One of the most relevant pieces of advice I have heard from veteran homeschoolers is don’t try to duplicate school at home. As a new homeschooler five years ago, I didn’t know exactly what other moms meant when they issued this warning, but I soon learned.
I grew up in public school, and my own kids started out there. The public school classroom was the only model of elementary education I had to work from, and while it may be the acceptable standard for simultaneously teaching 20 or more children of the same grade level, it’s not the ideal for most homeschooling families.
Streamline your schedule
Many new homeschoolers mistakenly believe they need to replicate the public school schedule at home, starting promptly at 8:00 am, taking scheduled breaks, and ending the day around 2:30 in the afternoon. But what they don’t realize is that much of the standard school day is wasted in inefficiency.
Homeschoolers don’t have to stand in line to get lunch, or to travel to the library, or to go to the restroom. They don’t have to wait quietly until the rest of the class finishes working before moving on to the next lesson. And they can generally begin and end the day whenever they want, taking breaks as needed, and wrapping up school when the day’s lessons are complete.
Be flexible with seating
I actually had a couple of classroom desks given to me when my kids started homeschooling, and for just a minute, I thought about using them. But then I remembered how terribly uncomfortable those wooden and metal desks were, and how much I would have rather sat at a real table where I could spread out my work, or curled up on the couch to read.
So, that’s how we arranged our space at home. I brought in a dining table and we sat on cushioned chairs, or on bean bags in the floor, or curled up on the couch. Sometimes a table is necessary for writing and math, but other times our family does school wherever we’re most comfortable.
Avoid classroom clutter
I’ve seen photos of some pretty amazing homeschool work spaces. And then, I have seen spaces that made me cringe with all the displays and bulletin boards and hanging folders and more, more, more. According to recent research, too much classroom clutter is distracting to children, and kids in a room that’s too packed with displays spend 10 percent more time off task, and perform about significantly worse on tests.
The room we use for school has just a few things on the walls. I hung giant maps of the United States and the world, which we use frequently for reference. I also hung up a dry erase board, a calendar and a couple of posters in the corner to help my youngest memorize math facts and such. Any more than that would make the room seem too busy to me.
Besides, we need the extra space for books. That’s another great piece of homeschooling advice; you can never have too many books.
More by Tavia:
Six Ways Grandparents Can Help Homeschool Their Grandkids
Why Virtual Public School is Not Really Homeschool
Just How Do Homeschool Kids Socialize, Anyway?