How to start homeschooling: A guide for beginners

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Although homeschooling is a permanent reality for many families around the globe, for some, a pivot to at-home education is a little more ad hoc. Health or other unforeseen factors may keep your child at home for their schooling and if it does, it pays to be prepared so they skip none of the necessary elements that inform the all-important educational environment.

From gathering the correct tools to finding places for back-up resources, consider this your ultimate guide to homeschooling.

Get your child set up

Certainly, the first week will be one of the most challenging parts of your homeschooling journey; like any new venture, there are a host of practicalities that are important to establish before impactful work can be undertaken.

Your child’s school likely has—or is looking to set up—a Learning Management System (LMS) set up for content hosting and submission materials, the first step is to make certain your child has access to these resources. This could be as simple as establishing a comfortable desk and workspace, before recording all logins and checking accessibility to all necessary programs. Additionally, check that there are resources for each class and subject in relevant places—if they’re not immediately available, confirm with your child’s teacher as to whether you should be providing these.

In terms of basics, your child will need:

  • A reliable internet connection
  • A webcam and microphone (likely built into desktop and laptop screens) for video conferencing
  • A supportive, comfortable chair and a thoughtful workspace, including easy access to pens, paper, and space for their books and resources.

As time goes on, you can customize this space according to your child’s needs; do they need a large, colorful calendar to help them keep track of upcoming assignments? Do they benefit from having reminders or prompts of important educational concepts spread around the room? Do they prefer working with pen and paper at the kitchen table and completing written work on their computer in the study? Try to use the first week as a grounding exercise for what routines suit you and your child and then work to implement them from here on in.

Trying to find a way to integrate your child’s subject matter into the world around them? Try using one of Canva’s bright and colorful templates to reinforce knowledge, from the fridge to their bedroom such as Bold Show Your True Colors Poster or Colorful Paint Brush Strokes Fun Nursery Sign Poster.

Get yourself set up

Although it’s likely your child still has access to a number of resources ranging from online lectures and classes to study notes hosted on a shared drive with their school, it’s important that you as the parent are prepared to support your child’s learning in whatever capacity might be necessary.

This doesn’t mean you necessarily need to start unloading your closet to dig out your old algebra notes, but it does mean that familiarizing yourself with your children’s curriculum and finding a few additional resources to supplement anything that’s unclear or may need some clarification. It’s helpful to remember that you’re not the teacher but a kind of teacher's assistant, keeping them focused, on track and making yourself available for help when needed. You’re not required to have all the answers but you can make a concerted effort to have access to a few things on hand where you might be able to find them.

Image by Annie Spratt via Unsplash. 

Check in with the relevant governmental board where your child’s curriculum is hosted and have a good read of what is expected of them throughout the semester. If there’s anything you wouldn’t feel comfortable assisting them through if they ask for help, find some fail-safe online resources that your child can refer to (as can you) that boosts both of your learning. Institutions such as the friendly and approachable Khan Academy, Ted’s wonderful educational extension Ted-ED, the Smithsonian Museum’s extensive, fascinating Learning Lab, the comprehensive Open Culture, the always enlightening National Geographic Kids and the informative BBC Bitesize are great places to start (and return to) for a wide range of subject matters. They’re free, reliable and easily accessible.

Canva has an extensive range of templates to boost learning, with everything from creative prompts for budding book reviewers such as Colorful Fun Stripes Primary School Book Review Worksheet to worksheets for kids who like their mathematics with a side of fun - this is where Green White Math Games Addition Worksheet comes in.

Another corner you can channel your efforts into is familiarizing yourself with the distance learning tools your child’s school might be employing. Are synchronous classes being broadcast over Zoom? Try out a conference call for yourself. Are kids communicating with teachers via Slack? Send a few messages to your child to understand how it works. Will documents, assignments, and submissions be hosted on a shared Google Drive? Get to know this system - and all others - so you can help your child troubleshoot technical issues if problems arise.

Maintain continuity

Have you made the switch to working from home? You can apply a similar approach to homeschooling. Although the physical classroom has temporarily disappeared, the foundations of the schooling experience still remain somewhat fundamentally in place; your child will spend a number of hours a day immersed in knowledge, with a view to completing certain tasks to fulfill curriculum outcomes. As much as possible, it’s a good idea to maintain as much continuity as possible to support your child’s journey and minimize disruption.

This could be as obvious as enforcing the same school hours, to making sure your child dresses for school (not necessarily in a uniform but certainly out of pyjamas) and that socializing with friends - over Zoom, Skype, FaceTime or instant messaging services - remains restricted to the hours allotted within the school day that naturally facilitate this, such as recess, lunch and of course, once the day has ceased.

Image by Green Chameleon via Unsplash. 

Another helpful way to maintain the structure of the school day is to allow for regular breaks. The school day is broken up into pieces with natural breaks either between formalized classes or, for younger children, between subjects so encourage your child to do the same. Remind them to get up and walk around, have a stretch and then dive into something different to keep them focused.

Keep yourself abreast of your child’s schedule by recording it together on a template such as Canva’s Blue Simple Class Schedule or Dark Blue & Cream Bordered Class Schedule.

Allow time for socialization

School isn’t just a place for learning about what’s between the book covers—it’s also about healthy, constructive socialization. These skills stick with your kids for life and no matter the reason they’re being homeschooled, it’s imperative that socialization is as much a part of their day as they work on their to-do list. Give your children a realistic amount of space and privacy to pursue their friendships digitally and virtually—it could mean scheduling in 15-minutes of time before dinner where they can head to their room and phone a friend. Don’t let your child make the rules here, however; just as in school, they’re beholden to certain rules where their behavior doesn’t interfere with their learning and although you’re not their teacher, you’re one of the current custodians of their education - make peace with having to bring them back in line a little when there is school work that needs to be completed.

Keep contact with the school

In any instance of homeschooling, keeping easy, open contact with the people most involved in your child’s schooling is imperative, both to your child’s success and to your mental health. If there’s anything either of you is unsure about, you’ll need someone to confirm what’s in line with school policy and also with the subject direction. An email address should suffice for contact with subject leaders and department heads, where you can confirm anything you’re unsure of at any part of the homeschooling journey.

Remember the importance of offline learning

Certainly, you want your child to succeed in their schooling but that doesn’t mean it’s all about being stuck in front of a computer all day. On the contrary; your child’s schoolwork and mental health is likely to suffer if there’s a distinct lack of variety and a too-strict adherence to computer-focused learning. Try to remember that learning isn’t just what happens in a book or in a classroom and therefore, you need to support this learning too. Allow plenty of time in your child’s day for deep, explorative learning and discovery; both supervised and unsupervised. Encourage them to dig in the garden, dance to their favorite songs after dinner or whatever age-appropriate hobby or pastime they find to be their passion. Although their home has temporarily become a classroom too, you need to allow for the space for their home life, too.

Why not remind your child when it’s time to work and time to play? Stick a schedule, using Canva templates such as Blue and Pink Simple Pattern Class Schedule or Blue and White Simple Class Schedule on their desk and the fridge so they have specific times dedicated to less restrictive activities. 

Looking to build a creative, collaborative class? Try Canva for Education today.

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