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Published on December 10, 2020

How To Homeschool Your Kids (The Parent’s Guide)

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How To Homeschool Your Kids (The Parent’s Guide)

Ever wondered how to homeschool your children? Like, is this idea even possible? Do you even want to?

While the thought of watching your child develop before your eyes is typically a happy, calming thought, with the current climate in consideration, many parents are left grasping for straws at what they can do to help usher in academic growth for their students. Families have happily homeschooled for years and for many reasons.

But is this the right thing for your family? And, assuming your local school district has left you no choice, how would you even start?

Thankfully, there are many online resources these days that can make your decision to homeschool your children a seamless one (or at least, not an impossible one)!

Read on to learn more about the following sections, and I should note: you’ll want to follow them in the order presented. Let’s get started!

1. Molding the Mindset for Home Learning

If you are cradling a bubbling soon-to-be kindergartener at home, perhaps the thought of homeschooling doesn’t seem like that much of a big lift. After all, you’ve probably been reading to, writing with, and building in collaboration with your little munchkin for years now.

The thought of codifying some time to craft our letters a little better, memorizing the order of the numbers, or simply getting lost in the tranquility of how the leaves in the trees move around in the backyard (look at that squirrel!) may not be a large leap. And that’s wonderful!

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You should truly adopt a mindset of incremental learning goals—not too different from the books you’ve exposed your kiddos to since they were babies. They started with books without words, then books with few words, then books with smaller pictures and more words, and on and on! That’s how your homeschool journey should start: understanding that there will be some things to focus a little more attention on (or not, as we will learn in section three), and allowing plenty of time for play!

Is your kiddo a little older? Are they somewhere in the middle of elementary school, middle school, or even high school and remember what life was like when school was outside of your four walls? (Now, of course, COVID is making this obsolete, but I’m trying to also be timeless here, people!)

Hope is not lost, and you shouldn’t worry! As we will see in the next section, crafting a schedule will be your biggest asset. First, though, you’ll want to have a conversation with your child (and now, student!) about applying their best effort with you during the times you set out to spend in an academic mode. And please, don’t think you need to be like the sequel to Stand and Deliver. You’ll be just fine!

Let’s talk about that (sanity) schedule—that should ease your mind a bit.

2. Creating a Sanity Schedule

Let’s start again with our lovely, cute little kindergartener (or sub your early-elementary student in if that’s more helpful for you). This is the best time for learning, really. If you think about it: exploring every nook and cranny, finding which outlet stings the most, and mixing every marker cap with a different colored marker—just to have a little fun, right?

Learning is beautiful and should be encouraged whether or not you have a homeschool environment or are simply playing in the afternoon. The point I’m stressing here is that school, regardless of the location, should be about discovery—about molding what is already interesting and adding some definitions to how that curiosity will be measured. Creating a daily schedule is key!

You do not want full Montessori-style happening at all times, and you never want your kiddo to eat or get their head out of the paint. Some structure is good, and some say it is necessary. This isn’t a boot camp, of course, but you will be far better off if you nail down a process to how each day will proceed.

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Perhaps your day with your kiddo starts with some breakfast and stretching, and then you spend some time coloring and building legos, have a morning snack, practice the day of the week and some numbers, have some lunch, they (heck, maybe you, too) take a nap, and then play outside for the afternoon (or do creative play inside, should weather not be appropriate).

For older students, they don’t quite need all of your handholding, and you can collaborate on making a schedule with them that is publicly posted, perhaps on a refrigerator door. Having the whole family understand and stay accountable to the schedule allows everyone to understand what’s going on.

You will want your child to have some say in how their day is scheduled with you to create buy-in, and when you have that, the rest is gold, baby! So, if you’re a digital type of marker-on-poster person, get creative with a daily schedule that works with your family structure.

Next, let’s discuss what you’ll actually be doing during your homeschool day.

3. Identifying Proper Curricular Resources (or Not!)

There are two, perhaps three, varying schools (pun intended!) of thought about the idea of homeschool being exactly like school, nothing like school, or a mix of traditional school and, something else.

If you’ve heard of unschooling, for example, you’ll know what I mean. The idea, basically, is to remove all of the formal structures that a typical academic setting would impose upon a child.[1] Simply speaking, expose your child to proper interests that they may have, and let the child progress through at their own pace with material or experiences that they find fruitful. This idea is similarly related to Montessori schools, though not completely.

For those families that want a little more stringent accountability on what their child is learning, many online programs are available at little or no cost. Identifying reading programs is probably most critical, and sites like Readworks.org or NewsELA.org allow students to easily access contents at their reading level. Khan Academy is phenomenal for math and science education at a student’s pace.

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For more official support, you can contact your state’s academic agency to see a list of homeschool-approved curriculum in your area. Truly, you can be as “by the book” or “off the beaten path” as you’d like to be.

Your type of curricula is not nearly as important as the mindset (“we are creative beings on a quest to learn more about this world of ours”) and the daily schedule you set up with your family. A simple online search can open a door of opportunities for you and your student to explore—but mindset needs to be cultivated, and schedules cannot be built by Google.

Finally, let’s tackle the often publicized role of monitoring the learning progress of your child at home.

4. Monitoring Your Child’s Learning Progress

Once again, Pinterest is your friend here (or not). Children get excited when they realize they are growing—be it the pencil marks that delineate their different heights or stickers that show their journey towards learning how to spell their name. When you can create a compelling scoreboard of accomplishment, your child will feel pride and a sense of the important life equation hard work plus focus equals positive results.

But how exactly do you know if your student is growing in fluency at the proper rate? Or that their writing is on par with others at their grade level?

Well, that answer is not so simple—going back to where you see yourselves falling on the line of philosophies to education in your house. If you’re of the “unschool” mentality, the simple observation that your child is having a renewed interest in a variety of things is enough for you. If you’ve adopted a more bounded curriculum approach, you’ll be more interested in seeing finite proof that your child is improving. So, some helpful tips for you folks are included below.

First of all, the ability to attend to a task is perhaps the most important observable and measurable feature of homeschooling. A good general rule of thumb for how long a student can stay focused on a given task without needing a break is simple: their age multiplied by 4 (minutes). Your six year old should be able to focus intently on a task that is interesting to them for 24 minutes (6 years x 4 minutes).

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Of course, this general rule of thumb doesn’t always apply, but it’s a good start. Remember: this applies to focusing on interesting tasks. Staring at a multiplication worksheet for 24 minutes will probably just drive them mad.

Next, focus more on what you are having them do, not so much (initially) on how well they are doing the task. For example, you probably shouldn’t be so focused on the number of words your child can read if you first haven’t established a routine that every night at 6:00 pm, we read for 20 minutes. Establish the routine first, then start to see how your child is progressing.

A very simple reading check is to time your child reading for one minute, making a mental note of the words they read incorrectly during that one minute. That roughly indicates your child’s fluency (words read per minute).

As your child gets older, you will be able to monitor more things—multiplication facts, division processes, and the ability to research and write reports with little grammatical error and full quoted evidence. Have fun with the process, and realize you’re on a journey of learning that should be exciting!

A Possible Next Step

As you think about this important decision, be sure to include every member of your family. Schedule a time to chat about this decision, even if your student isn’t fully aware of what homeschooling is. Allow them to share their excitements, their worries, and be open with them as well.

Take that next step, though, to ensure this is in the best interest of your family, especially your child. Of course, you may not have that time and you may be forced into making a decision, in which case, I hope you found this guide helpful.

More Tips on How to Homeschool

Featured photo credit: Jessica Lewis via unsplash.com

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Reference

More by this author

Charlie Moynahan

Educator in Sacramento, California

How to Teach Your Kid to Read at Home How To Homeschool Your Kids (The Parent’s Guide) How to Identify And Play to Your Child’s Strengths

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Last Updated on October 7, 2021

Why Spending Time With Your Family Is Important (And How To Do So)

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Why Spending Time With Your Family Is Important (And How To Do So)

In today’s chaotic world, having family time isn’t always easy. It can get pretty hard to coordinate schedules, especially if the family is large. Life demands that we work, attend school, nurture friendships, hobbies, etc. All of those things are extremely time-consuming and important—but so is spending time with your family.

Why is family time so important? Because we all need love and support, and a good, strong family can provide that regularly. For children, spending time with their family helps shape them into good, responsible adults, improve their mental health, and develop strong core values.

There are many positive effects of spending time with your family. My family and I, for instance (and this includes grandchildren as well), meet every Tuesday night for dinner and games. My older son and I take turns cooking. This gives all of us a chance to try some new recipes. After dinner, we play games. And without fail, they inspire competitiveness and laughter. As family night has evolved, the grandkids have invited their friends over as well, creating the need for more chairs but also expanding our circle of fun.

Aside from the obvious fun and games, there are other reasons why spending time with your family is paramount. In this article, I will provide you with multiple reasons why spending time with your family regularly is a win-win. And then, I will lay out some ways on how to do it.

Let’s get started, shall we?

Why Spending Time With Your Family Is Important

Here are six reasons why it’s important to spend time with your family.

1. Provides the Opportunity to Bond

When you spend time together as a family—talking about your day, your highs, your lows—it fosters communication. As parents, it gives you the chance to listen to your children, to hear them out, to learn about what’s going on in their world. It also provides you with the opportunity to use life situations as teaching moments.

Before our Tuesday night dinner/game nights, my family used to see each other pretty regularly but not consistently, especially the grandkids. Our family night changed all that. Now, it’s guaranteed that the grandchildren, along with some of their friends, will be there. Not only do I get to find out what’s been happening in their lives, but they also get to know us better. It’s creating memories they can treasure forever, as well as modeling the Get-Together tradition for when they eventually have families of their own.

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“Spending time partaking in everyday family leisure activities has been associated with greater emotional bonding within families.”[1]

2. Teaches the Value of Family

Taking the time to be with your family lets your children know they are valued—that spending time together is a priority. I know that in today’s world, both parents are busy as both usually working. What better way to let your children know they are loved than by carving out time each week to spend with them?

According to Marilyn Price-Mitchell, Ph.D., “words like honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility, and courage are core to centuries of religious, philosophical, and family beliefs. Use them and others to express and reinforce your family values. Teach children the behaviors that flow from these principles. Use quotes to ignite meaningful dinner conversations and encourage kids to talk about these values.”[2]

3. Enhances Mental Well-Being

Spending that quality time together gives your children a safe platform in which to express themselves, ask questions about things that are bothering them, or talk about their day and things they’ve learned. I know that my 9-year old granddaughter can’t wait until it’s her turn to talk about her day. She usually goes on and on and has to be stopped to give everyone else a chance to talk about their goings-on.

“Research shows the quality of family relationships is more important than their size or composition. Whoever the family is made up of, they can build strong, positive relationships that promote wellbeing and support children and young people’s mental health.”[3]

For children, having the opportunity to seek advice from parents they trust—as well as being able to have a sounding board and help with problem-solving—is priceless. In addition, being able to voice their opinions and be heard—and to feel like what they have to say matters—is an esteem-builder. All of these can have a very impactful positive effect on their well-being.

4. Helps the Child Feel Loved

How do you think a child feels knowing their parents want to spend time with them—talking, sharing experiences, playing games, listening to them? It will make them feel as though they are important, and a child that feels important is happier and more apt to thrive. Setting aside chores or work to spend time with your children demonstrates that they’re essential—that they matter. What a gift to give your child!

“If a child has your undivided attention, it signals that they are loved and important to you. This can be further nurtured by experiencing joyful activities together, as it demonstrates that you want to spend time with your children over and above all of the daily demands.”[4]

5. Creates a Safe Environment

If you regularly spend time with your children, you are also creating an atmosphere of trust. The more trust they have, the more likely they are to share with you what’s going on in their world. As they get older, you’re going to want to know. Negative influences can show up at any time, but if you’ve always been there for your child, they are more apt to come to you and ask for your advice.

Spending time together generates familiarity and feelings of being supported. When a child feels safe and comfortable, they’re more likely to open up. This is one way to get to know your child and know what’s on their minds. Are they okay? Do they need your guidance? If so, how?

6. Reduces Stress

This is significant. We all suffer from stress at one point or another in our lives. Spending time with family helps alleviate that stress. It’s an opportunity to talk things out, get feedback, and maybe brainstorm for a solution to the problem that is causing the stress.

According to Brandy Drzymkowski, “During the holidays, your closest five people probably shifts to family and friends. You may even get to see loved ones who live far away. Good news! This can actually help lower your stress levels. Studies show ‘face-to-face interaction…counteracts the body’s defensive ‘fight-or-flight’ response.’ In other words, quality time spent with loved ones is nature’s stress reliever.”[5]

So, now that you know some of the benefits, what are some ideas for making family time happen?

How to Make Family Time Happen

Here are four things you can do to make family time happen and spend more time with them.

1. Family Dinners

This, as I said above, is a wonderful way to spend time together. While you’re having dinner, you have the chance to discuss things that are going on in your lives—the ups, the downs, and everywhere in between. It’s like having a buffer against life’s challenges.

Aside from that, eating dinner together has many additional benefits. Studies have shown that for kids who eat regularly with their families, there is less risk of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, and depression.[6]

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“Our belief in the ‘magic’ of family dinners is grounded in research on the physical, mental and emotional benefits of regular family meals.” It further states, “We recommend combining food, fun and conversation at mealtimes because those three ingredients are the recipe for a warm, positive family dinner—the type of environment that makes these scientifically proven benefits possible.”[7]

According to Parenting NI, “children and adolescents who spend more time with their parents are less likely to get involved in risky behavior. According to studies done by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse via Arizona State University, teens who have infrequent family dinners are twice as likely to use tobacco, nearly twice as likely to use alcohol and one and a half times more likely to use marijuana.”[8]

As you can see, there are multiple benefits to spending time with each other routinely. You can’t go wrong with this family activity.

2.  Regular Movie Nights

This is another fun event, although, from personal experience, I have to caution that choosing a movie that everyone wants to see is not easy. So, give yourselves plenty of time so you don’t spend two hours searching for a movie, and then end up watching no movie at all because the night is practically over. Try and choose a movie before the day, if possible.

Afterward, open it up for discussion. Ask questions pertinent to the movie. What do you think of ABC? Should they have done that? Would you have done something differently? There are so many questions you can ask to spark a conversation and keep the night going.

3. Game Night

This is another occasion for great fun. If you have a competitive spirit, it makes it even more fun. There are numerous games out there—Balderdash, Pictionary, Apples to Apples, Charades, to name a few—that can create fun havoc. All I can say is, on game nights, don’t take yourself too seriously. It’s okay if you lose the game. The fun is in being together, laughing, debating, and having a good time.

In addition, “Playing board games is great for children for many reasons besides the obvious; it’s fun to play games! Age appropriate games can help children to think strategically, solve problems creatively, work on pattern recognition and build simple math skills. They also help children develop social skills such as following rules, taking turns, and graceful winning or losing. Additionally, a family game night provides an opportunity for children to bond with siblings, parents and family members as well as peers. It can promote tradition building and establish a fun routine.”[9]

So, go find your family a game and start having fun!

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4. Sharing a Hobby

If you and one of your kids like to do the same things, do it more often. For example, my oldest son and his teenage son go on long bike rides together on the weekends. Not only do they get to exercise, but they also get to talk and look at beautiful sceneries. They’ve also incorporated cooking into their routine. They plan the meal, shop, and prepare—activities that bring them closer together.

Sharing a hobby is a great way to bring family members together. It bonds people in amazing ways. According to Alison Ratner Mayer, LICSW, “One of the easiest and most important ways to build a child’s self-esteem is to spend time with them doing something not only that they enjoy but something that you also enjoy. There is a special magic that happens between a parent and a child when they share a mutually beloved activity. It sends the message to the child that their parents are having fun, true, honest, real fun, with them.”[10]

Final Thoughts

Spending time with the family is an investment. It is an investment in the happiness, well-being, and security of that system. It can also serve as a way to break out of the daily rut and the constant worldly demands, while at the same time, building a strong family unit.

Even though it isn’t always easy to find the time, finding the time is key to staying close and to providing and receiving love and support. There is no greater gift than the gift of time. That’s what we all seem to be missing nowadays. So, in giving that gift consistently, everyone feels loved and appreciated.

The family that takes the time to interact regularly is typically happy. They know they are part of a tribe, and that’s essential in today’s chaotic world. To know that there are people whom you can count on—people who will have your back in times of need—is invaluable.

Now, go and plan something plan with your family, if you haven’t already.

Featured photo credit: Jimmy Dean via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Pittsburgh Parent: Spending Time Together—Benefits of Family Time
[2] Roots of Action: Integrity: How Families Teach and Live Their Values
[3] Beyond Blue: Healthy Families
[4] Esperance Anglican Community School: The importance of family time
[5] Brandy Drzymkowski: Spending Time With Loved Ones Reduces Stress
[6] Harvard Graduate School of Education: Harvard EdCast: The Benefit of Family Mealtime
[7] The Family Dinner Project: BENEFITS OF FAMILY DINNERS
[8] Parenting NI: The Importance of Spending Time Together
[9] WNY Children: Family Game Night- The Benefits of Game Play
[10] Child Therapy Boston: The Benefits of Sharing a Hobby With Your Child

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