3 Practical Ways to Become a Better Homeschooling Teacher

Mother and Daughter Working and Studying
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We homeschooling parents often wonder if we're doing enough and teaching the right things.We may wonder if we're qualified to teach our children and what we can do to become more effective instructors. 

By doing simple things like not comparing our kids to others and not allowing worry to derail our homeschools, we become more successful homeschooling parents. But, there are also some simple, practical steps we can take to improve our overall effectiveness as homeschool teachers.

Read books

Business and personal development and training expert Brian Tracy has said that if you read a book a week (on the topic of your chosen field), you’ll be an expert within 7 years. As a homeschooling parent, you may not have time to get through a book a week in your personal reading, but I do believe that you can become a better homeschooling parent by reading books about homeschooling, child development, and parenting.

For the last decade, I’ve advised new homeschooling parents to read books on a variety of homeschooling styles – including those that you don’t think would ever fit your family. In my early years of homeschooling, I was often surprised to find that even though a particular homeschooling method did not appeal to me as a whole, there was almost always some aspect of the style that did appeal to me.

Following are three articles with tips on how to mix bits and pieces of various homeschooling styles to create a customized approach that meets your family’s unique need:

The key is to look for those little takeaway ideas and discard – without guilt – the other aspects of the style that are not a good fit.

For example, many Charlotte Mason philosophies appeal to me, but short lessons did not work for our family. Changing gears every 15 – 20 minutes got my kids completely off-track. We found it much easier to work for longer stretches and take longer breaks after completing a few tasks.

Back in those early days, I also enjoyed the book Carschooling by Diane Flynn Keith. My family wasn’t on the road more than one or two days each week, but I still picked up some useful tips for making the most of our time in the car. That’s when I began using audio books and CDs. I can still sing the Preamble to the Constitution thanks to our Schoolhouse Rock CD.

The books that topped my recommended reading list for many years include:

  • A Charlotte Mason Education by Catherine Levison
  • Homeschooling the Early Years by Linda Dobson
  • The Relaxed Home School by Mary Hood
  • The Unschooling Handbook by Mary Griffith
  • The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer

In addition to reading books specifically about homeschooling, it’s helpful to read about child development and parenting. After all, schooling is only one small aspect of homeschooling and should not be the part that defines your family. Author Ruth Beechick is an excellent source of information on child development for homeschooling parents.

Professional development

In nearly every industry, there are opportunities for professional development. Why should homeschooling be any different? It’s wise to take advantage of available opportunities to learn new skills and tried-and-true tricks of your trade.

When my kids were younger, a well-known homeschool curriculum author gave a two-day workshop in our area. I’d been homeschooling for awhile and didn’t feel that I needed to go, but thought it would be a nice break from the winter doldrums. I knew it would offer me a chance to spend some time with other homeschooling parents and my kids an opportunity to socialize with others.

I came away not only refreshed but armed with some simple but effective educational activity ideas that I immediately put to use in our homeschool.

In addition to your local homeschool support group securing speakers for meetings and workshops, some sources of professional development for homeschooling parents include:

Homeschool conventions. Most mid-sized to large homeschool conventions feature workshops and professional speakers in addition to the vendor hall. These speakers are typically curriculum publishers, homeschooling parents and speakers, and leaders in their respective fields, making them an excellent source of information and inspiration.

Continuing education classes. Local community colleges can be a great place to find on-campus or online continuing education courses. Perhaps a college algebra course would help you brush up on your math skills to help you more effectively teach your teen. A child development course can help parents of young children gain a better understanding of which topics and tasks are developmentally appropriate for their children.

It could also be that the courses you choose to take have no direct correlation to what you’re teaching in your homeschool. Instead, they may serve to make you a more educated, well-rounded individual and offer you the opportunity to model for your children the concept the learning never stops. It’s good for kids to see their parents valuing education in their own lives and following their dreams.

Homeschool curriculum. While many homeschool curriculum options are scripted for the teaching parent or walk him or her through the steps of each lesson, some actually feature material to instruct the teaching parent on the mechanics of teaching the curriculum. I have seen this to be true particularly with writing curricula such as Institute for Excellence in Writing and Brave Writer. In both, the teacher’s manual is instrumental in teaching the curriculum.

Educate yourself on your student’s needs

I’ve written before about the fact that often parents don’t feel equipped to homeschool their child with learning differences such as dysgraphia or dyslexia, but it’s not just learning challenges that can be intimidating. Parents of gifted students may not feel that they can offer their children adequate academic challenges.

These feelings of inadequacy may extend to parents of children with autism, sensory processing issues, ADD, ADHD, or those with physical or emotional challenges.

However, a well-informed parent is often better equipped to meet a child’s needs through one-on-one interaction and a customized education plan than a teacher in a crowded classroom setting.

Marianne Sunderland, the homeschooling mom I interviewed about dyslexia, has taken courses, read books, and researched, educating herself about dyslexia to more effectively teach her own children. She says, “Homeschooling not only works, it is the best option for educating kids who don’t learn by traditional methods.”

This concept of educating yourself goes back to the first point about reading books on topics related to your chosen field. Consider your child and his or her unique learning needs to be your chosen field.  You may not have seven years available before your student graduates to become an expert in a particular area of need, but through research, learning about his or her needs, and working one-on-one with him or her daily, you can become an expert on your child.

These are just some simple steps that you can take to improve your effectiveness as the teacher (or facilitator) in your homeschool.