a valuable source of motivation.
As with any homeschooling program or curriculum, your child’s success with online learning largely depends on the quality of the content matter and how it is presented. Your efforts also matter. You wouldn’t rely on a textbook alone to teach your child — nor should you look to online programs to do all the work for you. Make an effort to engage with the online program as much as you would with any other learning solutions.
Of course, technology, while helpful, comes with several notable downsides. Perhaps most concerning is the possibility of distraction. We’ve all seen the extent to which YouTube, social media, and a variety of other sites can keep us off track when we have the best of intentions. Now, add a child with a partially developed prefrontal cortex into the mix — and it’s easy to see why so many struggle to focus.
As mentioned earlier, kids will find it easier to remain engaged with online material if they’re naturally passionate about the topic. Beyond this, however, you can encourage focus by implementing the following tips and tricks:
- Establish a tech workspace that is free of obvious sources of distraction. Depending on your purposes, this may feature a desktop or a tablet computer. Clear all toys and non-learning tech devices from this space to help your kids remain focused on the task at hand. If possible, temporarily separate online students from other children for the duration of digital lessons. Otherwise, invest in a high-quality pair of headphones capable of blocking out household noise.
- Set time limits based on your child’s age and interest in digital learning. Some kids can handle long periods of time on the computer, while others should be restricted to short sessions interspersed throughout the day. Assess each child’s needs and don’t be afraid to change course if necessary.
- Let your kids act as content creators. This allows them to pursue their passions in a way they find exciting. This approach is particularly effective for teenagers, who can gain valuable experience while learning how to take photos or edit videos. An active approach to learning could encourage those who otherwise seem ambivalent about most topics.
4. Incorporate Plenty of Breaks
One of the greatest advantages of homeschooling lies in the ability to tailor your children’s daily schedules based on their unique needs. Often, this means taking numerous breaks throughout the day. Unfortunately, many homeschool parents fail to recognize the importance of breaks and the wonderful opportunity they have to incorporate them into everyday learning. In an effort to cruise through class material as quickly as possible, some neglect to give their kids the homeschool equivalent of recess.
Ample evidence highlights the importance of regular breaks at all ages. With public and private schools, research cited in the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics verifies the value of recess, which is referred to as a “crucial and necessary component of a child’s development.” Kids return from brief breaks better capable of paying attention to challenging material — and actually retaining information.
The ideal number and length of breaks will largely depend on your child’s age and typical activity level. Experts from the American Academy of Pediatrics claim that recess and similar learning breaks are most effective among younger children, who see added benefits whenever they’re allowed to pause cognitive activity for short periods of time. They may require more breaks than older kids and teens — but all need time off.
Breaks shouldn’t merely apply to homeschool kids. As a parent, you will eventually need to take a breather. Unfortunately, your child’s recess might not always feel like a break on your end. Thankfully, other opportunities exist. If you use online learning programs, set aside a few minutes to yourself as your kids engage with digital material. Even a brief moment to decompress with a cup of coffee can make a huge difference in your ability to handle the many challenges that inevitably crop up during a typical day of homeschooling.
5. Determine Your Child’s Productive Period
Have you ever noticed that you tend to be more productive at a specific time of day? This concept also applies to your children, who may find it easier to focus on learning during a dedicated window. This differs considerably from one child to the next, with some handling morning learning better while others prefer to focus on tough tasks in the afternoon. The sooner you discover this magic period, the better.
Take notes during a few typical homeschool days to determine when your child is most likely to remain on task. From there, tailor your school schedule based on your child’s natural inclinations. Focus on cognitively challenging tasks during your kid’s prime time and leave the easiest activities for periods in which distraction takes over. By working with your child’s inner schedule, you’ll find that you’re able to cover more material in less time — and with far fewer distractions or arguments.
Ultimately, there is no one ideal way to run a homeschooled household. Experiment with different curriculums, schedules, and methods to determine what works for you. With the right approach, you can help your children establish a lifetime love of learning.