3 Keys to Making the Most of Your Homeschool – Scheduling, Learning Styles, and Cross-Curricular ConnectionsPosted In Homeschool Assistance | Posted By Susan York
3 Keys to Making the Most of Your Homeschool
One piece of common advice given to homeschool families is to not attempt to create a replica of public school at home. Although it may be somewhat cliché, it is truly great advice.
Your goal is, no doubt, to provide your students with the best educational experience possible, so go ahead and shake it up! Go with your instincts and try new things. Adjust your schedule, make cross-curricular connections, and discover how your students’ learning styles affect the way they process and retain information. If what you are doing doesn’t work, change instructional strategies until you find a good balance.
Your students will learn how to be flexible, become confident in making choices, and will find a deeper meaning in their own education. How do you know if you are making the most out of your homeschool? Consider some of these pro-tips!
Scheduling Homeschool Time
“I’m not sure how to fill all the time we have. I feel guilty when we only spend a couple of hours each week on a subject.” -from Janie, Homeschooling Grandmother
It is likely that your homeschooled student will move through their curriculum at a significantly faster pace than those taught in the traditional school setting. You aren’t working with 30 students with 30 different learning styles and skill sets. You get to focus on YOUR students. Embrace the opportunity.
If you finish earlier than you had originally planned, take that extra time to explore deeper into the subject. Engage your students in conversations that ignite their curiosity and cause them to reflect on their own connection to the world. Perhaps your artistic student would gain insight by illustrating what they have learned. Your writer may enjoy penning a short story or poem about recent topics of study. It’s even ok to simply be done early and give your students a much-deserved break. Just know that in the world of instruction, quality is much more important than quantity.
When to Move On
“Just a minute, let me think.” -from the Feuerstein method of learning
Allow time for students to think and process information. If your student seems confused or isn’t “catching on,” they may not need you to reteach or teach the concept differently, but instead, they may simply need time to process the information that has been presented. Of course, it is perfectly fine to slow down and take more time with or reteach anything that is difficult for your student. Flexibility is a gift of homeschooling. Try not to set such a rigid schedule that makes you feel pressured to meet deadlines or overwhelmed when you miss them.
Remember, you really don’t have to complete every worksheet, read every story, and finish every lesson. Choose the best pieces and focus on specific skills. Once your student can demonstrate their understanding, there is no need to prove it over and over again. If they simply are not catching on or are getting frustrated, move on to something else and circle back around to the tougher subject later.
Make Cross-Curricular Connections Between Subjects Being Taught
“Why does this matter?” -from every student I have ever taught
Teach across your curriculum when possible. Cross-curricular activities reinforce learning by helping students make connections to see the relevance of their studies.
Begin looking for simple ways to bridge the skills and topics you are presenting. One simple way to accomplish this is to combine reading instruction with other subjects by looking for short passages that supplement your text. Another way to cross over skills from subject to subject is to point out text features and discuss the author’s purpose for using them within your history and science books – no need to teach this skill in isolation! Create themed word problems for your students’ math practice and teach graphs and charts during social studies or science class.
Students find this engaging and get excited when they see that their whole curriculum is connected. When choosing writing prompts, relate them to content recently taught or to upcoming content. This is a great way to reinforce and review, but it can also be an effective way to introduce new material.
Consider Student Learning Styles
“One’s learning style is the way he or she gathers, sifts through, interprets, organizes, comes to conclusions about, and stores information for further use.” -Nancy Chick, Center for Teaching, Vanderbilt University
Figuring out your students’ learning styles can make their school experience more meaningful. However, I would caution educators to not always cater to one (or even a couple of) learning preferences as our goal is always to make students into life-long learners, and we know that, in the “real world,” each of us needs to be able to adjust our learning to match how material is presented. For example, it isn’t likely for that college professor with 350 students to care if your student is a kinesthetic or auditory learner.
Typically, learning styles tend to relate to our senses. The four basic, commonly addressed learning modalities are auditory, visual, verbal, and kinesthetic; although, it is rare to find that any student is completely of one style or the other. Preferred learning style can vary by subject, age, development, and even time of day or year.
If your student is more of an auditory learner, consider allowing him or her to work through activities or worksheets through discussion instead of requiring all answers to be written. You can even adjust the time and place that your homeschool takes place based on students’ physical needs. Some students work better in the afternoon or evening. Some may like to have class outside from time to time.
Awareness of your students’ learning styles can help you vary activities and understand the learning process as it applies to different individuals. One quick learning style inventory that is readily available online is the VARK Learning Styles Questionnaire. The VARK can help teachers by suggesting instructional strategies one might use to address a variety of learning modalities.
Make Your Homeschool Your Own
In summary, trust yourself and give yourself permission to try new ideas. If you and your student don’t like the way things are going, be open to change. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Find and join groups that provide homeschooling parents with peer support such as the “Essentials in Writing Group for Homeschooling Parents” group on Facebook (link below). You have made the decision to provide your student with a homeschool experience. Embrace your choice and make the most out of this great opportunity!