Oh, my. What a provocative title! To clarify from the start, I have never been a full-time homeschool parent, and my daughters have never actually been homeschooled in the classic sense. They have attended both private and public schools but always went to an educational facility outside of the home. I write this post to highlight that a lot of parenting is about educating our kids, which includes (but not limited to) manners, respect, independence, religion, and academics.
So, let’s go ahead and talk about homeschooling for a minute. Every person has their own perception about what this type of education means because many parents do it in their own way. The National Home Education Research Institute reported that in 2016, about 2.3 million children were homeschooled in the United States. And the rate seems to be growing by 2-8%.
In the most simple terms, homeschooling means that education is based at home. Sometimes it is parent-led and other times a community forms a network. Some homeschool parents follow a specific curriculum while others use combinations of online classes, classes at a local school, or lessons from a variety of sources.
Homeschooling does not have to be an all or none kind of thing. Several different homeschool models allow a homeschool parent to choose which one fits their needs. I assume many parents like to mix and match!
My take on this subject is that a homeschool parent has taken the responsibility for ensuring that their child receives a proper education. Just as there is not one way to homeschool, there is no standard homeschool daily schedule. Based on this information, I believe every parent should be a homeschool parent.
I choose to believe that all parents are concerned about their kids getting a good education; consequently, they should actively participate in the process. Whether your child attends a local public school or private school, I believe that parents need to review homework and reinforce concepts taught in school. And it should be done daily.
This may seem like a basic concept but as a previous private school parent and a physician who treats private school children, I do not believe all parents have taken ownership of their child’s education. I have been told by parents that they do not need to check homework or review lessons because their kids are in great schools.
Let me just say that this belief is FALSE! I worked just as hard as a homeschool parent when my kids were in private school as when they were in public school. Parents should own their role in their kids’ education regardless of location.
Teachers provide a great educational foundation, but there is limited time in a day to find out what areas each child needs extra focus. Some children are super smart and learn quickly but are disorganized. If they are not taught better organizational skills, they may run into trouble later when the academic work becomes more difficult. As a parent, you have a front row seat to witness their organizational skills, and this may point you in a direction to give additional help.
I need to provide a clear disclaimer: I am not an educator. However, I successfully raised two millennial daughters who excelled in high school, undergraduate and graduate work. Just like you, I learned to parent by trial and error. Many of my blog posts share my years of experience as well as what I have witnessed from other parents.
The intent of this post is to change the concept of what homeschooling can mean. My goal is to empower parents to be more proactive and involved in their kids’ education. This added involvement constitutes homeschooling to me because it requires a regular commitment to helping achieve academic success.
Tips for every parent to become an involved homeschool parent
Start early and do it often. Try looking at something every night so that your kids come to expect you to do it. You may not be an expert in any particular subject, but you can always give suggestions for improvement. Don’t we all have room for improvement?
I started in grade school pointing out that their penmanship was sloppy or that they did not write their letters on the line. The more you read homework, the more your brain dusts off the old memories where you actually learned this. Learning along with my kids helped me to help them as the work got harder. Well, until they needed a tutor, but that’s another discussion!
Ask children the hardest thing they learned today
Kids will often show you the things that make them proud or the things that they did well in. You should absolutely praise those things, but I made it a point to ask what was hard about today.
As a family, we would go around and each say something that was hard or bad from that day. This conversation can reveal many things which could guide you in helping them in an area you did not know was a problem.
Focus on areas where your child is weak, not where they excel
Once you become aware of your child’s weakness, find ways to improve it. Sometimes you have to be creative about it since they will resist! I mean who wants to work on areas they struggle with? One daughter loved to read and the other loved art. Without extra incentives, they continue to excel in these areas on their own.
But, my girls always disliked math, which hurt me to my soul since I lived and breathed math. Whenever I brought out math workbooks or reviewed math homework, there were more tears than I cared to deal with. So, math became my mission!
When shopping at the mall, I would turn my brain off and never know if I had enough money to buy them things! They soon learned “mental math” and later learned to do percentages very quickly. Nothing like missing out on buying something from their favorite store when I did not know what 30% off meant!
Sure they told me to just use my credit card but I specifically took out cash to use for these reasons. You gotta do what you gotta do.
Ask kids to explain how they found answers
Sometimes, kids are great at memorizing things but do not really understand them. Celebrate their correct responses but sincerely ask them to help you understand how they know the answers.
One of my goals with my kids was to teach them how to learn, not just how to get correct answers! They wanted the right answers the quick way, often just by remembering what the teacher had done in class. I would change a problem or two just enough that they had to use the correct methods to figure out answers.
Require children to routinely write in a journal
I raised my kids in the 90s and 2000s before everything was electronic. In the past, kids came to my office writing in journals or writing things for school. Now I see lots of tapping and swiping. (I have a lot of feelings about screen time but never miss an opportunity to stress the importance of using silent electronic devices!)
Even when my kids were young, a lot of writing in school was filling in the blanks. I needed my kids to become good writers, so I had to help them learn to express themselves in story form. Not just completing random sentences. From a very young age, my girls got a cute journal each year and had to write a page in it regularly. And, like a good homeschool parent, I graded and corrected the page.
I cannot emphasize enough how much my daughters learned from these journals. Their creativity soared and as they got older, they were required to use all the punctuation marks correctly. I intend to write more about this in posts about creative writing and earning scholarships to college.
Take a look at the writing improvements from the 2nd grade to 4th grade for one of my daughters. (Note that awesome cursive writing that I required but teachers did not!) Over time, she began to write poetry and became very good at expressing her self through her writings!
Encourage reading to improve vocabulary
Developing a great vocabulary is a skill that is important for the rest of their lives. In school, teachers teach the vocabulary appropriate for their age. I found that encouraging more reading is a great way to improve vocabulary and sometimes show words used in a different way.
To be honest, my kids learned to love reading because of their grandmother, Nana. My plate was full working full-time and doing these homeschool tips that I am sharing. Nana stepped up to the plate and offered my daughters $1 for every book they read each summer.
At first, I was a bit angry about the money bribe because I was not a parent who paid money for good grades on report cards. That was their job and it was expected. (Yeah, I was also that mom who did not like money to be the focus from the tooth fairy either!)
But after a summer of my kids constantly begging me to go to the library or to Barnes and Nobles Bookstore, I came around to Team Bribery! I will say again, you gotta do what you gotta do. Find what works for your kids and run with it.
Buy simple workbooks to do over the summer
Starting in kindergarten, my kids never went all summer without some academic work. Yes, many tears were shed over this issue since “no other mom” made kids do work over summer break. This was a great opportunity to introduce my kids to the fact that I would never be any other mom except for me.
I would find out what was going to be a focus the next school year, and we would get a jump on it. For instance, when they were going to learn all the states and their capital cities, we had those workbooks ready. We practiced cursive writing before learning it in class and worked on punctuation that we knew was going to be taught.
Summer was not intensive school but it helped them to know that their brains never fully shut off. This plan kept them fresh and made the back to school transition easier.
For what it is worth, I used all of these tips while raising my children. I appreciated everything that teachers did for my kids, but I had a higher expectation and would review their work and point out areas for improvement. Even though I was running a private practice, I routinely had night time homeschool sessions!
I believe that many parents also use these tips routinely but have not considered themselves as a homeschool parent. Give yourself credit because countless parents do not! Teachers can get overwhelmed with the wide range of abilities of their kids in their classrooms, so you must ensure that your child gets extra assistance or more advanced work based on their needs.
Bottom line, whether you are a part-time or full-time homeschool parent, homeschooling is not easy. I get that “real” homeschool parents may not consider what I did to be homeschooling. I disagree. In fact, my daughter disagrees.
I recall nights with her in tears where she said the teacher said her work was good, but I had more corrections. Her angry comment was: “You should just give me a separate grade”.
I answered sweetly, “Honey, I actually am giving you a grade. That’s why there are corrections that need to be done!”
My hard work paid off. Yours will too.
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