How to Create the Best Environment for Homeschooling
This week, Rocio Espinoza, from Porch, shares advice on how to create the best environment for homeschooling.
How to Create the Best Environment for Homeschooling
by Rocio Espinoza
Whether by choice or necessity due to coronavirus school closings, millions of parents have suddenly become homeschooling teachers. This new experience can be challenging, but it can blossom into a memorable, rewarding experience as you find ways to connect with your child or children as you learn together, building a lifelong bond. You may also discover your child excels with one-on-one attention instead of being lost in a crowded classroom setting.
We have some tips and advice on turning your home into the best environment for homeschooling your child. For this new venture, you’ll need some extra flexibility, patience, creativity, and humor, along with access to online resources and some good friends to lean on. Remember, this quarantine has created emotional, educational, and economic chaos, but you can help keep that stress to a minimum for your child. With a few deep breaths and preparation, you can turn this into a fun and productive adventure.
Find a Space in Your Home
One of the first steps to ensure learning success is to create a dedicated, organized homeschooling location. Don’t worry–it doesn’t need to be dramatic or picture-perfect; you can change it as needed, depending on your child’s (or children’s) requirements. You’ll want a spot that’s out of the way, but not totally separated from where you are, especially for younger children.
Where you set up the learning space depends on your home environment. Try to choose a location that’s not close to distractions like the television, video games, or high-activity areas. Whether your home space is cozy, expansive, or somewhere in between, there’s a way to make it work. Rearrange furniture or hang a shower curtain or sheet across visually stimulating areas if you need to. Let your child draw or paint pictures on the room “divider” to make it more personal.
Bring cheerful touches to the space, and make sure it’s clean and organized but not cluttered. Clutter is a distraction and can lead to more scattered thought processes and less successful learning.
If the workspace has a window, you may need to pull the blinds or drapes to mute strong sunlight to keep your child from tempting outside distractions while studying. Some children learn well with soft music playing in the background, while others may prefer quiet. You know your child, so adjust the environment as you need to.
Older students who excel as independent learners might work well in their bedrooms but monitor to make sure they’re not too distracted and are keeping up with schoolwork instead of getting lost in Minecraft.
Choose a workspace surface like a desk or table. It doesn’t need to be fancy, but it must be functional. Since shopping is limited during this quarantine, look around your home for what you need. You can even set up a card table and put a colorful tablecloth over it to brighten up the space. Make sure the table or desk is big enough for workbooks, a computer, pencils, erasers, a calculator, a lamp, and other supplies he or she needs, depending on the age. Add some storage, so school items are within easy reach.
If your child is younger, try to find a table or surface that’s more on his or her level. For instance, a preschooler might prefer a coffee table or play table. As long as your child is comfy, engaged, and learning, that’s a big win.
Along with a desk, provide a comfortable chair; this could be a dining room chair, an unused office chair, or even a beanbag or armchair. Some kids are “floor learners” and concentrate better if they’re stretched out on the floor. Let them. Remember, they’re stressed and missing their regular school routine and friends. Understanding this and helping them cope with all the changes can ensure success in learning.
If you’re homeschooling more than one child, you already know which kids can be in the same space as others, and which ones need their own desk with fewer distractions. Take a deep breath, because there will be frustrations and triumphs for both students and homeschooling teachers. If working at the same table doesn’t work for your kids, try separate areas.
If space allows, let this homeschooling environment be a dedicated location, day after day. If you need to use the area after learning is finished, have a tote, backpack, or box available so your child can put away supplies, books, worksheets, and papers until the next day. Help your child stay on top of keeping this space clean and organized.
Books, Workbooks, or Online Study
The subjects and methods of learning for your child vary depending on your circumstances. Some schools have provided online platforms for students during the coronavirus quarantine, while others have sent home study packets. Reach out to your child’s teacher or teachers to ensure you have all the tools you need to homeschool.
Try to make sure your child has an appropriate computer, tablet, or another device, and a reliable internet connection. If the cost of internet service is a factor, some internet providers are offering free internet service during the quarantine period. Check with your local internet companies. Many schools also let students borrow laptops, so contact your child’s school to find out.
Keep to a Schedule
Try to keep to a schedule every day; this helps your child get into a routine not unlike at his or her school. Try to start at the same time each day but have breaks. Schedule fun into the day, along with more serious studies. Younger children learn through play, and it’s a crucial part of their education and growth process.
While it’s important to keep to a schedule, leave some wiggle room for diversity. For example, is there a subject your child finds really challenging? Try sandwiching that between subjects he or she enjoys more, or break the more difficult course into more manageable blocks. As your child’s homeschool teacher, you have lots of options. Explore incentives for rewarding your child for doing well or sticking with a difficult chapter.
Know when it’s time to break that schedule, though. Before your child –or you–hit a brick wall in the learning process, take brain breaks.
Search online for age-appropriate game sites, chill together in front of the TV for a bit, go for a walk, or shoot a few hoops–just do something fun for a bit before returning to tackling the books or online quizzes. This helps break up the monotony of schoolwork and keep the stress at manageable levels.
Your child might also need a break from his or her usual learning space, so why not let him or her climb a tree to read that book, or sit outside while completing that worksheet?
As a homeschooling parent, flexibility is a lifesaver. You’re there for your kids, encouraging and helping guide them through lessons. Some kids need more side-by-side help, while others do great tackling subjects on their own. Here is where you as a teacher can shine, helping your child navigate through math and writing, social studies, and science. If you don’t know the answer to a question or problem, don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know the answer, but let’s see if we can find out!”
Every child’s educational journey is unique, so you’ll need to adjust your methods. Some kids excel at-home learning, while others may struggle. Understanding this helps you tailor the learning environment and experience for your child or children. Younger children have a shorter attention span and need more breaks with play and exercise, while older students may be able to focus for longer between breaks. Experiment until you find what works for you and your child.
Does your child prefer learning and studying with others? Contact the parents of your child’s friends to see if an online “study meeting” through Zoom or another program would help. Other parents are also a great resource about assignments and advice, or just to lend an ear when you’re struggling with algebra or verb tenses.
Working and Teaching
Many parents have the added frustration of trying to work from home while helping students stay on track. This is another area where patience and flexibility are your friends. Try scheduling your most challenging work projects at times different from your child’s most intense subjects.
Have a Zoom meeting with your boss? Challenge your child to find different leaves from the back yard while you’re at your virtual meeting. Or, repurpose a recycled soup or coffee can, paper, glue, paint, beads, or other craft items, and turn her loose decorating a pencil holder to personalize her learning space. Letting your child play Minecraft for a bit while you’re working intensely or need quiet? It might just be what both of you need to get through the day in one piece. Progress, not perfection, wins.
Make it Fun
Use this quarantine homeschooling opportunity to encourage your child to discover new passions. Look for ways to turn lessons into exciting, engaging, hands-on experiences. Search online for educational, science-based STEM projects, or reach out to local online parenting or teaching groups for ideas.
Is your child’s science unit learning about trees? Grab a magnifying glass and take your kid outside for a close-up study of bark, branches, and leaves. Start a garden. How does that seed grow into a plant with red, juicy tomatoes?
Many museums and performing arts centers now have virtual tours available online, letting you and your child get up close with dinosaurs, architecture, plays, musicals or paintings, all from the comfort of your sofa. Do a craft together or learn a lifelong skill, like cooking, music, creative writing, game coding, drawing, photography, or digital art. YouTube is full of tutorials on new skills that may excite your child.
Let this be a joyous time of exploration for your child. This will help ease the sadness of not spending time with friends during social distancing.
Online Resources are Your Friend
You are not alone in your quest for the best homeschooling experience for your child. There are lots of free online resources, like homeschooling teacher groups, learning platforms with age-appropriate lessons, and much more. These sites have already invented the educational wheel, so let them help lessen your frustrations and provide an online community of support.
While taking this sudden, deep dive into homeschooling due to coronavirus can be a challenge, teaching can be immensely rewarding if you set up a good, organized homeschooling environment and approach learning with flexibility, patience, and understanding. Remember, you’re learning, too. Make lessons fun when you can and try to keep mistakes and frustrations in perspective. We’re all in this together, so reach out to teachers, friends, and homeschooling groups for more advice. They will no doubt have lots of helpful tips that will make this journey one to remember with a smile.