Teaching Tips and Tricks from a Former Teacher

Wow!  Our lives have all changed so profoundly in such a short time that it’s hard to process it all.  One of the biggest changes affecting many of us is school closures. There are so many parents out there with no training or background in education that are suddenly responsible for their childrens’ schooling.  But I’ve got good news: you can be a great homeschool teacher! No one knows your kiddo better than you, and you’ve got all the motivation to see them succeed. Okay, it is going to be challenging, but it is NOT impossible. As a former classroom teacher, I’ve compiled tips and tricks of the trade you can apply to be the ultimate homeschool hero.  But before you read any further, note one very important thing: your kids aren’t likely to remember your perfectly organized lesson planning; what they will remember is the love and comfort they felt from you.  

  1.  Trust in yourself.  First and foremost, you must embody confidence.  If you’re not confident in your skills, then your child won’t be either.  Guess what? You’re already their teacher. You taught them to eat, walk, talk, brush their teeth, potty, get dressed, use manners, and on and on.  You were their first and most important teacher, and you have got this.
  2. Utilize your resources and ASK FOR HELP.  Okay, so I know I just said, “you got this,” you were made to be their teacher.  But that doesn’t mean that you won’t need help along the way. If you’re having problems in a specific area of curriculum, reach out to their school teacher and ask for help, for additional resources, for a one-on-one FaceTime tutorial.  Take it from a former teacher, they won’t mind; they want your child to succeed too!
  3. Plan and schedule.  Take the time to plan out what their school schedule will look like ahead of time, to ultimately save time down the road.  This is especially critical for parents who have demanding work from home schedules and/or multiple kids in multiple grade levels.  Create a detailed schedule, but use it as a draft. In other words, don’t feel like everything has to be timed to the second, but set expectations for what will be done and in what order for each school day.  Also know that schedules might need to change from day to day, and that is more than okay.    
  4. Use a reward system.  ALL teachers do it!  This isn’t bribery; it’s motivation.  As adults, we work hard to keep our jobs and work harder in hopes of promotion.  Why should it be different for our kids? Sure, a good grade is a great intrinsic motivator, but it’s the extrinsic motivators that can pump a little extra effort out of a listless learner.  Rewards can range anywhere from a pizza party or an extra 10 minutes of recess to stickers and stamps.
  5. Help your child manage emotions.  Frustration is a natural part of the learning process.  And as frustrated as a student will get around their teacher, they’re even more likely to get frustrated when that teacher is also their parent.  My favorite go-to for managing frustration is with an anchor chart (teacher speak for a poster we keep on the wall for extended periods of time). “The Struggle is Real” poster stays up to remind our students that it is not only okay to struggle, and that we all do, but also how to keep our calm when it inevitably happens.  This one is so important, that I’m compelled to give all the anchor chart details:

What is “struggle time”? --when you get stuck, when real learning happens, when the teacher isn’t helping

What do you do when you struggle? --stay calm and be positive, look ahead to the next problem, do one part at a time, use resources, ask for help

What do you NOT do when you struggle? --pout or cry, run away, just sit there

I know it seems simple, but trust me when I say that this works at every grade level (I personally used it in high school).

6.  Set clear behavior expectations.  Because your child is learning in an       environment that they are used to mostly playing, eating, and sleeping in, they may need you to tell them how you expect them to act and behave.  For example, you can designate a room or even just a table to be the “classroom,” and clearly communicate how they should behave when they are in “class.” This is another great opportunity for the beloved anchor chart.  Decide what the classroom rules are, write them down, display them so they are clear, and use motivators and rewards to positively encourage productive behavior.  

Finally and maybe most importantly, know that everyday is going to look different.  You will have some great days, some terrible days, and some so-so days in between. Just remember that young minds are built to learn, to explore, and to challenge.  As long as those three things are happening everyday, you’re doing it, you’re teaching. And your kids will one day look back at this time in their lives and know how lucky they were to have a parent like you.  Keep up the good work!