“She doesn’t seem to study when she’s in her room.”
“He wants to play video games when he gets home.”
These may not sound like your kids, or your homeschool environment, but they echo the concerns of many parents when it comes to overseeing their student’s academic success.
Maybe you’re not THAT parent, but don’t you ever wonder if you’re doing enough?
Do you wake up every day confident that you’ve got this homeschool thing figured out?
I’ve yet to meet one homeschooling parent that talks like that.
And when it comes to going through high school? Then the homeschooling parents I know REALLY get that scared look in their eyes.
Before you go running away in panic and self-doubt, let me calm your fears by first saying that you’re not alone in this.
As a teacher, I face those fears every day when I look at my students, and, sadly, I sometimes see those fears realized when I talk to their parents.
What I want to do here is to give you some actionable steps that you can take to create a supportive home learning environment for your student.
These are things any parent can do, at any level of learning (the earlier the better).
Some are what I use; others are what my parents used when they taught me; and still others are tips I’ve picked up from others that I thought were pretty good. I’ll try to get around to using them.
In the ‘educationese’ spoken by academics and school administrators this is called “classroom management.” Teachers may refer to it as “riding the whirlwind,” “keeping control,” “keeping kids in line,” or “command and conquest.”
You might just think of some of it as “common sense” or “getting through the day.”
Whatever we call them, these strategies can help build supportive, comfortable, home learning environments.
1. Clean Space.
No matter where you plan to have your student do the bulk of his or her work at home, it has to be clean.
This almost immediately rules out the student’s bedroom, which is just fine since you don’t want them working in there by themselves anyway (more on that in a moment).
If it’s the dining room table, it can’t have anything else on it. If it’s the living room floor there should be no toys, clothes, etc. Why? because cluttered space means a cluttered mind and there are just too many fun distractions lying around.
2. Soft Music
Classical and film music works the best for me. The studies have been done to demonstrate that listening to classical music stimulates brain activity, and helps students focus.
I’ve played Gregorian chants in the background during prayer and meditation in Bible classes, and my cousin (a math teacher) plays classical music during class work.
We’ve both noticed that students relax and focus much more easily. My mom also employed this tactic during my homeschool years, which not only helped us focus, but gave us a deep appreciation for classical music as well.
3. No Tech Within Reach of the Chair
Wait, what? I could say “within arms reach” but in a day of wheeled chairs it’s important to emphasize that computers, tablets, and phones should be out of reach to the student completely.
They should have to get up out of the chair to access these things. Why? First, it promotes movement and physical engagement so they’re not sitting all the way through their school work.
Second, unless they’re required to work with one of these tools for a project or assignment, then the gadget is simply a distraction. On this point, I speak as one guilty of being distracted by easy to reach tech.
4. Specified Use of Tech
If tech is necessary, then a time limit and stated objective should be set.
If it’s research (that’s gloriously open-ended if you’re a student) give the student 30 minutes. After that, require some kind of write-up be done demonstrating research found (maybe 1-3 cited sources with relevant quotes underneath).
This helps the student focus, helps you hold them accountable, and develops efficient research skills (hopefully).
5. Read Outside
I hated doing work at the dining room table all the time! The chairs were uncomfortable and there was nothing interesting to look at if I was tired of reading or writing.
Luckily, my mom was not so hard-nosed that she insisted we only work at the table. Certain work could be done in different places.
We could work at the dining room table, the picnic table, or work stations we had in our built out garage.
Having a few different places where your student can work creates choice, and changing environments can actually enhance learning.
One of the biggest challenges in the traditional classroom is that students are in the same environment all the time. No wonder they get bored!
6. Bedroom is Off Limits
Sometimes I did work in my bedroom, but only when I couldn’t be anywhere else. This is totally a preference thing, but I think allowing a student to do work in their bedroom is a mistake.
First, too many fun distractions.
Second, that bed can be sooooo comfortable.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, it can make the student’s personal space the place they take stressful activity.
Every student get’s stressed over school work at some point, and taking the stress to their personal/private area doesn’t allow for a “safe zone” at home where they can escape. For me, that place wasn’t my bedroom, but my tree house so doing work in the bedroom wasn’t problematic.
7. Short Breaks
Whoever thought that it was a good idea to require students to get all their work done before they could play was stupid.
If you think so, I don’t think you’re stupid, just misinformed by the unknown stupid person previously cited. 🙂
Scientifically, it’s proven: Allowing your brain short breaks to process what has been learned allows it to work more efficiently and start storing information in long term memory.
So break tasks into smaller time chunks. I recommend to parents that their students spend 20-30 minutes on task with 5-8 minute breaks in between. This is especially helpful for students with learning difficulties. They don’t get so easily overwhelmed.
It doesn’t really add that much total time to time spent working (when you consider all the time lost due to distractions, it might actually save time) and it allows more information retention.
You Can Create An Amazing Homeschool Experience
Simple strategies like these can be implemented easily, require no fancy equipment, and can have huge impacts on the quality of work and the overall enjoyment of it.
The best student’s are happy students, not smart ones. (click to tweet)
Happy students desire learning. I’ve seen too many smart students burn out and rebel because they’re too stressed out.
I hope by implementing some mixture of these strategies you can build a home education environment that you can all enjoy.
Action step: Pick one of these strategies that you want to develop/work on and share in the comments below.
I would love to hear the results too!