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Before you start homeschooling…

Well. Here we are in, a very different world than the one we lived in when I last posted.

Now I jump on a virtual watercooler call on Monday mornings instead of standing around the real one, and today, instead of asking my opinion of the latest feedback from a partner team at work, one of my coworkers asked me for homeschooling advice.

I’m uniquely positioned to give insight into that life, because I was homeschooled for nearly all of my school-age years. I’m (relatively) well-adjusted socially, successful in my career and personal life, and still using so many of the tactics and habits today that I learned as a homeschooled kid. I don’t make it a secret to my coworkers that I was homeschooled — lemme tell ya, it’s a very helpful shield for being a weirdo — so I’m not surprised people are asking me, “What did you do?”

People of the world, heed me: so much of my success as a homeschooler is directly attributable to my mom. She’s a badass. I get all of my penchant for organization from her.

I reached out to her right away after getting these requests for advice because I wanted her take on it too. She insists I’ll be better at writing about what worked for me, because it’s different for each kid, and she’s not wrong; but I want to present some of her ideas here as her ideas because they were gold then and I have a feeling they’ll be gold now.

Without further ado, we shall now enter the advice portion of this post.

My parents took homeschooling very seriously. They found ways to augment when they weren’t experts in a subject or simply couldn’t run a similar operation — I had a math tutor for a while, my siblings both did sports at local schools, and we did some advanced lit and science classes at a couple of homeschool co-ops.

My mom took the entire summer each year to plan. She would put together her curriculum for history and science by finding a central book and using it to create a framework of reading and activities.

You, parent who is reading this right now, probably don’t have an entire summer to plan. You might have some help from your kid’s teacher(s), who are also scrambling to figure out how to migrate to a long-distance learning reality, so that should give you something to start with. But if you’re going to start off this inherently weird adventure on the right foot, do this self-assessment first.

#1: What do I enjoy? List out your favorite subjects to learn and talk about. These are the topics you can use to really engage with your kids on how to learn.

#2: What do I hate? Just as critical, list out your least favorite subjects, the ones that still give you homework nightmares. These are the places you’ll want to aggressively augment or outsource (we’ll talk about those concepts in a later post!).

#3: What will be my rewards? Look, this is gonna be unpaid work one way or the other, whether you’re doing it on a temporary basis or a more permanent one. If you’re going to stay sane and motivated, you’ll need to find ways to keep yourself going. Don’t make your rewards depend on your child’s grades or assessments, but rather on reaching milestones like “read 10 fiction books together over the course of the year.”

#4: What will be my child’s rewards? Do this for each kid, because what motivates each of them might very well be different. You’ll want to come up with two kinds of rewards:

  • Incremental rewards are earned by maintaining streaks or filling quotas over time (I’ll cover some ideas for real life gamification in a future “Motivation and mindset” post), and are best if they double as educational — like getting a new science kit for every 10 days of homework in a row, or a going on a trip to an educational location (such as a museum featuring one of the child’s interests) for meeting a specific education plan for a month.
  • Goal-oriented rewards are broader and more often one-time, such as getting financial assistance towards a new tablet for earning a certain grade in a class (per whatever standards of grading the school district requires). My advice is to set more incremental rewards than goal-oriented rewards, because they’re easier to adjust and it doesn’t take long to get back on track for the next one.

So, when you’re done with your self-assessment, you should have a list of topics you’re excited to share with your kids, a list of topics you’ll need to find ways to get out of (it’s OK, I promise!), some ideas for keeping yourself sane, and some ideas for keeping your kids motivated.

Armed with your lists, you can embark on the next phase: setting up a structure that works on a daily, weekly, and yearly basis.

Published inHomeschooling