5 Tips for Every Parent for Successful Homeschooling

Yes, Even You Can Do It

By Julie Franke March 16, 2020

We are all wondering what to do now that school is cancelled and we will be in charge of our children's education for the next few weeks. You may be wondering, "Now what do I do?" Some of you may even think, "I have always wanted to try homeschooling." I am guessing most have said, "I would/could never homeschool."

Some school districts are providing online activities and distance learning. What if yours is not? Should you be treating this like an extended Spring Break? All of these may be determined by your child's school and/or school district. 

However, this is different than our normal Spring Break or Summer Break routine. Schools are cancelled for social distancing, not for extra vacation. 

I have some practical tips to homeschool successfully. I was a 3rd and 4th grade teacher for 8 years. I then homeschooled my children for 7 years (grades 1 - 8). I do believe that all parents CAN homeschool their children. 

Likely High Schoolers and some Middle Schoolers will have work assigned by their teachers or will have additional studying they are able to complete. If not, Khan Academy is a great resource for them to use. The suggestions below will be best for Kindergarten - Middle School students.

1. Homeschool is NOT School at Home

As a former classroom teacher, people assumed that homeschooling would be really easy for me. While I knew curriculum really well, I struggled with homeschooling my first year. I was trying to replicate the classroom at home. Classroom structure is necessary when you have 20 - 30 children. It is not necessary when you have 1 - 4 of your own. Have a schedule but it is not necessary to be so rigid. Children in a setting of 1 - 4 are able to complete lessons and tasks much more quickly and to a greater mastery than in a class of 20 - 30. In a homeschool setting, there should be more time for play and extra activities. 

Start your day when you are ready. Extend your day as long as you would like. You get to dictate the schedule. This was one of the most freeing revelations I had as a homeschool parent.

2. Use the resources you have

It is not necessary to go out and buy a lot of materials to use during this time. The internet has so many free resources.  

Do your kids like to cook? Use cooking lessons for math. Journal about the successes and mistakes while cooking. Take photographs of their cooking process and create a photo journal. 

Do your kids like to play outdoors? They can do nature scavenger hunts.  Journal observations from sitting outside. Draw/paint/sketch what they see outdoors. 

Do your kids like to play video games or watch tv? They can create a science project about the merits of screen time. Have them research these subjects. 

Card games and board games are fun and amazing learning opportunities for your kids.

3. Homeschooling is NOT like doing homework with your kids 

This is always the first objection I get as to why people think they cannot homeschool. Even as a former teacher, doing homework with my kids is the worst! There are a few reasons why. When you are the one assigning activities versus forcing an activity you did not assign matters. The buy in is not the same. Your enthusiasm is not the same. The kids know. You know. Of course there are always things you will assign to your kids that they will complain about. But, in homeschooling you pick the materials. You will emphasize what interests you and your children and the response is amazingly different than when you are doing homework with your kids. 

Homework is school at home. 

4. Have a goal 

The kids will only be home for a short time. Are there a few skills your child has been struggling with? This would be a great opportunity to work on those few skills. Not sure how to find resources for those skills? Khan Academy is a free resource that has almost every subject. Pinterest is also a great resource for skills.

Another goal could be research based or book based. Chose one topic and focus on that. For example, if your child loves dinosaurs, do lots of activities that have to do with dinosaurs. You will naturally be adding vocabulary and other language skills by doing something that your child loves. Again Pinterest is a great resource when looking for activities for homeschool in a particular topic. Do your kids love Minecraft? There are lots of educational FREE activities to be found on Pinterest. Your kids can be doing school work on a subject they love.

5. Keeping up with the basics are the best thing you can do for your child and their return to school.

If all else fails and you still don't know what to do with your kids for the next few weeks, the basics are best. You may have to work from home or rely on others to help you while you go to work. This is the boat I am in. As much as I would love to do all kinds of activities with my children, I do have to continue working. I will try to do as much as I can with them, but I will need to rely on them to do independent work.

What I mean by basics: Read, Practice math skills, Write

  • Read - Read anything. Reading skills are increased by practicing. Kids can never practice too much. Don't worry about age appropriateness or whether it is a book they have read multiple times. It's practice and interest that matter most. Older kids can read to younger kids to practice fluency. A fun activity for younger kids is to have them record themselves reading (chose a book they like and can read well) and then listen to it back.
    An often overlooked skill in language arts is listening. Listening to books and listening to story podcast or other podcasts for kids is invaluable. Kids do not get enough listening practice at school. Podcasts are free. You can listen to podcasts on iTunes or Spotify.
  • Write - Just like reading, writing is based on practice. There can never be enough practice. Many children are reluctant writers so they do not like to practice. This can be an opportunity to do different kids of practicing. Writing with chalk in the driveway was a favorite of my kids when I homeschooled. I would have them write their reports on the driveway that and suddenly it was fun. Typing, using letter boards, multiple colors, or a dry erase board are some other ways kids can practice writing.
    Here are a few FREE spelling and writing practice websites:
    Spelling Training
    K12 Reader
    Quill - Middle School & High School
  • Math practice - There are many free websites to practice math facts. Math facts are the foundation for all math skills. Strengthening that foundation will make them a stronger students when they return to school.
    Here are a few of my favorite FREE websites for this:
    Khan Academy

The most important thing to remember when homeschooling is that it is about that we are not reaching an endpoint. Learning continues to happen all throughout our lives. If you are not planning on continuing to homeschool once schools reopen, you are providing a fill for the gap. Summer will be here soon enough, these are also great resources to use over summer vacation.