8 Easy Ways to Teach Difficult Homeschool Subjects

Tutor helps high school student in library
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A source of stress and insecurity for many homeschooling parents is the idea of teaching a subject that they feel unqualified to teach. Such subjects may be high school level math and science courses, writing, or electives.

Even parents of precocious younger students may sometimes feel they don't possess the depth of knowledge to address their student's interests and aptitudes.

It helps to consider your role of teaching parent as being a facilitator.

You don't have to teach it all yourself; you just have to know how and where to help your student find the help he needs.

1. Hire a tutor.

If there is a subject that you don’t feel qualified to teach, consider hiring a tutor. Algebra always intimidated me when I was in school, so when my oldest began to struggle with it, I sought the help of a friend who is a high school math teacher. She agreed to meet with my daughter a couple of days a week. It was a fantastic decision because my math-teacher friend was knowledgeable about the topic and able introduce my daughter to different methods for reaching the correct answer.

Some sources for finding a tutor include:

  • Your local homeschool group newsletter
  • Friends and family – In addition to my friend, we also had an acquaintance at church who was a math teacher who tutored students in the afternoons. Ask around!
  • Library or college bulletin boards
  • Your kids’ friends – Your kids may have a friend who is a whiz at the subject in which they’re struggling and, chances are they’ve worked through the subject much more recently than you.
  • Public and private schools – Call the local schools to see if they have a list of tutors in the area.
  • Online friends – Thanks to options like Skype and FaceTime, you may have friends in other parts of the country who can help.
  • The phone book – Check local listings for tutors or tutoring centers in your area.

    2. Consider dual-enrollment.

    If you have a high school student, consider dual-enrollment at local colleges. Not only will your student receive direct, live instruction, but he’ll also earn college credit.

    Dual-enrollment allows students the benefit of being able to ask questions when something is confusing and to access the college’s learning labs. These labs are available at most schools and offer peer-to-peer tutoring so that your student can get one-on-one help for difficult concepts.

    Dual-enrollment can also be a good choice for science labs since those can be difficult to replicate at home.

    3. Find a co-op.

    Many homeschool co-ops teach classes that parents may not feel equipped to teach at home, such as upper-level math and science classes, foreign languages, writing, or electives.

    Some classes are taught by parents with an aptitude for the subject while others may be taught by professional teachers or tutors.

    4. Learn alongside your kids.

    Learning alongside your kids is a viable option for tackling a subject that you feel unqualified to teach. It demonstrates to your children that learning never stops and that it’s okay not to have all the answers. It also teaches your children how to learn, a skill they will need throughout their lives.

    Some parents take the class just as their kids are doing – with their own text and student manuals, doing the work and taking the tests to earn their own grade. I haven’t gone that route, but I do work with my kids on their difficult subjects most days.

    When it comes to my high school nemesis, algebra, I use the tools at my disposal – the teaching guide, the sample problems, and Google – to make sure that I understand how to do the problem and can explain it to my teens.

    I have been pleasantly surprised to discover a couple of things: 1) most of the time, algebra isn’t as difficult as I remember it being and, 2) sometimes stumbling through a problem that I still don’t understand helps my kids figure out the part of it that they didn’t understand.

    5. Look for community classes.

    Look for classes within the community for those subjects or skills that you feel unqualified to teach.

    These may include:

    Ask at businesses that cater to your areas of interest, such as a music stores or art studios, check bulletin boards at libraries or colleges, or ask around for references.

    6. Try online resources.

    Don’t forget about online resources. There are YouTube videos, tutorials, forums – and Google is your friend. In our homeschool, we have used online resources for:

    • Algebra help – My favorite algebra resource was a site that showed all the steps involved in solving a problem, rather than showing only the solution. On several occasions, it was a slightly different method than our text, which often helped my daughter grasp the concept.
    • Dyslexia therapy – Through Skype, my dyslexic son was able to work from home one-on-one with a therapist once a week.
    • Foreign language lessons – We have taken live online courses and utilized YouTube videos for foreign language. A friend’s son learned Japanese by working online with a tutor via Skype.
    • Biology – We used YouTube videos to supplement our biology lessons.
    • Creative writing – I am currently taking a creative writing course online through my local community college. My youngest teen wants to take the course next year. The college offers a wide variety of online courses in the areas of: accounting, business, language arts, photography, law, and much more.

    7. Hire a private instructor.

    Some skills may be best taught by a private instructor. This may include skills such as:

    • Music instruction
    • Vocal instruction
    • Sports such as gymnastics, swimming, tennis, or golf

    8. Look for a mentor.

    Mentoring and apprenticeship opportunities are much more scarce than they were in the past, but they are not unheard of. When my husband was a teen, his parents helped him get a job that was more an apprenticeship opportunity with a local appliance repairman. Over the last 25 years, I have been so thankful for that decision because it has saved us hundreds of dollars in repair bills.

    I have seen homeschool dads seeking apprentices in our local homeschool newsletter. 

    There are many options for homeschooled students to learn skills and subjects that their parents don't feel qualified to teach. Part of creating a lifestyle of learning is demonstrating to our children how and where to find knowledge. Outsourcing parts of their education is just one way to do that.