Don't Set the Bar Too Low for Your Kids' Expectations
In traditional schools, research shows that teacher expectations have a direct effect on student performance. This is no different when it comes to homeschool. The main difference is homeschooling is that you as a parent are the teacher. Parents tend to have much stronger biases than school teachers when it comes to the perception of your child’s abilities.
Biases really become clear when you are homeschooling two or more children. Your son may be a math genius, while struggling to read aloud. Meanwhile, your daughter seems allergic to numbers, but reads aloud like a pro. The important thing is to not simply favor your children’s strengths. You need to set aside any preconceived notions you have about your child’s abilities in order to help them succeed.
The best teachers go into every lesson knowing that they will give every chance to succeed in that lesson. When you expect the best from children, you are far more likely to get their best effort. Sometimes what may be holding one child back in a subject is easily corrected. Be positive and encouraging, especially when a child is doing something he or she struggles at. You may be surprised that a child who appears bad at math just needs it taught in a slightly different way, only to discover that he or she is actually rather good at it.
Of course, don’t set your expectations so high that they are unrealistic. Allow your kids to work through things at their own pace. That’s a major advantage of homeschool: your kids don’t get left behind or get way ahead of the rest of the class. Use that advantage to their advantage.
Don’t Simply Teach the Way YOU Liked to Learn
It’s been said that certain types of teaching styles are better than others. While there is some truth to this, it’s more accurate to say that certain teaching styles are more effective with certain individuals than others. Yes, you may have learned just fine from lectures yourself, but some kids just get bored.
Just because something worked for you in your own learning doesn’t mean it will work for your kids. Even more importantly, if you have multiple kids, they may not learn as well by the same method as the other. The best thing to do is try different teaching styles, such as showing videos, doing hands-on activities, and using highly visual presentations. Then, ask your children for what they prefer and adjust accordingly. There is no one size fits all approach to learning. This has been known for years. That’s yet another advantage of homeschool you should help your kids use to their advantage.
Not Setting Rules For Learning Time (AKA Classroom Management)
This is where I partly disagree with many homeschooling experts: separating “class” time from other regular at-home activities. Some people feel that their own in-home system if discipline, rules, amd consequences are enough. I actually mostly agree with that.
However, it IS important to have some simple rules for learning time, especially if you are trying to have a more regular classroom setting. These rules can be as simple as not talking over others, paying attention, and doing the work in a timely manner. Some children do need that structure to stay on task. Really, it’s more about setting up a routine that kids know what to do and have respect for learning time. Plus, you want to teach your kids good work habits.
Of course, some parents don’t want to set any rules for learning time. They’ll just let their kids sort of wander sometimes. Honestly, if that’s happening, you should be trying to teach a different way. The beauty of children is that if you’re doing it right, you will know, and vice versa. The best rule of thumb is to not be strict and inflexible, but instead adaptable and flexible.
Only Teaching One Thing at a Time
In most traditional school settings, subjects are taught one at a time. This is how many homeschool parents schedule their days, often one subject per hour. It works, right? Well, it’s been found through the years that having an overarching theme throughout the day informing what you do in each subject is more effective. By each subject being interrelated, kids tend to retain what they’ve learned much better.
Some schools have done this for years. One day the class will have Bird Day and another day there will be Cat Day, and so on. This isn’t true everywhere, of course, especially when you get into middle school and junior high where students begin to have different teachers for each subject. But I remember having themed days and weeks in elementary school, and wow, does it make a difference having every subject relate to it. Unfortunately, they weren’t every day and usually had something to do with a holiday or event.
Some educators have made it a point to design curriculums with study units that have a theme that ties together math, reading, science, and social studies. Students have been found to retain more and have more fun with learning when they are taught with themes, even if those themes only show up in loosely related ways.
One great example I’ve found has to do with animals with predictable life cycles, particularly frogs. You don’t just teach about a frog’s predictable life cycle during science time. You can have a book about a frog during reading time that covers a lot of the same concepts through a story. Then, you can teach multiplication using frog legs, such as if there are 5 frogs with 4 legs each, how many frog legs? It’s a cute example, but even younger children will pick up on a lot of these concepts more easily because it was taught in a fun and interesting way.
Teaching is NOT Telling
Yes, even though this seems like a really basic mistake,teachers and parents alike still do the whole “tell, not show” thing. Yes, it is far more common for teachers to “show, not tell” even in a lecture setting, but the opposite is more common than you think. Yes, there are some students that are perfectly fine with being told about something. But, in many cases, simply telling about something isn’t enough to make it stick with your student.
Teaching is NOT just telling. Yes, telling is a part of it, but you have to show an example of what you’re telling for it to be most effective. Really, the best way not to fall into the “tell, not show” trap is to change up your learning styles. Switch up between using hands-on activities, visual aids, tech-based learning, and more. Also remember that as a teacher, you are learning, too. You might be learning a different way, in that you’re learning how to teach more effectively, but you are. As you learn and improve your teaching methods, you’ll see your children improve in their own learning, too.
We hope that you’ve found this advice helpful and hope that it can help you become a better homeschool teacher. Do you find yourself making any of these homeschooling mistakes yourself? How have you overcome certain difficulties in your own homeschool?