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10 Beginner Homeschooling Tips For Parents

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image attirbutuon flickr user alexandersaprykin

contributed by Jennifer Smith

Online Schools can present numerous benefits to students of all ages.

For one, it offers them (and their parents) a flexible schedule. It also gives them the opportunity to learn at their own pace, have one-on-one access to credentialed and experienced teachers, and develop coursework that focuses on their own specific interests.

As incredible an option it may be for students, it can also present new challenges to parents who are just starting out. It doesn’t have to be an overwhelming or stressful process in the least, however. To help make the transition into this new type of education a little easier, we’ve rounded up the top 10 tips for new online homeschool parents.

10 Beginner Homeschooling Tips For Parents

1. Personalize the learning environment for each student as much as possible.

Creating a specific workplace for your child can help them build consistent study habits. Whether students are working on a laptop or desktop, it’s important to have a designated space for learning for them to complete schoolwork.

To start with, make sure they have all the necessary equipment—computer, printer, headphones, calendar, pencils, notebook/sketchpad, etc.—within easy reach. The workspace should be in a quiet, low-traffic area of the house so they can focus on their work undisturbed.

2. Use a schedule–and don’t be afraid to adapt that schedule as necessary.

The flip side to getting your child to build consistent study habits is planning ahead to ensure they know when and what they’ll be learning each day. Build a routine that works best with their habits and energy. For instance, while a nine-year-old might be revving to go in the morning, it might take your teenager a couple of extra hours to become fully awake and ready for lessons.

Some children might also have to work around practices or outside lessons. Whatever the case, try to create a regular routine so they know exactly when they should focus on studies.

3. Stay organized!

Online courses allow you to be more hands-off as a parent, but you should still go over their weekly lesson plan to ensure they’re on track or make arrangements if travel or events are planned for the week. Depending on what works for your family, you might want to make it a nightly routine—going over the day’s lessons and upcoming assignments, and making sure everything is ready for the next day—or set aside time at the beginning and end of every week to do the same.

This step can help mitigate any wasted time since your child will be able to get straight to work and allow you to keep better track of how they’re progressing towards mastery with their lessons.

4. Empower students.

Help your child build responsibility and accountability for their education by including them in their lesson and curriculum planning. Give them a planner or find a helpful learning app so that as you take time to organize the day or week ahead, they can do the same. Ask them to create daily to-do lists and make them track their own assignments. This takes some of the stress off you and also encourages them to take control of their education and time.

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5. Mix things up.

Vary the routine, learning forms, schedules, content, pacing, collaborations–do what you have to do to help keep the learning fresh and authentic.

Being aware of what’s coming up with your student’s lessons gives you the opportunity to mix things up and keep things interesting. Integrating field trips to local museums and wildlife refuges, projects completed away from the computer, and physical activities will keep them engaged and help them to apply the information they’re learning. For instance, a module on ancient Egypt can be complemented with a visit to the King Tut Exhibit, and a successful French lesson can be rewarded with crepes or macarons.

In the end, your child’s education is what you make it, so don’t be afraid to have some fun with it.

6. Set goals for and with students.

Setting measurable and specific educational goals will keep both you and your child on track throughout the school year. Make a list and divide it into short- and long-term goals, then revisit the list on a regular basis—during your weekly organizational sessions, for instance—to evaluate and adjust the goals if necessary.

7. Personalize the content and process.

With online homeschooling, your child can learn at their own pace—taking more time in a subject when necessary or speeding through another if they quickly grasp the material. This type of learning environment also allows you and your child to choose instructional programs that fit their interests. Some online charter schools will even allow you to customize or create a course that focuses on your student’s passions. Personalizing your child’s education keeps them engaged with, and excited about, learning.

8. Ask for help.

If you’re not sure about how to build a learning plan or set goals for your child, that’s okay. Many schools have highly-trained teachers and counselors to help parents design a program that is personalized to their students while still meeting state standards.

Teachers like these, as well as other homeschool parents, can bring a different perspective and insights on how to help your child learn. When you’re stuck on a situation or aren’t sure about how to approach a specific lesson, ask for help; you’re not in this homeschool journey alone.

9. Socialize the learning.

Online schooling doesn’t have to be an isolated effort. Find ways to help your child socialize throughout the week. If they’re involved with volunteer groups, sports teams, or other types of groups, they’ll inevitably be building social skills. Field trips, days working out of a café, traveling, and study groups are also ways to help them interact and connect with their community.

10. Accept imperfections.

Before embarking on this journey, jot down all the reasons you’ve decided to give homeschooling a try. Some days might be more difficult than others but going back to this list will help you to stay the course. No adventure in online schooling is going to be perfect, so give yourself a break now when things don’t turn out as planned; they don’t go perfectly in ‘regular’ school either. 

What’s important is that you’re actively trying to give your child a better education. Exhausting (and at times, perhaps frustrating) days will come, but so will the delight in seeing your child engage with their lessons and find their passion for learning.

10 Tips For Parents New To Online Schooling

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Four Stages Of A Self-Directed Learning Model

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self-directed learning stagesFour Stages Of A Self-Directed Learning Model

by TeachThought Staff

Self-Directed Learning is not new–but is perhaps misunderstood.

In the linked post above, Terry Heick wondered about the relationship between self-directed learning and the purpose of education:

The goal of the model isn’t content knowledge (though it should produce that), but rather something closer to wisdom–learning how to learn, understanding what’s worth understanding, and perhaps most importantly, analyzing the purpose of learning (e.g., personal and social change). It also encourages the student to examine the relationship between study and work–an authentic ‘need to know’ with important abstractions like citizenship and legacy.

Studied in terms of adult education and vocation for years, self-directed learning is increasing in popularity for a variety of reasons, including growing dissatisfaction with public schooling, and the rich formal and informal learning materials available online. This is the ‘age of information’ after all.

Self-directed learning is one response, something slideshare user Barbara Stokes captures in this chart, based on the model by Gerald Grow. The four stages–very similar to the gradual release of responsibility model–appear below.

The Four Stages Of The Self-Directed Learning Model

Learner                            Teacher

Stage 1   Dependent        Authority, Coach

Examples: Coaching with immediate feedback. Drill. Informational lecture. Overcoming deficiencies and resistance.

Stage 2:  Interested          Motivator, Guide

Examples: Inspiring lecture plus guided discussion. Goal-seting and learning strategies.

Stage 3:  Involved             Facilitator

Examples: Discussion faciliated by teacher who participates as equal. Seminar. Group projects.

Stage 4:  Self-Directed     Consultant, Delegator

Examples: Internship, dissertation, individual work or self-directed study group.

Theories of Teaching and Learning: The Staged Self-Directed Learning Model, G.Grow. from Barbara Stokes; Four Stages Of A  Self-Directed Learning Model

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The Benefits Of Competency-Based Assessment

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The Benefits Of Competency-Based Assessment

contributed by David Garrick, Dean of Graduate School of Education, UCDS College for School Culture

The general idea behind a competency-based assessment is that it provides students and families with specific feedback about student performance that can lead to a clearer understanding of progress and skills gained over time.

As Dean of the Graduate School of Education at the UCDS College for School Culture, I’ve gained a unique perspective on the possibilities that competency-based assessment can provide. Students who attend University Child Development School (UCDS) in Seattle don’t earn A’s, B’s, or F’s. Instead, student assessments are communicated through our own set of competency-based continua for various subjects.

These continua, paired with narrative communication with students and families, make up the school’s framework for assessment, based on skill progressions. I’ve seen the benefits first-hand in Pre-K through elementary classrooms, and also in training at the graduate level.  

By providing specific information about the academic and social skills students exhibit, schools provide detailed and actionable information. This empowers students in their learning and educators in their teaching practices. Here’s a general overview of the benefits of competency-based assessment.

Building Competency-Based Assessments: The Benefits

1. Improved clarity & transparency

Greater clarity allows teachers and families to identify areas of strength and areas where students may need additional support. In all cases, these assessments provide teachers with detailed knowledge about student progress that can be used to build individualized goals and educational plans.

In addition to evaluating proficiency in these domains, teachers should regularly share comprehensive feedback individual student accomplishments and struggles. For example, UCDS teachers provide narrative commentary to families where they focus on how a student engages within each domain, as well as notable accomplishments and struggles.

Focusing on comprehensive feedback brings clarity to the learner, and clarity to the family about what’s happening in the classroom. Letter grades don’t show the full picture (suggesting alternatives to letter grades), and a competency-based model is better equipped to provide students, families and future schools with clear information about each student’s social and academic progress.

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2. More seamless personalization of learning

Through Competency-Based Learning, educators have a better chance to provide a deeper view into each student’s learning attitudes and strategies and can provide resources that best support individual needs. This type of information is key to understanding the unique modes, strategies, and coaching to which each student responds best. This is the foundation of personalized learning.

3. It helps shift towards a culture of assessment

To successfully adopt competency-based strategies, teachers and administrators must first reevaluate assessment. While traditional forms of assessment (i.e., exams and quizzes) are valuable when placing students on a general scale of progress, they don’t show the whole picture. Making changes to assessment can be daunting for some educators, especially those who have been using traditional assessment practices throughout their career. It can also be a shift for parents to evaluate their student’s performance without a grade.

It’s important that teachers pursue resources and professional development that introduce different methods of assessing student progress, and why they hold value. As every teacher knows, the learning never stops – and by staying on top of current trends, curriculum can be adapted to meet every students’ needs.

4. Students better understand their own learning profile

Through comprehensive, competency-based assessment methods, teachers can help students to reach college and career readiness with greater self-knowledge about their learning approaches and needs. Working from a continuum of skills ensures that every student is being challenged in a way that is appropriate to what they want and need to learn and that educators can give individualized support as needed to help them move forward.

Removing the stress of being placed on a tiered grading scale shifts the focus back to learning, while building the confidence to make mistakes. Students take ownership of their learning. They feel empowered when mastering a skill and learn to identify what’s next.

Conclusion

For teachers, competency-based assessment brings depth and value to curriculum. With the focus shifted away from letters and percentages, students become more involved in long-term progress and are more apt to become engaged and take risks while learning.

Ranking students based on undefined competencies and then using that rank to determine their future prospects and contributions is a practice best left to past eras. Competency-based assessment provides more detailed information that promotes better-targeted teaching and learning for all parties involved.  

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5 Learning Strategies That Make Students Curious

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Causing curiosity in students boils down to knowing that student.

5 Learning Strategies That Make Students Curious

by Terry Heick

Understanding where curiosity comes from is the holy grail of education.

Education, of course, is different than learning but both depend on curiosity.

Education implies a formal, systematic, and strategic intent to cause learning. In this case, content to be learned is identified, learning experiences are planned, learning results are assessed, and data from said assessments play some role in the planning of new learning experiences. Learning strategies are applied, and snapshots of understanding are taken as frequently as possible.

This approach is clinical and more than a smidgeon scientific. It arrests emotion and spontaneity in pursuit of planning and precision, a logical trade in the eyes of science.

Of course, very little about learning is scientific. While data, goals, assessment, and planning should all play a role in any system that purports to actually accomplish anything, learning and education are fundamentally different. The former is messy and personal, painful and fantastic. The latter attempts to assimilate the former—or at least streamline it as much as possible in the name of efficiency.

An analogy might help. (I love teaching with analogies.)

learning : education :: true love : dating service

True love may very well come from a dating service, and dating services do all they can to make it happen, but in the end—well, there’s a fair bit of hocus pocus at work behind it all.

Hubris & Education

Education is simultaneously the most noble and hubristic of all endeavors. There are two minds to every educator. This may all reek of sensationalism, but watch anyone at play, honing a craft, lost in a book, or engaged in a digital simulation and you’ll see a completely different person—one there physically, but far removed in spirit.

In a better place.

Causing this in a classroom is possible, but is as often the result of good fortune than good planning. The best substitutes that can masquerade as curiosity are dutiful compliance and engagement. Neither of these are curiosity, which has among its sources a strong sense of volition, accountability, and curiosity.

Here, let me try.

I want to show you what I can do.

I want to know.

And that last one—a sign of curiosity–is a bugger, one we’ve talked about before. Like the caffeine in coffee, the chords on a guitar, or the wet in water, genuine curiosity is not a thing, it’s the thing.

Not temporarily wanting to know, or being vaguely interested in an answer, but being able to put together past experience and knowledge like the millions of fibers on a network–only to be maddeningly stopped from branching further without understanding or knowing this one bit.

Like stopping an incredible movie right at the climax—that awful, crazy feeling inside would be unfulfilled curiosity—and it’d just kill you not to know. But where does it come from?

And can you consistently cause it in a learner?

If formal learning environments driven by outcomes-based systems have taught us nothing else, it’s that while we often can “cause” something to happen in learner, it is only by considerable effort, resources, and angst.

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But we certainly can create ideal conditions where natural curiosity can begin to grow. What we do when it happens—and disrupts our planned lessons and tidy little units—is another story altogether.

5 Things That Make Students Curious

1. Revisit Old Questions

The simplest curiosities arise from old questions that were never fully answered, or that no attempt to answer was made.

Of course, any question worth its salt is never ‘fully answered’ any more than a good conversation is ever finished, but as we learn and reflect and grow, old answers can look positively awkward, as they are bound by old knowledge.

Strategy to actuate: Revisit old questions—through a journal prompt, Socrative discussion, QFT (Question Formulation Technique), or even a fishbowl discussion. And also revisit the thinking from the first go-round to see what has changed.

2. Model & Promote Ambition

Ambition precedes curiosity. Without wanting to advance in position, thinking, or design, curiosity is simply a biological and neurological reaction to stimulus. But ambition is what makes us human, and its fraternal twin is curiosity.

Strategy to actuate: Well thought-out mentoring, peer-to-peer modeling, Project-Based Learning and a genuine ‘need to know.’

3. Play

A learner at play is a signal that there is a comfortable mind focused on a fully-internalized goal.

It may or may not be the same goal as those given externally, but play is hypnotic and more efficient than the most well-planned instructional sequence. A learner playing and learning through play, nearly by definition, is curious about something, or otherwise they’re simply manipulating bits and pieces mindlessly.

Strategy to actuate: Game-Based Learning and learning games and simulations like Armadillo Run, Civilization VI, Bridge Constructor, and Age of Empires all empower the learner to play. Same with Challenge-Based learning and other forms of learning.

4. The Right Collaboration At The Right Time

Seeing what is possible modeled by peers is powerful stuff for learners. Some may not be initially curious about content, but seeing what peers accomplish can be a powerful actuator for curiosity. How did they do this? How might I do what they did in my own way? Which of these ideas I’m seeing are valuable to me—right here, right now–and which are not?

Strategy to actuate: Grouping is not necessarily collaboration. To actuate collaboration, and thus curiosity, students must have a genuine need for another resource, idea, perspective, or something else otherwise not immediately available to them. Cause them to need something, not simply to finish an assignment, but to achieve the goal they set for themselves.

5. Use Diverse & Unpredictable Content

Diverse content is likely the most accessible pathway to at least a modicum of curiosity from learners. New projects, new games, new novels, new poets, new things to think about.

Strategy to actuate: Invite the learners to understand the need for a resource or bit of content and have them source it. Instant diversity class-wide, and likely divergence from where you were going with it all. At worst you’ve got engaged learners, and a real shot at curiosity.

5 Learning Strategies That Make Students Curious

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