The new school year has begun! And with a new homeschool year comes student and parent jitters, anticipation, excitement, and the opportunity to achieve new milestones. But it also signals a fresh beginning, whether you’re new to homeschooling or a seasoned pro. Today we’re going to share with you some tips for starting your homeschool year on the right foot–after all, seasoned pros can still learn something new, right?
Know your child’s learning style.
If you’re already part of the Bridgeway Academy family, you’re likely quite familiar with the concept of learning styles. If not, you’re about to become familiar with them! Learning styles are the key to your child’s academic success, so it’s important to know how they learn best, what sparks their curiosity, where their interests lie, and what their strengths and opportunities are. Bridgeway makes it easy to find out your child’s learning style with our Learning Style Assessment, which determines whether your student is a:
- Visual learner, someone who focuses on observation and sight. Visual learners prefer to learn through reading and do well when diagrams, lists, and charts are used to teach.
- Auditory learner, someone who best processes information through talking and listening. Auditory learners tend to learn best in a lecture-style environment or through conversation.
- Kinesthetic learner, one who is always on the move or active and learns best when movement is incorporated into lessons. These are hands-on learners who thrive in a project-like learning environment.
Once you figure out what type of learner you have, so many doors of opportunity open. Teaching to your child’s specific learning style allows you to “speak their language” when it comes to school–and once you and your student are on the same page, their curiosity kicks in, they begin to love learning, they experience success in the classroom, and their confidence grows by leaps and bounds. And isn’t that what learning is all about?
Take, for example, this scenario presented in our recent Parent Educator Webinar by our resident Human Learning Specialist, Kim Bennett. “My son and I were working on square roots and cube roots, and he did not understand them. I tried to explain it to him with just the math…’What number can you multiply by itself to get 9?’ Then I tried with Minecraft since it uses cubes and blocks. Nope. Do we have a cube that I could show him with? Turns out we do have this cube sitting around in the living room. With that, I was able to show him. As a kinesthetic learner, he could touch the cube. Now I can pull that cube out and ask him, ‘How does this represent squares and square roots?’”
Every day, homeschooling parents who know their child’s learning style make discoveries just like these. And when they do, it opens up a whole new world of possibilities.
Set up a perfect classroom.
If you already homeschool, you probably have a classroom set up for your student. It might be in a bedroom, it could be in the basement, it might even be at the kitchen table. Regardless of where you set up shop, it is important to make this space an area that’s conducive to learning. Your homeschool classroom should be comfortable and well-lit. It should have strong Wi-Fi or access to an ethernet (LAN) jack. And it should be stocked with everything you’ll need to teach your child (more on that later). If you decide to go the kitchen or dining room table route, it’s not a bad idea to invest a few dollars in a mobile cart and maybe a small shelf with some cubbies so your child’s school supplies and materials can be neatly organized and easily transported from room to room.
Your homeschool classroom doesn’t need to look like something out of a Pottery Barn catalog. It simply needs to be an area where your student can learn without distraction, where everything they need is within reach, and is a space where your child enjoys learning. For more specifics on setting up a homeschool classroom, check out one of our past blog posts!
Develop your homeschool routine.
We’re not going to tell you what that routine is. That’s one of the beauties of homeschooling…you can do it however you want, in a way that fits your family and your family alone! But there are definitely some parameters to consider when figuring out your homeschool routine.
Is your child a morning person? If not, start your day later.
Do you work? If so, create a class schedule around your workday. This is also an ideal opportunity for your child to practice independent study and take more control over their education. Just make sure to keep an eye on them to ensure that they’re doing what they need to do while you’re not supervising. You might be surprised, however, at how much they enjoy some independence.
Does your student need frequent breaks in the day? Make sure to work plenty of those in, with time for outdoor activities and exercise to break things up.
There’s no right or wrong way to homeschool–and that’s one of the reasons so many families love it. Because they do what works for them, and that’s all that really matters. As long as your child is getting a high-quality education, does it really matter if the school day begins at 7:00 am or 1:00 pm?
Don’t sweat it if you haven’t established a homeschool routine by the first day of school–especially if you’re a first-time homeschooler. Ask any experienced homeschooler…it takes a little bit of time to figure out what works best for your family and to settle into that flow. But once you get there, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start homeschooling even sooner!
Have all your materials ready to go.
The types of materials you need will depend on the homeschool program. For example, if you’re using a textbook-based program, you’ll obviously need those books and printed materials, as well as notebooks, writing instruments, etc. If your child is enrolled in online learning, you’ll obviously need a reliable computer and internet connection–but even if the learning is all online or blended, it’s always a good idea to have plenty of notebooks, folders, pens, pencils, and binders on hand–not only for your own organization, but also to be sure you’re maintaining a portfolio of your child’s work in case your state’s education officials require some type of progress reports (check out your state’s homeschooling laws…they’re all wildly different).
Planning on doing the instruction yourself? A wise investment might be a large dry erase board–especially if your student is a visual learner (we told you those learning styles were important!). If your child is an auditory learner, it’s a good idea to have an audio recorder on hand–these learners often find it quite effective to listen to a recorded lesson or lecture more than once in order to process the information. And, of course, for the kinesthetic learner, keep manipulatives or other types of gadgets in the classroom so they can easily learn with their hands.
Keep up the learning outside of school.
This doesn’t have to involve weekly field trips and outings (though these certainly are an awesome way for kids to learn while taking a break from the classroom). Your child can learn outside the classroom every day, even while doing seemingly “non-educational” activities. For example–if you’re out food shopping, spring a few quick math questions on them, such as, “Which of these three brands of tomato sauce is the best price per ounce?” If you’re baking or cooking or making your own pizza, have your child help you with measurements and fractions. If your student is in the middle of a book, ask them to summarize the plot for you or tell you who their favorite character is and why. At the dinner table, quiz them on a couple things they’ve been learning in school.
Encourage your child’s artistic abilities as well–whether that’s in the form of drawing, painting, sculpting, writing, singing, or playing a musical instrument. Challenge your child to a game of Scrabble, work together on a jigsaw puzzle…the options are endless. And all of these activities emphasize learning while they have fun.
Consider a homeschool co-op.
If you’re looking for an extra element of socialization and support, joining a local homeschool co-op could be perfect for your family. Homeschool co-ops offer so many benefits:
- Socialization: While the whole “homeschool kids don’t socialize” narrative is way overblown, co-ops do provide a convenient way for students (and adults) to make new friends while they learn.
- Education for all: Of course your child will learn–but so will you. As part of a homeschool co-op, you’ll interact with families doing the same thing that you’re doing, and from that you’ll discover new tips, tricks, and methods while creating an important network of sympathetic ears.
- Classroom environment: This is a nice change of pace, as it gives kids an opportunity to sit and learn with fellow students and even listen to other adults who may be doing the instructing. Bonus: there may be adults in your co-op group who are awesome at teaching the subjects you might not be so awesome at.
- Built-in support: Everyone has “those days,” but “those days” are easier to deal with when you have a support system and others who can relate to exactly what you’re going through.
- Time off: Not for your child…for you. Let someone else handle the teaching so you can get things done, work, or just socialize with an adult.
Now you’re ready! Share with us how you prepare for each new school year in the comments below. And here’s to an amazing 2022-23 homeschool year!