The 5 Keys to Effective Homeschooling
By Ashlee Hamilton
Originally published at www.ashealways.com/thoughts/effective-homeschooling
Homeschooling is no easy feat--especially if you are uncredentialed and teaching a child with special needs. In a perfect world, you would have a trained educator overseeing your homeschool program. Yet, not all homeschoolers have access to such a resource. But don’t worry. Even if you are not a trained educator, you can run a successful and meaningful homeschool. The five keys to effective homeschooling are: mindset, needs assessment, solid planning, discipline, and organization--not necessarily in that order!
Choose Your Mindset
Are you approaching homeschool with a fixed or a growth mindset? Do you believe that your teaching abilities are innate?
Mindset refers to a set of assumptions or notions held by a person or groups of people. Your mindset can arise out of your worldview or philosophy of life. People with a growth mindset believe that intelligence can be developed, whereas people with a fixed mindset believe that intelligence is static (unchanging or innate). You have the power to change your mindset.
A fixed mindset will have you beating yourself up every time something does not go the way you planned in your homeschool program. You’ll chalk things up to your teaching abilities, remarking that, “I’m just meant to be a teacher.” This type of thinking is not helpful. Take active steps to improve your mindset.
Conduct a Needs Assessment
A critical component to teaching is assessment. Calm down. I’m not talking about standardized testing. Assessments are tools educators use to determine what to teach as well as what to reteach.
Before you plan the academics of your homeschool program, you need to determine where your student is at in each targeted academic area. It can be tempting to assume you already know where your child is, but do not fall into this trap. It can also be tempting to just start at the next chronological grade level in all subjects. Again, do not be fooled! Many children are not exactly on target in every single subject area. A child may be performing better than expected in math, but not quite on target in written expression. Don’t waste precious time and resources by failing to determine your child’s needs.
This is where a needs assessment comes in. There are various ways to conduct needs assessments. You can create your own (which I hardly ever recommend). You can also find assessment resources online that determine whether your child is meeting certain academic benchmarks. No matter what you use, make sure you know what actually needs to be taught before you begin.
Create a Solid, Yet Flexible Plan
Okay so this is where people tend to get anxious. Planning is a trigger word for some people because it requires a great amount of effort. While you do not need to create an extremely detailed plan to begin, you do need to make sure you set aside regular time blocks to expand on your long-term plan.
What kind of plans do you need? Starting out, I suggest you have at least a semester plan. This can be an outline of which topics you will cover in each subject area throughout the semester. For those who love planning, you can even break this down by units and lessons.
The goal here is to have a rough idea (based on your needs assessment) of what you will be teaching your student. It can be a rough plan because you will expand on the plan at regular intervals. Setting aside time to plan every week is ideal, but biweekly or monthly can work as well. Keep your plan flexible (not too detailed) because you never know if your student will require extra time mastering a concept.
Develop Your Discipline Muscle
I’m not talking about discipline in terms of responding to misbehavior from your student. Instead, I’m talking about that drive that kicks in when your motivation and eagerness to homeschool runs out. In this context, discipline refers to training yourself to behave and work in a controlled and regular way irrespective of your desire to do so.
Some days, you will feel excited and ready to put your best foot forward when it comes to running your homeschool program. You’ll be able to list reasons why you want to be a great homeschool teacher, and those reasons will propel you forward. These are days when you feel motivated.
Other days, you will have an infinite number of reasons to give up. Your negative self-talk may try to take over. You’ll tell yourself that you are not cut out for this, and that you should just quit and leave the teaching to the licensed teachers. And instead of quitting, you will wrangle your emotions and discipline will kick in. You will remember that you have a plan, a set of values and goals for your child. You will remember that all you need to do is calm down, breathe and stick to the plan. If the plan has not been working, you will remember that you are fully capable of revising the plan to make it work. And then you will make it happen! The more you practice discipline, the easier it becomes.
Get and Stay Organized
Along with time management, organization is one of the most important executive functioning skills for homeschool teachers. This will not only help your homeschool program run effectively and efficiently, but it will also reduce stress and anxiety. There are three important areas that must stay organized.
First, your child’s learning area must be clean and organized as much as possible. This helps decrease mental clutter, improve focus and promote learning. If you are a working parent, it is important to keep your work area organized as well. Kids sometimes hear what we say, but they always see what we do. If your work area is messy, then that is the message that will prevail!
Second, you must present information to your child in an organized fashion. This requires preparation. There is nothing more confusing and frustrating for a child than watching a teacher fumble all over the place because he failed to prepare and organize his instruction.
Finally, keep your and your student’s resources organized. “Resources” here is used broadly. This can be learning resources, snacks and meals, play areas, assistive technology and more. Make sure everything has a designated place so that it is easy for your student to find things. This facilitates a homeschool program that can run smoothly and seamlessly.
I know that was a lot! So let’s recap. The five keys to effective homeschooling are: mindset, needs assessment, solid planning, discipline, and organization. Before you begin (or continue) your homeschool program, make sure you are approaching it with the right mindset. When you are creating your plans, keep them flexible and based on the needs you have pre-determined with appropriate assessments. When times get rough, exercise your discipline muscles! This is great for you and great modeling for your young learner. And finally, get and stay organized. Clutter in the environment tends to create clutter in the mind. We don’t want either!
If you need more guidance on developing and improving your homeschool program, check out our online course, community of homeschoolers and group coaching at www.homeschoollikeapro.com. Ambitious Women of Color Association members may take 50% off of any course using the code: AWOCA