Posts tagged 10 Homeschooling Tips
10 Homeschooling Tips #3: Be a Mentor, Not a "Teacher.”

Your child doesn't need a teacher.

She needs you to join the journey. Acknowledge that your role is to be a mentor, guide, or facilitator. Without this shift in mindset, it is easy to get trapped in a spiral of insecurity.

Try to think of yourself more as a mentor to your child - that “educational consultant” who is available to provide resources and allow opportunities to visit interesting places in the world. 

You are not going to directly feed her mind with knowledge.

You are a protector of your child's natural inclination to learn.

Your child knows what to do already! She is programmed biologically to be interested in life and new skills and to explore.

Your job is to scaffold her education not based on what she is "supposed to be" learning but by celebrating her current strengths and helping to nurture what you see as yet undeveloped.

This may sound funny, but the hard part about homeschooling is not finding the right curriculum or planning or finding resources - it's tuning into your child and allowing the development to unfold while you observe and offer support.

Let her lead.

Push aside your own worries and insecurities. You were meant to be your child’s mentor

Psst: that’s what a real teacher is!

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Ten Homeschooling Tips: #2 - Adopt a Theory of Education

Most homeschoolers begin their journey looking for a curriculum to follow, but even more important than what to teach your child is how to teach your child. Children are naturally curious creatures. If given a rich environment and a lot of freedom and time to ask questions, explore, manipulate, and engage, learning will happen, no doubt! We run into resistance when we insist that children learn certain skills at certain time periods without considering whether our children are even interested at that given point of time.

Consider Montessori

A Montessori-inspired home education can give you insight into what children are generally interested in and ready to explore at certain ages as well as a set of teaching techniques that have been proven through modern research to be effective at engaging young learners.

Rather than a list of key concepts for each year of a child’s life, in Montessori, we develop curriculum and techniques according to a several year age span (exa: ages 0-3, 3-6, 6-9, 9-12, 12-18) because multi-age groupings allow for different rates of development and allow the children more flexibiity with varying interests.

A Natural Fit for Homeschoolers

  • Children lead the learning process.

  • Teachers are guides/facilitators/mentors.
  • Lessons are sequential and naturally appealing to children.

  • Curriculum allows for flexibility for special needs or gifted children.

  • Philosophy fosters independence and a joy for learning.

  • Emphasis is placed on nurturing the “whole child”.

  • Hands-on materials can be effectively DIYed.

  • No expensive supplies are necessary for at-home implementation.

The Scoop

Avoid teacher albums and certification programs unless you are looking to teach in a classroom. Teacher education programs are designed for the needs of classroom teachers managing large groups of children, not homeschoolers. Adhering to lengthy, prescriptively written lessons from the albums that teachers upload (and often sell) online can lead you further from the philosophy in a home setting.

Fortunately, there are many online resources for parents looking to use the Montessori Method in their homes! Follow  blogs written by homeschoolers for homeschoolers, join online forums, check out photos from Montessori-inspired Instagrammers, read a book of Dr. Montessori’s, and consider taking an online class created specifically for the needs of homeschooling parents.

Child of the Redwoods is now offering an online class for parents who are considering homeschooling Preschool / Kindergarten with a Montessori mindset. Click here to learn more about Homeschool of the Redwoods for ages 3-6.

Don’t Limit Yourself

There are many wonderful methods for homeschooling, and since you are designing your very own school for your child, there’s no one to say that you can’t combine elements of various progressive methods that respect the interests of the child. You might incorporate the freedom of Unschooling, the emphasis of great works of literature from Charlotte Mason, the democratic discussions of Dewey, the artistic elements of Waldorf, and the three period lessons from Montessori! Puzzle together something wonderful that works for you and your family, and you can’t go wrong.

Read more tips about homeschooling here

10 Homeschooling Tips: #1 - Follow Your Child

This is a part of a series on how to make homeschooling work. Click here to read more from the series.

It might sounds obvious, but it’s important to stress that homeschooling DOES NOT work like traditional schooling. It’s not because (or only because) you’re teaching at home or teaching your own children. It’s because traditional school is structured, in no small part, to support LOTS of kids at varying degrees of skill and readiness at the same time.

Managing a classroom of very different young learners and trying to get them all to a common goal is not for the faint of heart. It’s why teachers think so much about classroom management. Keeping order is essential. The best teachers know how to keep discipline through engaging learning.

A Partnership Like No Other

Nonetheless, what they’re trying to do with twenty-three 3rd graders is not the same as what you’re trying to do with just the one. If you model your homeschool experience after what the phenomenal 3rd grade teacher down the street does, you’ll flop. Your lessons will go on too long or not long enough. The child won’t be ready and will revolt. In a traditional classroom, you have strategies to handle these - remediation activities to fill gaps, extension activities to fill time.

But here’s the good news: You can’t be a teacher, but you shouldn’t be try to be one, either.

Instead, you must be the child’s partner. It can’t be said enough. Get the teacher thing out of your head. Yes, you should be actively engaged in pulling together resources. Yes, you should be seeking learning opportunities. Yes, you are ultimately responsible for your child's education. However, you don't have to (and should not) do these things in a vacuum.

Do them with your child. Look for resources together. Make a list of ideas of things you might want to do, craft, or learn about together. Give your child some empowering language about the learning process. 

Many classroom teachers would envy your ability to follow the child and provide the instruction he or she needs at the moment he or she is ready (professional educators call it differentiated instruction).

Find the Balance

Following the child doesn't mean letting go of all rules and standards (though there are some educational philosophies that go to that level). Rather, it means identifying the learning outcomes that are meaningful and developmentally appropriate and inviting the child into the process as a full partners.

And when it gets hard and your child is pushing back, keep this in your back pocket:

"I know that you don't want to do this, but the truth is that sometimes things that are hard just take a lot of practice before they become fun, and when you've learned how to do this, it's going to be amazing. I remember when I was learning how to do this, and this is how I learned. How can we help you learn it? What would work best for you?"

Considering Homeschooling? Here’s How to Make It Work

Curious about homeschooling? You’re not alone. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, almost 3.5% of school-aged children (and growing) are homeschooled. For context, the number of homeschooled kids in 1999 was about 850,000. Today, it’s over 1.7 million.

There is no one reason why people choose to homeschool. Likewise, while there are definite clusters in the data -- most homeschoolers are white, have three or more children, and are two parent homes where only one partner works -- there is also surprising diversity.

For example, parents’ educational level isn’t a differentiator; homeschoolers are evenly split amongst parents with some college, bachelor's degrees, and graduate degrees. The same kind of split holds for income levels and grade ranges.

"A Trial By Fire"

Whatever draws a person to homeschooling, one thing cuts across -- it can feel like a trial by fire. Even those trained in education and aligned with a homeschool-friendly philosophy can face times when they’re not exactly sure what to do. In fact, sometimes that educational training can work against the homeschooling parent.

As a classroom teacher, you learn how to manage a classroom full of similarly aged children. You try to find a happy medium between what works for all kids in the class and what each unique child needs. You try to design experiences that balance academic rigor and classroom control; your peers and supervisors tend to evaluate your quality against this balance. And you get to learn from your mistakes. You practice and repeat your lessons each year and get better along the way.

Homeschooling breaks everyone one of the rules. You may have children at wildly different development stages, not even bounded by age. Classroom control is not a thing. And there is no learning from repetition. No one has ever homeschooled Your Child at This Particular Age before. Ever. Including you.

The Grand Adventure

This doesn’t mean homeschooling is impossible, but it does require a commitment to experimentation. With every new stage of development your children pass through, you are learning anew, growing with them, changing your technique, curriculum, and relationship. You are on a grand adventure with your children, and although you will gain confidence, your approach will be uniquely catered to your child and your family.

If you want homeschooling to work, you have to be ready to experiment, fail, and experiment again. You must commit to education being an inseparable component of your relationship with your child. School is not a place; it is a journey. It doesn’t begin when your child reaches "school age." It starts at conception.

In other words, you've been building this education thing from the ground up all along.

Top Ten tips

So how do you make it work? Good curriculum and a solid understanding of education are critical, but every child-parent dynamic is unique. Over the coming weeks, we’ll be exploring these ten tips for homeschooling success:

  1. Follow your child.

  2. Adopt a theory of education.

  3. Be a mentor, not a "teacher.”

  4. Study child development and psychology.

  5. Use local learning resources.

  6. Prepare a supportive home learning environment.

  7. Join a homeschooling community.

  8. Stay up-to-date on educational research and trends.  

  9. Contemplate your daily rhythm.

  10. Nurture yourself.

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