A lifelong educator and mother of eleven, Lisa Luciano earned her B.A. in Elementary Education from Wheaton College. After teaching overseas and also in the public schools, she began to homeschool her own children, which she has done for the past 25 years.
Lisa and her husband live with their family in the rural Midwest. When she’s not teaching history, creating unit studies or correcting papers, Lisa likes to walk, write, sew and read.
As a licensed educator and former public school teacher, I started homeschooling with the idea that homeschooling had to look like public school. If there were too many interruptions, or my day didn’t go as planned, I would get frustrated. If you are homeschooling, chances are you are doing it because you wanted something different for your child than the traditional school environment, so try not to get upset if the day brings interruptions or obstacles. Being flexible and maintaining a pleasant school atmosphere is half the battle for a successful homeschool.
Keep a Routine
As much as flexibility is helpful, it is also important to establish and maintain a routine for the school day. In trying to provide variety, we occasionally forget that children do best when routines are consistent and predictable. As the parent, you will need to decide what works best for your family, and although a morning start seems to work best for most families, your schedule may look different. Keep other commitments in mind as you plan your routine, and once it’s in place, try to stick to it consistently. If your school plans get derailed from time to time, don’t worry. Just get back to a regular routine as quickly as possible.
Be the Parent
Sometimes it’s hard to be both parent and teacher. If your relationship with a child is difficult, it will seep into your school day. However, being your child’s teacher brings new opportunities for enhancing your relationship. As your child’s teacher, don’t let a day go by without offering genuine praise for any positive steps he or she makes — in academics, attitude, or both.
Let Learning Bloom
Since one of the many benefits of homeschooling is to allow a child to work at his or her own pace, try to foster this at all costs. As a mother of eleven, I found it challenging to teach a variety of ages. To make this work, it was helpful to meet together at the start of the day (usually around 9:30 a.m.) and after completing some work as a group, I allowed the older ones to work in a quieter area by themselves, while I kept the younger students working at the table. This way, I could assist the lower grades (and keep my eye on them) and the older ones could work independently in peace. If they needed my help, they knew where to find me.
Coach Your Kids
When my children started tackling high school subjects like algebra and pre-calculus, I wondered how I could teach something I had never mastered myself. Around this time, I heard an encouraging piece of wisdom: a homeschooling parent eventually becomes more like a coach than an instructor. As a coach, you can be there to offer help and resources as your student meets the challenge of higher math and science. With the internet at our fingertips, there is always someone nearby to help your child figure out that geometry problem or physics formula.
What about socialization? As a homeschooling parent, you may have heard this well-meaning question from others, and you may have your own concerns. Although most of your homeschooling should be centered around a consistent, predictable routine, your family can still make space for positive socialization. Your state most likely has a homeschooling organization that can provide a list of local homeschooling events and group activities. Our family would occasionally invite other families over to present oral reports or writing lessons. Craft days, field trips and sports activities are some ways to interact with other homeschoolers.
Everyone likes (and needs) rewards. One way to watch your homeschooling progress is to create goals for your homeschool year. Students can participate in goal-setting, too. Once you reach a goal, enjoy a reward together. Goals can include things like staying with your routine a certain number of days, or completing a specific number of chapters in a textbook. You may find goal-setting and rewards especially helpful for individual students that lack effort or have developed negative work habits.
Get Unstuck with Writing
Sometimes you might feel stuck. Perhaps the history lesson seems dry, your students are fidgety or nothing is going right. This happens to everyone, and when it does, I have found that one of the best things to do is just stop everything and write. The most important rule for an impromptu writing session? For this activity, spelling and capitalization don’t matter! Tell your students to download their thoughts with pen and paper and don’t worry about making it perfect. Here are some things to write about:
- A recent dream
- Their earliest memory
- The best birthday
- A favorite meal
- A special person
- Your chosen superpower
Make Time For Yourself
Early on, I secured a short, weekly getaway for myself, and it’s one of the best things I ever did as a homeschooling parent. While I often used this 3-hour block for school planning, library pickups, and paper correcting, I could also meet a friend for coffee, go for a bike ride or get a haircut– all by myself! Most parents enjoy the extensive time they get to spend learning with their children, but they also need refreshing time to themselves.
Being both parent and teacher can be challenging, thrilling and sometimes exhausting. Some days you might feel like a hero, and some days you may feel like heading back to bed. When things are going well, enjoy the success and satisfaction. When homeschooling is a challenge, take a step back. It might be time to write a story, go for a walk, or enjoy a group activity with another family. Always remember to praise the small successes of your students, and don’t forget to take time for yourself. When the school year ends, you and your children will have learned a lot from books and life, and you did it all together.