Henry Ford once said, “Before everything else, getting ready is the secret to success.” This wisdom holds true for home schooling as well. Use the following tips to help you get ready for a successful home school year.
- Create a school room that contains all the necessary materials for your student. If there are multiple children, it may be helpful if each child has a shelf or cubbie for his or her materials.
- Use two-pocket folders for each subject. Completed work can be put in one pocket while work in progress is in the other. For multiple students, assign a different colored folder to each. After a number of completed papers accumulate, move the papers to a cumulative folder or storage envelope.
- Create a portfolio to store selected papers on a long-term basis. Have your student select papers he or she wishes to save in addition to the papers you choose. For multiple students, use a crate with hanging files, using a different colored hanging folder for each student.
- Provide a quiet cubicle for times when a student requires a private working area. Large boxes can be cut and folded for such a purpose. An alternate location in another room is also a possibility for an independent worker.
- Set up a large chalkboard or whiteboard to use when teaching or for student practice. Small boards for individual student use are also helpful.
- Use a calendar to note daily assignments, due dates, and other key information.
- Become familiar with the expectations that accompany the work your student will be doing. Read all the introductory information provided with each course.
- Review lesson plans the night before or a few days ahead when children are not around. In addition, be sure to gather any necessary materials that are not stored in the school room.
- Make specific plans, but allow for flexibility. Review the curriculum to see which items can be done independently, which items should be done orally with the Learning Guide, and which items may be done with another student.
Home Schooling More than One Child
- Create a schedule that works for all of your children. For early risers, you could utilize this time before the others have awakened to do some instruction with that student. The early riser can then complete the independent work later while you are working with other students.
- Tailor the schedule as needed. If one student is strong in a particular subject, schedule that subject for the same time as a difficult subject for another student. This will allow you more time with the student who needs it.
- Highlight the subjects in the Lesson Manual with different colors and place a chart in the room with the order for the day or simply order the subjects with numbers.
- Encourage older students, sixth grade and above, to follow their own schedule. Have them continue working from subject to subject if they do not have questions about their work. Then, have them organize their work so you can grade it at the end of the day, or when you have time.
- Establish classroom rules early and stick to them! Create a signal for students to utilize when they need help. Some families use a “paper cup” system. At the beginning of the session, each student places a paper cup in front of him. If, he needs assistance while working independently, he simply inverts the paper cup as a signal, then goes on to something else he can do independently until the Learning Guide is available.
- Some families prefer to start teaching their older students first and as they begin independent assignments, the Learning Guide starts working with the younger students.
- Create a “Fun Box” for students to use when they are stuck or waiting for their turn with the Learning Guide. This box can be filled with fun, yet easy, educational activities such as Sudoku puzzles or words searches that the student can do independently. These items should be used only during the school day while a student is waiting for the Learning Guide. Change the items in the box frequently to keep them fresh and interesting for the student. Such boxes could also be created for non-school age children who are in the home. Include coloring pages that relate to older student’s curriculum, puzzles, play dough, books, and other activities that will occupy them quietly while older students are working.
- Have older students help younger students with their work. They can check math problems, read to a student, or provide practice with flash cards or spelling words.
The School Day
- Begin each school day with a consistent opening exercise. This could be a song, a poem, a quote, the Pledge of Allegiance, or even a review of the day’s calendar. This activity should be short and as uniform as possible.
- Keep outside interruptions to a minimum. Turn off the phones, do not schedule appointments, and ask visitors not to call during school hours.
- Include regularly scheduled breaks of five to ten minutes when developing the daily schedule. Have your student get up and move around, use the bathroom, or get a snack. The frequency and length of breaks will depend on the age of the student and the individual learning style.
- Enlist your student’s help in keeping the classroom in order. Give the student some of the responsibility for cleaning up the room at the end of the day and putting materials away so they are ready and accessible for the next day.
Have your student do the following with all new content material (do it along with a younger student):
- Read all of the headings and subheadings – these will give a heads-up on what the student will be reading about.
- Pay attention to any information that is in bold print – this means the material is important.
- Review the captions that accompany any pictures, graphs, time-lines or illustrations.
- Highlight the main ideas and definitions in the text using a highlighter.
- Have the student give a summary of the main points after each section or page of material is read.
- Have an older student (grades 4-8) make flash cards for new vocabulary words, as well as important events and people. Have him put the term on one side of the card and a definition, date, or related information on the back. These cards can be used daily for review.
- Use online resources such as math and grammar games to reinforce learning.