Beverley's Tips for Jumping into Homeschooling
by Beverley Paine, Jan 2015
You are your child's first and most important teacher - always have been! You really don't have to do a lot more than what you have been doing since your child was born and it largely comes down to being attentive, tuning into his or her developmental and educational needs and helping him or her work to meet them!
Some simple steps for doing this:
- Establish what skills and knowledge are already being learned simply by everyday living. Successful home educators take advantage of the natural learning already occuring and don't replicate it by unnecessary and contrived 'lessons'. Hobbies, chores, personal hygiene naturally cover several outcomes in the national curriculum.
- Record activities - all of them. Whatever you children do throughout the day whether instigated by them or by you.
- Translate these activities into education language - cooking covers some maths skills and knowledge for example.
- Have a read through some of the national (or state) curriculum outcomes appropriate to your child's level and think about how your child might have already demonstrated ability or competence or have covered them.
- Start recording your child's insights and comments from your everyday conversations with her or from snippets of conversations you've heard her have with others - conversation is a much underrated learning tool!
- Encourage questions, together imagine possible answers and then look up the answers. Make this a habit.
- Find out about learning styles. Do a search online, do a few quizzes, play around with the idea as a family. Learn about how each of you natural learns. It will save you a lot of time and money!
- Work out what time of day suits your child best for concentrated study - an hour or so a day of basic literacy and numeracy learning is usually sufficient, interspersed with other learning activities such as art, craft, science explorations or social studies projects, reading, playing. If you child is a night owl she might enjoy learning in the evening and sleep in late. Work with her learning style and needs - it's more efficient.
- Make a list of all the things you want your child to learn. When setting objectives be realistic. Is this what children her age are learning now? Is it what you learned at that age? Do you think these things are important to learn? Create your own list of priorities rather than blindly following lists created by other people. A home is not a classroom - duplicating classroom methods of instruction in the home is neither efficient or sensible.
- Talk to the child about what she wants to learn, how she is learning, what she thinks of what she is doing. Encourage her to be a reflective learner, evaluating what she is learning and how. Encourage her to take ownership of her learning processes, to be involved in her education.
- Find out she knows already - this is critically important so you can build on previous skills and knowledge. Children become confused when they are being taught stuff they for which they don't have foundations. Stress is the enemy of learning.
- Go shopping for student workbooks and other educational materials together. There are thousands of titles available, many in department or bookstores or from specialist homeschooling suppliers. Join a support group for ideas, reviews and links (The Educating Parents Homeschooling and Unschooling or Homeschool Australia FAQ).
- Don't leave the child to work through material by herself - pay attention and answer questions, show interest and supplement book activities with real life examples to reinforce the lesson.
- Don't push if the child shows resistance - pick another page or activity and come back to it when the child is ready - this saves a lot of hassle.
- Trust the child more - learning doesn't have to be linear, children learn like they grow, usually in unexpected bursts.
- Use a variety of activities and approaches - make and play games, go on excursions, art and craft and projects - hands on activities, listening and speaking activities - use book work sparingly if it's resisted - think of other ways of covering the same lesson.
- Break large tasks into smaller chunks - five minutes of successful book learning or drill exercise scattered throughout the day is better than a miserable half-hour.
- Help to develop a positive self-image - it's easier to feel motivated about doing anything if you feel good about yourself.
- Check for unhelpful attitudes about learning - I taught my children that mistakes are good - they are actually positive learning experiences, and failures are stepping stones to learning. It helps.
- And my favourite method for helping to motivate others: get excited about learning too, be an active and visible learner and model by example.
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We began educating our three children in 1985, when our eldest was aged five years. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn as they grew and explored and discovered this amazing world since the moment they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. I hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was!
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