An Expert Shares 5 Ways to Improve Your Child’s At-Home Schooling
Schooling at home may not always be easy, but with increased access to educational tools and resources online, many families are making the switch without looking back. Once a clear routine has been established and once you’ve settled into your new schooling community, educating your child at home can come just as naturally as dropping them off daily at a brick-and-mortar school with the added benefit of increased flexibility.
To help you be the most effective Learning Coach you can be, Heidi Higgins with Stride K12’s On Learning podcast has created a five-part series about schooling effectively at home. Here are some of the highlights from that series, along with additional tips that can help you whether you’re new to schooling at home or have been schooling at home for years.
1. What is your role in your child’s at-home education?
So, you’ve decided to switch to schooling at home. Now what? Deslynn Mecham, a former learning coach and experienced family advisor, knows first-hand how challenging (and rewarding) it can be to school at home. She now works at the Idaho Virtual Academy as an advisor where she supports students and Learning Coaches every day.
In order to successfully school at home, Mecham recommended beginning by clearly outlining your role in your child’s at-home education while also supporting them as their parent. When you school at home, in addition to the many hats you already wear as a parent, you’ll learn to wear another hat as your child’s Learning Coach. Mecham learned this lesson while she was schooling her daughter at home throughout elementary and middle school.
The best way she found to do this was to write clear job descriptions not only for herself, but also for her daughter as a student. As the parent and Learning Coach, Mecham said her job was to provide as many learning opportunities for her daughter as possible. While it’s important to provide these opportunities to facilitate learning, it’s equally important to help your student become an independent learner, which is where the student’s role comes into play. It’s the student’s responsibility to complete their assigned work, and it’s not the Learning Coach’s job to remind them to complete that work.
2. How do you keep your student motivated?
When a student loses their motivation to do their schoolwork, Mecham explained that we might be inclined to implement a reward system, which can work for completing chores at home or other less desirable tasks. While a reward system may work really well for one student, that might not be the case at all for another student. To find the right motivators for your student, Mecham recommended experimenting with who has the control. As the parent, Learning Coaches will need to exercise some level of control, but giving your student control over different aspects of their educational journey will help you figure out the right balance.
You can also help your student stay motivated throughout their school career by focusing on building up their intrinsic motivation so that they do not require extrinsic motivators like rewards or validation. Instead, the student will do the work for their own personal gratification.
3. What happens when arguments and complaints arise?
No educational journey is free of bumps in the road, and that’s especially true when a child wants something and their parent gets in the way of that something. You can smooth over some of these bumps before the journey begins by having very clear boundaries. Mecham explained how arguments were common in her household: “I was raising lawyers in my house,” she joked. “I love a good argument.” However, she quickly learned how easy it was for any minor disagreement to turn into an argument, which she frankly did not have any time for.
This approach of eliminating arguments before they begin is echoed by a parenting coach named Denise Rowden. She explains, “Do not argue with your child. It’s that’s simple. An argument can only occur if you let one occur.” Not engaging in arguments is not the same as just giving your child their way. Instead, Rowden says that parents should discuss the difference between a debate and an argument. In a debate, two people exchange different ideas, whereas an argument can take place simply for argument’s sake and often has a clear winner and loser, which creates resentment.
4. How do you create a game plan for success?
Just like sports teams have coaches to help them have a successful season, your student has you as their Learning Coach to guide them to their educational success. Certain parts of your student’s day are going to be more challenging than other parts. Rather than relying on the hope that the challenging parts will get easier over time, you can take a more active role by creating a game plan. Does your student sometimes experience an afternoon slump? Have they expressed worries about math not coming easily to them? You can’t avoid the afternoon, and they can’t avoid their math class, but you can craft a game plan together so that you’re both prepared when these issues come up. When students learn at home, they have the added benefit of flexibility, which will help you create a dynamic plan together—one that you can easily adapt if you need to.
According to the Harvard Graduate School of Education, these individual success plans have a “significant and untapped potential to bolster student outcomes—wrapping students in the kinds of supports that will address their particular strengths and challenges and rejecting a one-size-fits-all model that actually doesn’t fit most.”
5. How do you make consistent progress?
Mecham said that rather than focusing on perfection, Learning Coaches should focus on progress. Even if there is only a small amount of progress made one day, all of those small bits of progress will soon add up to significant growth. To make sure that your student is making progress every day, Mecham suggested implementing procedures and routines that eventually “become second nature to us.” She referenced the educator Harry Wong, who said that “the only way to have responsible students is if you have procedures and routines that the student is responsible to.”
Not only do procedures and routines help students become more responsible for their own learning and behavior, but they also support healthy habits that will benefit them well into adulthood. According to Cal Powell, “Researchers at the University of Georgia found teens with more family routines during adolescence had higher rates of college enrollment and were less likely to use alcohol in young adulthood, among other positive outcomes.”
With these new tips and tricks under your belt, you’re ready to tackle your role as a Learning Coach or continue improving your work in that role. Want to learn more? You can listen to the entire podcast series here.
Ready to take the leap to schooling at home, take a look at all that Stride K12 can offer.
AnnElise Hatjakes is a contributing writer for Learning Liftoff. Her career in education began in 2010 when she worked as a teaching assistant while earning her master’s degree in writing. She has taught in a wide range of educational settings, including a public school, a school for gifted students, a university, and a county jail. She’s interested in issues of equity in education, which she strives to address through her own teaching practices and writing. AnnElise is the recipient of the University of Chicago’s Outstanding Educator Award, and her fiction has appeared in literary journals. As a third generation Nevadan, she loves all things Western, from wide open spaces to wild horses.