A positive and nurturing learning environment is an important element regardless of where the child’s education takes place. Here are some practical tips to help homeschoolers provide an atmosphere conducive to learning.
Ask any experienced homeschoolers and they will tell you that one of the most important things you can do for your child is to create a positive home learning environment. As the teacher, you will set the tone for your child’s education at home, and for better or worse, the attitude you bring into the home classroom will affect the way your child learns.
There are a few things that families can do to create an environment that will be beneficial to homeschooled kids.
Set aside a specific space or room for classes
Some children learn better when other people are within their immediate vicinity, while others prefer to study in silence and can be easily distracted by the sounds of daily life in the distance. Some families have a lot of extra space and can set up a room for their homeschooled kids dedicated to learning, while others incorporate their study space in the common area of their home. Consider the size of your available space, as well as the number of children you are homeschooling. Whatever you decide, make sure that the room is orderly, well-lit, comfortable and free or distractions, such as games and gadgets, which can impede learning. The home classroom shouldn’t be an extension of the playroom, however, there are ways to make it fun, such as by decorating it to suit the personalities of your children.
Maintain a positive attitude
Moods and attitudes can be contagious, so it’s important that you set aside any negativity – whether it’s impatience, tension or anger – before you enter your home classroom. Children are very perceptive and can easily pick up on your attitudes and get their cues from you.
Establish practical, realistic daily goals
It’s easy to fall into a pattern of nagging with our kids: “Don’t forget to read your book!”, or “Don’t procrastinate on your word problems!”. In order to avoid this, you can start by creating a reasonable schedule that your student can follow each day. Establish 3 to 5 positive, practical and realistic goals for your children, and make sure to communicate them clearly. For example, you might tell them to complete their math worksheets within 30 minutes, or read 2 chapters before the end of the school day. This way, you are helping your kids work towards achieving their goals and guiding them as they set their daily goals.
TIP: While goals should be challenging, placing unrealistic expectations on them can leave your children feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. Remember to set SMART goals: S-pecific, M-easurable, A-ttainable, R-ealistic, T-imely.
Acknowledge your student’s efforts and daily successes and encourage them when they face difficulties
There will be days when your child seems to find no difficulty in the lessons which will make it easy to identify their successes. Inevitably, however, there will be days when he or she struggles and it’s in these times that it will fall on you to help them with words of encouragement.
TIP: Carol Dweck, the Stanford professor responsible for researching, introducing and explaining the growth mindset released results showing that children who are praised for being ‘smart’ fixate on performance and shy away from taking risks for fear of failure. On the other hand, kids whose efforts are praised tend to try harder and persevere with tasks longer. However, steer clear of offering empty praise for just trying.
As an alternative to praising end results (such as good grades or winning a competition), we should offer genuine praise for their efforts (e.g. “You had a hard time with that topic in the beginning but you persisted and now you’ve got it”). Instead of offering generic compliments (“You are such a good girl”), we should offer specific praise (e.g., “It was very nice of you to clean your room without being asked”) and focus on the behavior rather than the person.
Carol Dweck asserts that people with performance goals think intelligence is fixed from birth, whereas people with learning goals have a growth mindset and believe intelligence can be developed.
Teach your children to overcome challenges
It’s natural for parents to want to protect their kids and shield them from disappointment. However, it is more essential that our kids learn that everyone struggles occasionally and that the important thing is to keep trying. Failure is a part of life and overcoming hurdles will help them to develop qualities, such as patience and perseverance, that they will need in life. You can help them by providing guidance, encouragement and support, but you should allow them to work through their problems on their own, instead of solving their problems for them.
TIP: Remember that our children follow the examples we set with our actions, so we must also show them how we learn from our mistakes and take the initiative when dealing with our problems.