Our homeschool lesson time was divided between times where I was involved, and subjects where the kids studied independently. The older they grew, the more independent their lesson time was. These 10 tips are for the times you spend teaching, especially the primary school age.
1–Start your day with a lesson all together – The first lesson of the day sets the tone for the day – it gives you opportunity to see where everyone’s hearts/attitudes are at and you can address those or build on those. I liked to start my day with subjects that I had heart input into, subjects that were going to build their relationships, beliefs, emotions and passions. I do think that when we give of ourselves and of our time, in the minds of our kids, it puts a value on the subject matter.
2–Be prepared ahead of time – Each of the lessons I taught had a purpose – I knew what my objective was – what I wanted them to learn at the end of that time. Sometimes we found a rabbit trail and never reached that objective. At that point I had to decide, was the rabbit trail sufficient or do I need to revisit my objective tomorrow? But even knowing that could happen, and often did, the times I knew my objective, and was ready with books and materials, where the times we had successful lessons. A successful lesson is not only when we meet an objective (a predetermined idea) but when the kids were engaged and participating. The times when I had to stop what we were doing and go look for stuff, or find a book, or even search Google, we lost momentum. Be prepared.
3–Start your day with energy, purpose and timeliness. Though we were flexible we also had a starting time. This kept everyone on the same page – we didn’t start in dribs and drabs – everyone was working towards being ready to study at a set time. Though I can’t always be Sunshine-Susie my attitude towards my day and my focus on our lessons was a very transferrable attitude; my enthusiasm, joy and peace quickly permeates the family – and so do my bad attitudes!
4–Let everyone know the plan for the day. This was easy when the kids were little – we had a chart on the wall and every day had its regular pattern. Before they were readers, I used images to represent different parts of our day. Once they were reading and writing they had their own diary or assignment chart for each day and a part of our starting the day routine included me letting them know of any changes. This helps our kids take ownership of their time and is an important step towards independence.
5–Get your house tidy before lesson time A part of being ready to focus on my kids learning was having my house tidy. What tidy looks like is different to every mum. For me it meant: dishes done, floor swept, one load of laundry, bathroom clean and dinner planned. The kids helped with these chores. I planned our day around giving us enough time for this to happen before we sat down for lessons.
6–Know how you are going to deal with toilet needs as well as hunger and thirst. I am sure there is a reason why schools have recess – can you imagine 30 kids wanting to go to the toilet at random times? I’m sure they would play tag team and there would never be a full class paying attention at any one time. Disaster for teaching. Much the same can happen in a family. Our ‘rule’ was that if Mum was teaching you had to hold on as much as possible – though of course we excused them if they needed to. If they were working independently they could have a bathroom break whenever they wanted. We encouraged water bottles at the desks and when they were primary school age we stopped our lessons for food breaks, though as they got to highschool they helped themselves to snacks when they were ready.
7–Have a plan for dealing with interruptions or when you are not available. Being a homeschool teacher means you have several things going on at once – you have lessons to teach, housework to finish and little kids underfoot. There are going to be times you need to step away from lessons and how your children handle this absence will impact the rest of your day (and theirs). Our ‘rule’ was if you didn’t have any work you could go on by yourself read a book. The intent was that they were to be occupied but ready to resume as soon as I came back into the room. This meant they couldn’t go away – cause I’d have to call them back and they couldn’t get involved in any complicated activity – cause they wouldn’t want to leave it. My preference was a book, but Lego and drawing also worked.
8–Encourage questions and comments throughout your lesson. We have to guard against just delivering information – instead we need to engage together and learn as we go. This is a hard one if you are task orientated – the task becomes ‘deliver lesson’ instead of ‘learning together’. Our children need to have the freedom to interrupt us with questions and comments – what we need to teach them though is to keep their questions and comments relevant to (or at least springing from) what we are talking about. If they do have a completely random question then it is up to your parent discernment if that needs to be talked about at this time, or make another time – but please do make another time to discuss whatever they have brought up.
9–Give each student their own supplies which they are responsible for. When everyone has their own stuff, kept in the right place it makes it quicker to start lesson time. Unless of course, they’ve lost stuff. Our reaction to this is to have a ‘class set’ where we are in control of pencils, rulers, workbooks, journals – but when we are, we are not teaching them to be responsible. They eventually have to learn to look after their stuff so take the time to teach them now.
10–Be aware of learning styles. One of the first books I read when I started homeschooling was Every Child can Learn by Cynthia Tobias. It helped me see the differences in my kids – and in me as well. Though we studied together I allowed for their differences as the lesson unfolded. We didn’t always do the science experiments because the kids didn’t need to see it to believe it, or understand it they were happy to read about it. Some kids wrote their summaries, some made paper craft masterpieces. Some liked peace and quiet, others liked music. Some liked to sit still, others liked to pace, or jump on the trampoline. Learning styles didn’t dictate our whole learning directions, but it was a helpful tool to consider, especially when one of the kids were struggling with a particular lesson.
What has worked in your home and made your homeschool lesson time a success?
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