Picture by Raphael Perez Israeli Artist
The decision to home school takes a declaration to the state, usually with the local school administrator. Most states require a form and a short meeting. The school may send the parent away with some paperwork and a schedule for specific tasks required. This is the least of the changes coming to your house. The decision also adds a role to the household. One of the parents is not not just a new teacher, but also the new educator, the administrator, the liaison to the state for this home school. The homeschool parent is an alternative to classroom school teacher as far as the district is concerned.
The decision changes the dynamic in the family inside the home too. Things are now different. The old rules, previous guidelines, and the usual routine are gone. Something new is beginning. When children are in the home school from the beginning, adds reading to the list of things the child has already learned, but for families where there was a period of public education, the roles of the parent change to the teacher for some parts of the day. Parents should make this distinction clear to the children in the homeschool. Older children who who were in public school and are now homeschooling. might be confused because classroom teachers often present themselves as experts in some particular subject or focus. Elementary teachers are expert in early childhood development and learning. Middle and High School teachers are subject matter experts. This is probably not you. You must present something different. You design the education and find the materials and classes needed to provide instruction in the homeschool. You are not the expert. You are a collaborator to your student. This is not true for the public authorities. The school authority considers you as an extension of their authority. Most states consider homeschool as “non-public” and will provide nothing but the guidelines for staying private.
The family that allowed public educators to design the education in the past have to change their own goals. The parent was expert in raising the child. Authority came from knowing not to stick anything into an electric outlet and looking both ways at an intersection. The person who taught the child to talk and walk will now move onto subjects sometimes foreign to the parent-teacher. Don’t panic. There is a tried and true path within professions like technical consulting and contract labor you can use as guidelines. The parent-teacher, who once knew how to walk before the child did, now needs to create a map of things they need to know before the child to pass on to the child at the home school.
The work is simple enough. The parent-teacher should set the goal, develop a plan of action, and then gather resources to learn what is needed to transfer the necessary skills to the student. Technical workers require continual retraining in new ideas and new techniques. They learn to be the training coordinator for this continuing education. The homeschool parent-teacher can take the same approach. The parent becomes a training coordinator first.
First change the way you communicate knowledge you are not the expert on. The teaching relationship becomes collaborative. Any lessons prepared should be like training presentations. Mastering some presentation software is a good first step. Material can be digested and presented in a visual, or even animated format to the student to make complicated concepts simple and concise. In preparing the presentation, feedback and questions can be anticipated. Learning styles and the student’s needs can be anticipated. Materials can be improved with actual feedback.
You can do this.
Plan and Schedule
Knowing the goal is critical.
- Determine your state’s requirements. Using a reputable homeschool legal website to quickly find these requirements is important. An organization like the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSDLA) provides help in finding your state’s requirements, and free advice for getting started. https://hslda.org/legal/. HSDLA has been helping homeschool families with legal issues and guidelines for schooling at home in all fifty states since 1983. They have more than 100,000 families engaged at any time. Beyond the very good free resources, HSDLA also has paid curriculum in the basic categories required in every state and preparation materials for the periodic skills tested required in the states. A thorough review of the site, even if no paid services are acquired, will teach the parent educator what is needed for teaching at home.
- Design and develop the home training programs. This may be outsourced through a packaged curriculum or in-house along the lines of modeling the classes in line with John Stuart Mill’s education, the recommendations of John Godwin, the unschooling coming down from the adherents of Ivan Illich’s unschooling method, or something else. The religious family may find this step simple. Often the packaged curriculum can be matched to the family’s core values. Other education packages like Khan Academy can guide the more secular family. Ron Paul has developed an amazing curriculum. The parent educator should take extra time to find one that suits the family and the family’s budget. The parent-educator can roll your own with the internet. You don’t have to buy anything except consumables, but for the in-house curriculum designed by the parent, more specific planning around state testing milestones and content are needed.
- Choose appropriate training methods for the family. For packaged curriculum, this is a matter of scheduling the child and the material together, supervising the instruction, and answering questions. This is true whether the teaching is online or in books.
- The child must be given an opportunity to develop enthusiasm for the materials. This requires that the training coordinator, the teacher, you, the parent market the engagement with the available training opportunities. Not every student will like every lesson, but the motivation to learn is essential. Learning hard or distasteful things is it’s own lesson.
What Can We Learn From Technical Workers?
Technical workers have to continually learn new skills and master new information. They have developed a strategy over the years that can help homeschool teachers master and teach subjects in which they are not experts. This applies mostly to homeschool beyond the basics. The parent-teacher is already expert in the basics because parent teacher can read, write, and do basic arithmetic. Teaching in the home school beyond the basics should be simple for the home teacher with some planning. These are those skills in which you will become expert in just slightly before your student.
Start with the material you love.
You do not love anything about Algebra II, you say. Fair enough. Find the text that teaches the fundamentals. Identify those components that must be memorized and those that must be drilled. Work through the entire course, answering every question and understanding why the correct answer is correct, and then map the approach through the materials effectively.
Develop a back and forth relationship with the student. Sometimes it is good to be intentionally wrong and let the lesson include the student correcting you. If they can prove you are wrong, they have learned an essential part of scientific method. Posit, test. and verify. In the humanities courses, continue the process of reading a text and then writing something about it.
Learn the rule. Drill the rule.
Math is all the same process. Solve a relevant problem. Some classes require more drill and more memorization than others. Geometry is no fun until the basics are memorized. Find something fun to drill on the boring essentials. Just as you taught early math through methods like counting puzzle pieces and then completing the puzzle, history can be learned by facts, by controversies, and by outcomes. This leads to memorization of facts, understanding relationships through controversies, and analyzing outcomes to see what it all means.
Be the brain on a stick.
Some of the tactics for teaching technical skills to adults, like teaching software development, also work in the intermediate level of home schooling. Technical consultants are “Brains on a Stick.” They often enter an environment without knowing what the problems will be. They may then have to learn how to solve it. Treat homeschooling like a detective story. The detective story comes from a problem, through analysis, to a solution. How is this different from learning how to teach a class in the origins of the American Civil War, basic geometry, or fluid physics? The teacher will have a starting text, Jefferson Davis, Euclid, or a weather prediction application. The main threads are lifted from this source. The history of secession over the decades following the establishment of the Constitution, the basic Euclidean laws, the calculus for calculating fluids, and so on.
The first step in programmers teaching themselves how to program was learning how to code a simple text string like ‘Hello World’ and then return that string to a printer or a monitor. Generations of C programmers knelt at this altar. It is a small success, but it can be positively built upon. Learning a computer language like C or Python is complex. Many people when confronted with syntax and libraries, with functions and arrays, with memory allocation and compilation, drift toward paralysis and then give up. The traditional way of learning to code was to start with something simple that could be understood in a single sitting and that returned a result. People for more than a century have taken that approach to starting a complex learning. “Hello World!”
The student then adds essential components in the language one by one with case studies that use the previous lesson. Each lesson is building on what was learned in the previous lesson. The best programming classes proceed this way.
With each major milestone the student must do something functional. A project that incorporates the new knowledge must periodically be attempted.
Explore the subject with your student to solve the pieces you are not expert at with each milestone.
Reasoning and problem solving are more important than proving your expertise as you teach the material. Remember that home learning is not for establishing your authority over the student.
Error 404 – Page Not Found
It is healthy to be proven wrong sometimes, sometimes intentionally. The teacher is not in a contest with the student. The goal is the student fluency.
Teaching AP classes to students requires getting a little ahead of them. This works best in STEM classes. It works in math, science, and even economics. It will not work in a language class where the teacher is not fluent in that language. If the student wants to learn Spanish and the parent knows none, go find a Spanish speaker and engage them to teach what you cannot. Maybe you chat with the person at the cafe who serves you and the student every day, or with a neighbor. Fifteen minutes of chatter leads to fluency. There are also many resources online like Duolingo that are free or cheap that can provide what you cannot.
Technology exists to fill in the blanks of knowledge and experience. Use online resources to drill details as the elements of the course are drilled.
Find communities to do fairs or projects. For science there are maker fairs and conventions that can be attended in person or virtually. Projects like the Internet of Things, robotics, or automation are perfect to drill math and core sciences. Programming is easy to project through games and virtual worlds.
The home teacher has to organize, prioritize and manage new tasks in an already busy workload. Developing a systematic approach to the work, keeping attention to detail, and multi-tasking are important.
The ability to learn rapidly and adapt quickly to new material will guarantee the home teacher can both stay ahead of the student, but also keep up with the latest trends in training, incorporate new technologies into training programs, and stay up to date with changes in the homeschooling arena. For example, tools like Copy.ai could be used to quickly make rough drafts of tests or lesson plans if your school district is going to insist that you conform to specific testing and materials guidelines.
Develop relationships with the various people you need to participate in your home school. Go out and meet the museum staff, the resource people at recreation centers or gymnasiums where you will want to take field trips or take part in sports. Be seen as someone people can trust, be approachable, empathetic and supportive.
You potty trained these children, so you need to have the same patience in teaching mathematics and philosophy. It is important to containerize emotional roles with the student, so you can be calm when training does not go according to plan. Calmly adapt your approach to better suit the student’s learning style. Most importantly, don’t fall into the trap of believing you already know the child student just because it is your child. New relationships need to be forged.
Finally, just as classroom teachers are part of a larger team, the homeschool trainer should build strong ties to other organizations. Having another set of eyes on your home school, some other homeschool parents, or some professional experts in a field you are teaching, will help ensure that your lessons are relevant, accurate, and provide real value to the student.
Your new role is not an easy job, but the work is rewarding. Making a real difference in the students abilities and within the community is worth the pain.