Learning at Home: Tips from a Former Homeschool Student
Following school closures due to the COVID-19 virus, parents all over the world are looking for a crash course in homeschooling their children.
Homeschooling can feel daunting, and your first instinct may be to worry about your child falling behind. After all, most parents are not certified teachers, and many of you are doing your best to juggle careers at the same time.
However, as someone who learned at home until age 15 and graduated with a B.A. before her 20th birthday, I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to overwhelm you.
With the right strategy and mindset, homeschooling can be a truly rewarding experience for both of you. So how do you get started?
Let Go of Perfectionism
If you’ve searched online for homeschooling resources, there’s a good chance you’ve ended up scrolling through Pinterest and Instagram, mourning all the beautifully hand-made materials you don’t have the time or craft skills to create right now.
Here’s the good news: kids don’t actually care about perfect presentation. Instagram-worthy perfection is more about impressing other parents than actually benefiting your kids.
It’s often said that perfection is the enemy of progress. Many of us drop new activities if we’re not immediately good at them, and so we don’t take time to practice and develop new skills. The truth is that learning is a lifelong endeavor, so no day will ever feel perfect.
What should you aim for instead? Model a progress-oriented approach. Celebrate your child’s steps forward (and your own), however big or small.
Make the Most of Your Home Resources
If you’re new to home learning, you might think you’re at a disadvantage without a formal classroom’s supplies. On the contrary, at home you have access to all kinds of tools for hands-on and experiential learning, as well as the time and flexibility to try new things.
- Take advantage of online learning resources. If your child loves their screens, use them to motivate and dive deeper into interesting topics. (BrainPOP is designed to encourage self-directed learning and discovery, and we have more than 850 topics to choose from!)
- Bring concepts to life. Make abstract ideas come to life with easy science experiments, observing weather, studying botany in your backyard, spotting constellations, and more.
- Unleash your creativity. Try new arts & crafts activities using items you have around the house.
- Experiment with music. Conventional wisdom says any noise is distracting, but many students actually find it easier to concentrate with a little mellow background music.
Take Time to Connect
If your child is used to classroom learning, then they’re used to learning being a social activity. It can be tough for them to work independently without a teacher and other students there to provide a sense of accountability.
To help fill that gap, invite them to talk through the concepts they’re learning. Ask questions about the lesson or activity they just finished. If they have a friend in their class with internet access, set up a study session via Skype. Even co-working (where you sit together and work on your own projects) can help them stay focused and motivated.
Introduce Life Skills
When I was a homeschooling student, learning was naturally integrated into daily life, and I learned all kinds of life skills as needed. As a college student, I was shocked at how many of my peers didn’t know how to do basic tasks like cooking a simple meal, sewing a button, or operating a washing machine.
Now that your child is home, it’s a perfect time to teach them new skills that can help them feel more independent. Depending on your child’s age, you might explore cooking or baking, gardening, mending clothes, simple home repair, managing your budget, or any special skills you have.
Focus on the Fun
Children enter the world naturally curious. As they get older, that curiosity and joy in learning often wanes. Test pressure, grade pressure, and even social pressure can sour children’s feelings about school.
Homeschooling is an opportunity to re-awaken that love of learning. Instead of trying to drag your child into learning activities they’re uninterested in, follow your child’s interests, and create learning experiences from there.
A child having fun is a child engaged, focused, and ready to learn more.