A ‘how to’ guide for parents out there trying to survive the Coronavirus Pandemic.
I’m pretty sure that in this time and day, you never thought you would have to end up googling guides on “How to Homeschool your Kids.” But due to the Covid-19 pandemic, parents from all parts of the world have had to adapt to their children’s new modes of learning. Some have had to take second jobs —yes, that’s the only way to describe homeschooling— whereas others are luckier to just help out with remote learning.
Out of this new way of life, you have probably come to understand how difficult it is having to become a teacher (and at times an expert child psychologist) all in one without having any background knowledge. In fact, by the end of this process, some of you may be able to add ‘teacher’ and ‘child psychologist’ to your resumes.
Additionally, you’ve probably even learned to appreciate and admire your children’s previous teachers, in a way you never thought you would. Who would’ve known that having to homeschool your kid would be just as hard as teaching rocket science?
If you have already investigated your state’s homeschooling requirements, and have already embarked on a parent-child teaching journey, then this article is just for you. We’ve compiled 5 psychological strategies on how to homeschool your kids, that will make teaching a lot easier. Especially to those children that have a strong resistance towards school and learning in general.
Steps on how to homeschool your kids
Step # 1: Make sure you establish a structured homeschool schedule —and stick to it.
Talk to your child. Let him have a say on the schedule that would make him feel comfortable (as long as you’re available, of course). This action alone makes him feel respected, and a child that feels respected is a child that will be respectful and empathetic towards others —in this case,you. Specifically during this “homeschool time.”
At the same time, it is beneficial to provide a structured environment for two other reasons:
- Being able to predict when will be “study time” helps children mentally prepare for this. It gives them a sense of security. Simply knowing when something is going to happen gives children a sense of control, especially when it comes to managing their own spare time.
- Having a familiar routine translates into better behavior. A consistent schedule teaches them about boundaries and therefore helps the child develop self-discipline.
On the same note, know that there are recommended homeschooling hours for each grade level.
Step #2. Become very aware and attentive to your child’s responses and reactions.
You can easily compare teaching to dancing. Good dancers merge with their dance partners. They respond intuitively to every dance movement. This is why teaching, like dancing, is considered an art, a devotion.
To have a significant teaching moment, a teacher has to adapt to the child’s personality and needs. That being said, effective teaching is a combination of psychological and teaching tools.
So, to secure this connection ask yourself the following questions during your instruction:
What keeps your child engaged?
Is it kinesthetic, auditory, or visual activities?
You can adapt assignments into your child’s mode of learning. Pay attention to the types of activities that keep your child motivated.
Also, you can try to motivate your child by allowing him to pick specific academic content, like the types of books he can read. The freedom to choose can make a huge difference when it comes to learning.
I remember a specific child I worked with, George. He had a huge resistance to reading. While working with him I used numerous amount of “fun” reading activities, with the purpose of motivating him into making an effort, but nothing really worked. As a last resource, I started using graphic novels. The Amulet Series did the trick. He immediately became passionate about reading. This is how I had an impact on his intrinsic motivation. Sometimes it’s all about appealing to your child’s interest.
A child that is having fun while learning, is a child that will internalize this knowledge in a much more significant way.
Something else you need to be aware is:
What makes your child fidgety?
This usually means anxiety, and a child that feels anxious or pressured is a child that will not retain the information taught.
If your child becomes too fidgety during a specific activity, then it’s time to teach it differently. (And for you to take a deep breath and count to 10… or a 100).
Or just change activities. You can give him a small break, and even use it as positive reinforcement. (We’ll talk more about positive reinforcement in just a sec.)
If your child, on the other hand, enjoys talking and expressing himself and tends to interrupt activities to recall anecdotes, then listen to him. These “small breaks” strengthens the parent/teacher-son/student connection. This connection will secure your child’s motivation, which is crucial for any learning process to take place swiftly.
Also, make sure you pay attention to your child’s emotions, so:
How is your child feeling at the moment?
If your child is feeling upset or is crying over something you consider to be stupid, trust me when I say the following: it’s not!
If your child is telling you they’re hurt, don’t contradict them. Just lend them an ear; listen to them. Don’t tell them there’s no reason to feel hurt just because you wouldn’t feel hurt. It can be very painful for a child not to feel his parents’ support. You can’t expect empathy from your child if you’re not empathic yourself.
So, make sure you address your child’s feelings before continuing school work. If you don’t, it will be very difficult for your child to learn anything. So talk about their emotions, and tell them it’s ok to have these emotions and that you’ll always be there for him if he wants to talk. This is a great opportunity to teach your child how to be in touch with their emotions and how to handle them properly. Once children cry or express what’s bothering them, they become much more open to learning.
How long is your child’s attention span?
It should be 3-5 minutes per age. For example, if your child is 5, then his attention’ span won’t be greater than 25 minutes.
Children that cannot retain their attention for long may be because of strong emotional disturbances, or perhaps because of a neurological disorder. Or perhaps your child is simply demotivated and/or bored. Think about other activities he enjoys to determine if he is able to remain focused for a long period of time.
Talk to a specialist if you suspect that your child struggles to concentrate.
Step #3. Self-efficacy is everything!
Self-efficacy is probably the most important factor when it comes to acquiring new knowledge. If your child has no self-efficacy, then there’s no hope. There’s not even a dim light at the end of the tunnel. That’s why improving self-efficacy should always be the number 1 goal.
So, what is self-efficacy?
Self-efficacy was first defined by Albert Bandura in 1977. He defined it as “the belief in one’s capabilities to execute courses of action required to deal with specific situations.” In much simpler words: Self-efficacy is your self-esteem regarding your abilities. In this case, learning.
So here’s the thing: children with very low self-efficacy understand that they won’t be able to learn anything, so they don’t even try. They feel inferior, useless, and hopeless. They lack motivation. The worst part is that most of these children are more than capable to acquire new knowledge with just some effort. It’s just that once this thought has taken ground, it becomes almost impossible to break free from it.
On the other hand, children with high self-efficacy tend to be strongly determined to work hard and achieve things. It doesn’t matter how high your IQ is, or what your intellectual abilities are. If you have self-efficacy, the sky becomes the limit.
In my teaching experience, I’ve become amazed to witness how many children with Low IQs have been able to outrank children with much higher IQs, just because they believed in themselves. This means that:
Academic achievement strongly depends on how high your self-efficacy is.
So what can I do to improve my children’s self-efficacy?
Just two things: metacognition and positive reinforcement.
Step #4. The use of metacognition
Being metacognitive means being aware of your knowledge. It is knowing what you’re an expert on, as well as knowing what needs some conscious effort to become better. Studies on metacognition go way back to Aristoteles. However, this term was officially coined in 1979 by Jhon Flavell.
While self-awareness may be the building block for becoming an expert in recognizing your emotions, metacognition may be easily seen as the building block for becoming an expert in recognizing your learning abilities. It’s all about being able to look into your thinking process.
Why is it so important to become metacognitive?
Once children know what they know, they’ll feel on top of the world. When you use metacognitive strategies in your teaching, you’re emphasizing on their strengths, and that’s a way of becoming confident (or self-efficacious) in their learning.
You should also pinpoint areas that need work in a very subtle and nonchalant way, “I noticed that you struggled to read long words, a cool way you could read them is by chunking them.”
This is a way of drawing their attention to what needs extra work, and at the same time, providing them with a strategy. Making them aware of what they haven’t conquered yet, will go straight into their unconscious, and every time they encounter this difficulty they’ll have a strategy “up their sleeve”.
Step #5. The use of positive reinforcement
To positively reinforce someone means to use positive words after a desired behavior with the purpose of fortifying this behavior or attitude. I like to combine positive reinforcement with metacognitive praises. Something like: “I love it when you double check your work just to make sure you got it right.” In that sense you kill two birds with one stone. ?
There are many ways you can use positive comments that emphasize on a learning task. Instead of saying, “Great job!”, you can say “That’s a very cool learning trick you pulled out! Where did you learn it?” or “I’m amazed at how fast you learned these sight words.” These types of comments will make your child feel valued and he/she will keep trying to impress you with these “newfound” capacities. You are not only reinforcing your child; you are also strengthening a learning strategy subtly.
On another hand, it’s never a good idea to “overdose” a child with positive reinforcement.
I’m sure that if you bomb your child with extra positivity it will NOT sound genuine and authentic. Nonetheless, there are some children, and well, most of the children I’ve worked with, that have such low levels of self-efficacy and motivation that they do need the extra boost. How to spot them? Well, they’ll strongly refuse to do absolutely anything.
For these specific cases, I use a reward chart. Take notice: the reward is not going to achieve anything on its own. It’s important to use spontaneous, genuine, authentic, and above all very specific words with these rewards. Because the idea is not the reward per se. The importance is the meaning behind the reward. The goal is to make them feel empowered.
It’s not about controlling or bribing. It’s about pointing out a job well done.
So how do you use these reward charts?
First of all, positive reinforcement must be immediate. This is why reward charts are so effective. Using a sticker along with a positive comment every time an expected behavior is elicited can make wonders.
Secondly, it’s important to administer the right amount of stickers and rewards. Even in these extreme cases. Excessive positive reinforcement can hurt intrinsic motivation. This is called the overjustification effect.
Once you observe an increase in self-efficacy and motivation, it’s time to reduce the amount of immediate reinforcement (stickers and words of acknowledgment) given per session. It may take a few days or a couple of weeks. Just be observant.
On another note…
The idea of positive reinforcement is to implicitly state that you believe in your child. I recommend trying to keep a positive mindset when working with your child. If you don’t believe the words you’re saying, it’ll be very hard for them to believe you. But, if they perceive that you truly believe in them, they’ll start believing in themselves as well. Achieving this is like finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. You’ll eventually see how their attitudes change; little by little.
Positive reinforcement makes children feel capable and invincible. This sensation makes them determined to achieve learning goals.
To sum up: parents have the power to build up their children. Let’s take the notorious American inventor, Thomas Edison as an example. He was homeschooled by his mother after “failing” in school. During an interview in 1907, Edison explained how his mother made him who he was.
One day I overheard the teacher tell the inspector that I was “addled” and it would not be worthwhile keeping me in school any longer. I was so hurt by this last straw that I burst out crying and went home and told my mother about it. Then I found out what a good thing a good mother is. She came out as my strong defender. Mother love was aroused, mother pride wounded to the quick. She brought me back to the school and angrily told the teacher that he didn’t know what he was talking about, that I had more brains than he, and a lot more talk like that. In fact, she was the most enthusiastic champion a boy ever had, and I determined right then that I would be worthy of her and show her that her confidence was not misplaced.
Without realizing it, his mother positively impacted on his motivation just because she believed in him. In this case, it’s extrinsic because he was determined to make her proud. But either way, she basically edified him into the person he became. You can do that for your child.
Love edifies children too.
Love is probably the best reinforcement for motivating a child. In my experience, I have noticed that children that come from functional families tend to have a lot better concentration and motivation when it comes to learning. Conversely, children that do not have a healthy relationship with their parents, tend to be moody, distraught, and above all, defensive and undisciplined.
One day I was working with one of my students, Alice. She had been very moody for the last couple of days. I could tell that something wasn’t right and that she wasn’t feeling her usual self. We tend to talk about her emotions whenever she is feeling low, and this usually helps, but not that day. She wasn’t into it. So I decided on a different approach. I genuinely felt love and compassion towards her and I expressed it naturally. A simple, “You know what Alice? I love you. I just like your personality a lot,” changed everything. These simple, yet genuine and authentic words shifted her mood. So, yes, I truly believe in the power of love.
When you homeschool your kids look at these teaching sessions as bonding opportunities. It might exceed the stipulated teaching time, but just remember that it takes time to do things well done. Look at it this way. 50 % of the sessions will be about connecting with your child and making them feel loved. The other 50 will be about teaching academic concepts. If you want to have effective teaching sessions, then it is very important to combine both. It’s about unifying the emotional side with the intellectual side. That’s the perfect recipe for acquiring emotional intelligence.
Learning how to homeschool your kids will also help you keep a positive mindset along the way. Remember that focusing on your children’s strengths, and being supportive of them, will help you build up strong and emotionally stable children. If you’re interested in achieving this, read more about Raising Emotionally Intelligent Children.
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How to reference this article
Pelaez.S (2020). How to homeschool your kids PsycheSpot https://www.psychespot.com/parenting-awareness/how-to-homeschool-your-kids/
APA style references
Bandura, A. (1982). Self-efficacy mechanism in human agency. American psychologist, 37(2), 122.
Flavell, J. H. (1979). Metacognition and cognitive monitoring: A new area of cognitive–developmental inquiry. American psychologist, 34(10), 906.
Kasprak.A (2020). Did Thomas Edisons mom lied about a letter expelling her son from school? Snopes https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/thomas-edisons-mom-lied-about-a-letter-expelling-her-son-from-school/
Rhode, G., Jenson, W., & Reavis, H. (2011). The tough kid book (2nd ed.). Oregon: Pacific Northwest Publishing.
The link to the book above is an Amazon affiliate link which means I may earn a small commission if you purchase this item through my link. This is at no additional cost to you