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April 28, 2020

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With many schools closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak – and uncertainty surrounding the decision to transition kids back to schools, parents are encouraged to look into homeschooling their kids.

As a sociologist who has interviewed dozens of homeschooling parents to learn which practices work best, I know that first-timers can quickly find themselves feeling unprepared and overwhelmed. With that in mind, here are six tips for parents who educate their children at home.

Top Tips For Homeschooling Your Children

1. Don’t copy a regular classroom

When many of the parents I interviewed first started home-schooling, they tried to make their homes look and feel like a traditional school environment. They set up desks and decorated the walls with the kinds of things you’d see in a classroom. They set a schedule and positioned themselves as teacher. But they soon came to see this as a rookie mistake that causes a lot of stress and pressure.

A woman I’ll call Beth, a 37-year-old mother who has been homeschooling her four children for four years, warns parents not do “public school at home” because “it doesn’t really work.”

“Don’t make it look like public school at your kitchen table,” Beth says. “Just have more conversations with kids and see who they are and that will help you develop how you want to do school because you’ll know what speaks to them.”

2. Don’t spend much on curriculum

You might feel the urge to rush to buy a “boxed curriculum,” a set of grade-level materials that can cost more than $1,000. Before you do that, try to find free educational lessons on websites such as Khan Academy and Learning Games for Kids. Additionally, these homeschooling parents often used their local libraries for books and programming, although during the pandemic they are now using libraries’ online and e-book resources only. They also use documentaries found online and through TV streaming services, such as ABC, Netflix, Stan and Amazon Prime.

Also, most home-schooling parents that I interviewed didn’t subscribe to just one method or program. Instead, they piece together lessons that were unique to their child using a blend of commercial and free materials.

3. Be mindful of your time

The parents in my study, which is forthcoming, spent an average of 3.5 hours a day home-schooling. At first, this might seem like much less than the average of six to seven hours a day spent in the traditional public school classroom. However, one key difference is that at home, your child is receiving a one-on-one education instead of splitting one teacher’s attention with 25 or so other students. Instead of trying to have school all day, focus on quality over quantity.

“Megan,” a homeschooling mother of three, said she has often seen home-schooling parents “freaking out” because they want to give their children four or five hours of schooling a day. “One-on-one instruction is way more efficient than in a class of 20 to 30 kids,” Megan says. “And you don’t need to be schooling from nine to three every day solid.”

4. Be flexible

Many of the parents I spoke with stressed the importance of being flexible and doing what works for your family. Because children are now learning at home, an environment in which they are used to being relaxed, it could be beneficial to allow them to sit on the floor, to do their work in the evening, or to do school work on Saturdays instead of Wednesdays. Maybe your child will fare better completing all of their math on Tuesdays but spreading science lessons out over the week. Be willing to try new things if something isn’t working for your family.

“Be flexible. Give yourself a lot of grace because there’s definitely a learning period for everybody,” says “Gayle,” 36, a home-schooling mother of five. “And it takes a while to get the hang of it. And just figure out what works for you.”

homeschooling children

5. Hire experts

Homeschooling parents don’t always take on the full burden of their child’s education themselves, particularly when their children get older and into tough subjects. Many hire online tutors. Sometimes children have an interest in something that their parent doesn’t know much about, such as a foreign language or astrophysics or organic chemistry. These parents turn to tutors and specialized classes to make sure their child gets the knowledge they need to succeed and can pursue subjects that spark their curiosity.

One such place to find tutors is Outschool, which offers classes, some with certified teachers and experts. The classes can cost anywhere from $10 for a one-time class to $200 to $300 for an entire semester. If your child needs more one-on-one instruction, the average cost of a personal tutor can range from $20 to $80 per hour, depending on the subject. Another good resource for tutoring is to tap into your local university to find both undergraduate and graduate students who may be looking to make some extra cash teaching children. Due to the closure of the majority of universities and music venues, online tutoring is becoming even easier to find, as many people have turned to the internet, using platforms such as Zoom, to continue to share their knowledge. Some are even offering their services for free.

6. Join support groups

Many parents in my research turned to Facebook and Google to find local and virtual home-schooling support groups. These groups are places where parents go to air their frustrations, seek playdates (even of the online, social distancing variety), review curriculum, ask questions and find resources. This would be particularly helpful before making decisions on curriculum or outsourcing. Cast a wide net when looking for support. If you’re nervous about joining because you feel as if you aren’t truly home-schooling, reach out to the admins of the group to see if it’s a good fit.

For many of these homeschooling parents, it was very helpful to have a group of like-minded people to turn to during tough times. “That’s one of things I like about the co-op … there’s other mums,” says “Brianna,” homeschooling mother of two. “So, during lunchtime, we can say, ‘I had a horrible day.‘ ‘How do you do this or how do you do that?’ And a lot of things have come about just talking to people and in forming a community, because I don’t think you can home-school on your own without some type of support network.”

[Get the best of The Conversation, every weekend. Sign up for our weekly newsletter.]The Conversation

Erin Baker, Ph.D. Candidate, Sociology, Wayne State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

  • it is a beautiful article to share. loved reading it and actually did apply a few things.

    Reply

  • I have found that they have more learning to do at home then they actually did at school. I feel sorry for them in a way but I always tell them to do what they can as long as maths, english & reading is done everyday I don’t care much about the others- we go for a walk or a bike ride as well for exercise and that’s it


    • Yes, mine are overwhelmed….especially my high schoolers.

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  • Great ideas thanks for sharing

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  • Very hard time at the moment and we just have to do the best that we can

    Reply

  • Take care when using the term ‘home schooling’. This is not what is happening across the board in Australia as a result of Covid-19. Yes, some parents do home school their children, but this is vastly different to what the majority of children/families are currently doing which is called remote learning. In this setup, teachers are still planning learning activities for their students which are linked to the curriculum and educational outcomes. They are also online for hours of the day, availing themselves to their students for assistance. This is not home schooling.

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  • Great article
    really helpful information are so looking forward to school going back

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  • I am so fortunate my son has now finished school. I just think parents need to be kind to themselves and take as much guidance from their school. Parents are not teachers, and noone expects you to be.

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  • I have 3 kids homeschooling now. Bit challenging.Everyone need help to some group activities at home.

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  • I’m homeschooling 4 kids and working from home. It’s been such a challenge.

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  • If you are homeschooling you may need to check what they have done if you have to leave them at all. We have 2 we are homeschooling. Unfortunately I had no option but to leave them alone a couple of times for about 5 minutes each (we also have a toddler). The elder one, my son had decided to to go to google and search subjects that weren’t linked to school and downloaded them on 2 occasions in one day. Then he complained he was low on gegabytes

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  • We all can only do the best we can and not put too much pressure on ourselves or our kids

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  • We can only do the best we can.

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  • Is the first photo, the young girl a girl or the mother? if it is a girl, that is too much a revealing top.

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  • I have my kids set up in the library, we already had a desk in there. Adding a smaller desk and chair for my youngest and a chalkboard made it our at home classroom. It helps to keep them focused because they know they are only in there for schooling.

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  • My kid’s schools are incredible. Primary school made up book packs for the families to take home and are having pick up times if we need more, they are hosting webex meetings for the whole class and for individuals and have just made it so easy. My son does his school work with his big brother as tutor and have the day’s work finished by 11. My daughter has to sign onto their web meeting each day (different times depending on the class) and the teachers help with any questions and set out work for them to do. It has been a very easy transition for us

    Reply

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