Thinking back to my own public school days is one of my major motivators for homeschooling my own children. The days of hum drum boring classrooms where little learning took place, and most of the work we did was completed at home in the form of homework. Though it wasn’t all bad, I cringe to think of all the time we wasted on routine exams and stagnant environments that hardly seemed like a recipe for learning. Bored kids burnt out, just learning enough to pass each test, only to forget it almost as soon as they knew it, learning in ways to boring to stick. Many of these kids who are schooled this way, never learn to think outside the box. They grow up and get stuck working for someone else, rather then being that innovative business person.
Hearing homeschool parents ask how to beat their own school burnout I think I want to scream “You’re doing it wrong, hurry and change it before you make the same mistakes that many of our public schools are making. Don’t throw away your chance to make homeschool the better choice!” Just to be on the non judgmental side it seems appropriate to add that it’s not that it’s not entirely possible for everyone to eventually become susceptible to some kind of educational burnout. But from my experience, so far burnout hasn’t been necessary part of the picture unless you allow it to be. As a parent who has a child who has seen what works and what doesn’t, I’ve seen these how some things work. The majority of homeschool parents I know have more then one age student, so the tips aren’t in any special order. If you don’t need them now, you might have a child grow into that age and remember, or have a friend who needs the advice.
It’s all about the kind of thinking outside of the box that we want our own kids to learn, but for them to learn it, we must model it. Start by throwing away the notion we must sit at the desk from 8 to 2 with lunch at noon and complete worksheet A3 today and A4 tomorrow. You get the idea. Be analytical of your child’s needs as well as your strengths as a teacher. Keep in mind that while some states require a certain amount of hours and days and have more specific rules then other states, it’s smart to make those rules work for you and your kids as much as you can. If your state requires 180 days of recorded instruction, no one says it must be Monday through Friday except holidays. Throw away the schedule (not the record) and school on the days that work for your family.
Growing your day in a way that works for you is the best bet. If your kids want 15 bed time stories, go to bed a little earlier and practice reading with your kids for 3 hours before bed instead of a forced 45 minutes at 11am.
Work around the rest of the day, and involve your favorite things. playing a soul inspiring cd, and eating your favorite healthy snack can make the worksheets that you want your children to do seem more like a spa experience then a rigorous forced learning experience.
Let your child have some say in what you do. Make them feel empowered, and watch their willingness to work grow.
Make where you are work for you. Burning your favorite scented candles or practicing math problems in front of the fire place light. Have things that reduce stress to make your common learning environment a relaxing one. Wind chimes, an open door to the patio, or just going out on the patio can go a long way. A stressed child who feels forced isn’t going to retain. And a stagnant environment isn’t doing your stress levels any favors. Our children are sponges, feeding off of our energy, whether it be positive or negative, if you feel it, they will too.
Take it outside. If you live by the water or have a park you can do some work at, mix it up and get some of it done outside.
Keep it exciting. Tons of science experiments will kick start their little brains and help them to settle down for those less exciting school topics. Keep the sensory stuff involved in your experiments. Sensory development is vital to their brain function.
Find the teachable moments, then create some more. How many skittles do you have? have many red ones? how many green ones? how many all together? Can you eat 3 and tell me how many are left? Then be a sneaky parent and add math lingo to your conversation and kids barely seem to notice that they just had a math lesson that actually stuck at 5 years old.
Game time should be learning time. Geography games for kids, puzzles of the states, shapes, math problems are an amazing way to set concepts in stone in your child’s mind. Most major book stores have a huge selection for learning games like these.
Throw out the standard curriculum. Instead, set a list of what you want your child to learn for the year and make sure you hit all the topics through out the year, this takes strategy on the parents part, but is well worth the effort. Even in the states that require less formal homeschool instruction.
Move on when they are ready. Making a child do 50 multiplication problems a day when they really understand the concept is great if it brings that child pleasure. But the odds of that are slim. So instead do some multiplication refreshers here and there a couple times a week then move on to the next math topic for goodness sake. Public schools are so guilty of this. That’s what is so great about homeschooling. We can cater to our kids needs, as we play the part as their exciting private tutors.
Keep it positive. For the younger students it is amazingly helpful to refer to their school worksheets as their games with a smile. I’ve yet to see a kid cringe at solving a math page after being raised to view them as a game to see if it can be won. Add some competition when they are ready by seeing how fast they can complete the page of subtraction problems, or do the same sheet with them and pretend to be real competition for them and see who wins first. Let them win enough for the little ones, it’s a great way to give a confidence boost. Confidence is the core requirement for kids to be willing to continue to learn.
Don’t force the things that aren’t there yet. Each child’s brain develops at a different rate. Even Einstein didn’t hit the common core mark for reading development. So why should your child? Depending on if children are auditory learners or not, will greatly effect how old they are when they learn to spell. They all develop at different rates. Sadly, it doesn’t seem that those who created common core have been trained at all in early child brain development. So make sure you are. Don’t push their weaknesses, just nurture those weaknesses and focus on their strengths.
Get some learning games on the computer up in here. ixl.com is an amazing program for math. Some great charter schools use this program and it’s worked well for my homeschooled kids. It makes sure they are sharp with their math skills and up to par for their grade level. abcmouse.com is a good one for preschoolers to get them ready.
Get your own education on how your child’s brain works. If your child struggles in math, get them first into puzzles. Start as easy as they need to and work up from there. Once they get to the 500 piece puzzles, use puzzle glue to make art for their wall. What does this have to do with brain development? The part of the brain that is active when people do math is the same part of the brain that is active when working puzzles, the more they work puzzles and the younger they start the better, and easier math will come to them. This is taught in early childhood education college classes and I’ve seen it proven effective in my own kids. Knowledge of brain development can go a long way for making learning easy and rewarding. Setting your child up for a smooth learning process, which builds their confidence and makes for happier homeschool days.
Go above and beyond with their interest. If your child is really interested in one topic, don’t force all the others, let them really focus in on what they are interested in. An interest is an opportunity.
Have a dance party. Take time out to crazy dance in the middle of your primary students assignment for a boost. Kids love having a crazy mom or dad for a teacher who knows how to party at learning time. Improving both your attitudes is the key. Sending the message learning time is fun. If you keep your good attitude while they are 6 and 7, they will have learned it and keep it when they are older. One fundamental to study skills is knowing when and how to blow off steam so you’re ready to go again.
Don’t forget physical activity. Kids who are physically active learn easier. One of the reasons is it helps oxygen get to their brain and they need to be physically active to thrive in brain activities. Enroll them in what they enjoy activities like sports, dance, gymnastics.
Eat healthy. Studies show caffeine and stimulants found in chocolate and sugar actually make the brain sluggish, so avoid to much of them if you want to avoid frustration. Brain foods like broccoli actually help the neurons in the brain connect, so learn the brain foods and enjoy them together.
Know your stuff. If you don’t know how to do your 7th grade students math. They won’t feel like they can either. Even if you bring in a tutor. Children believe they are capable of what their parents are. If they see you’re sharp, the will have the confidence to be sharp too.
Join a co-op. Homeschool c0-ops can be a good way to get you some rest and your child a little group learning with other parents. Some have fees to join. Often good ones have low fees and parents are expected to chip in on the teaching to make things flow, but while other parents have their work times, you can find your time off.
Break out the positive reinforcements. Keep the reward stickers handy for the little ones. You get a paycheck for the work you do, why shouldn’t they? This is a really good way to send a message to your child while they are young.
Get them involved in the public school events if they are in high school public school sports and things of that nature can really help them to be well rounded. Once they are in upper grades they should be busy with plenty of volunteer opportunities and working toward earning scholarships.
Take plenty of zoo, aquarium, ice skating, farm days to do things of that nature. Homeschool groups often offer field trip days to go as a group, most places offer discounts to large groups. If you can’t find a homeschool group, start one so you can make it as awesome as you know It can be.
Travel. traveling is a huge opportunity for learning and teachable moments. Travel to a foreign country with your high school student and give them assignments to complete on the government of the country you travel to before they go. Learning how other countries use money and different languages is so important to learn and actually going there will be a strong motivator for them to care about what they are learning and to see how knowing this is important. Traveling to a new state can be an opportunity to have your third grade child journal about everything they saw and learned and did. It’s an important time for children to learn to get into writing, and there’s nothing like writing about their new adventure to get them excited about writing and about what they learned in that new place.
Pen pal. Connect with other homeschool families in far away places. Have your children include pictures and small gifts like friendship bracelets. 4th grade is a really good age for this. This is also a good way to get them into writing. If your child has an aunt or grandparent or other family member who would be a good pen pal that lives far away, don’t forget to utilize that opportunity as well if you can get them interested. The more you can get them writing, the better.
As homeschool parents we have opportunities that shouldn’t be missed. So make homeschooling a treat, make it an indulgence of learning that is so enjoyable that what your children learn must stick in their minds long term.