Planning Your Homeschool Environment
So you’ve decided to homeschool (or you’re at least strongly considering it), now what??
Trying to figure out your first step can be overwhelming. There is a lot of information out there about curricula and school styles and schedules and activities and organizations and lesson plans and…you get the picture, but finding a clear starting point can be really difficult. While there is no wrong answer as to how you build your homeschool, it can be helpful to have a little direction to get you off on the right foot. (Plus, don’t forget to pick up your FREE Homeschool Environment Planning Worksheet to help you get started…check for the link at the bottom of the post!)
- Decide on at least 1 goal (but no more than 3) for your homeschool. You may have more goals bouncing around in your head but nothing will stress you out faster than trying to focus on all of them at once. These goals will help give you a direction for your homeschool and serve as a foundation for all the choices that lay ahead.
- Your goals can be more general:
- To teach my child according to his/her learning style
- To have a more flexible schedule that encourages my child rather than stifling him/her
- To create a positive learning environment where my child can thrive
- Or more specific to your situation:
- To remove my child from negative influences (like bullies, for example) to help build positive self-esteem and confidence
- To offer my child curriculum that challenges him/her intellectually
- Your goals can be more general:
- Familiarize yourself with different homeschool styles. There are a lot of different homeschool styles out there. You could choose a more traditional, teacher-directed classroom style or you could embrace a less traditional, learner-directed Unschooling approach. Or you could land somewhere else on the spectrum. There is no right or wrong answer here as long as the method you choose allows you to comply with your state’s homeschooling laws and creates the right learning environment for your child. Having an idea of the different options out there will help you as you formulate the kind of homeschool environment you want to create. Here is a FANTASTIC quiz you can take to help you determine your homeschool style. Then check out the information and resources she offers on each of the different styles.
- Figure out your child’s learning style. There are four main learning styles: visual, auditory, read-write and tactile-kinesthetic (sometimes called physical.) Googling learning style quizzes will give you a number of free (and paid) options for assessment. You can get as deep into this as you wish but I advise a simple approach unless you have the time for a more in-depth evaluation. For now, here are some brief descriptions of each learning style and some ways you can tell which one your child gravitates toward. Keep in mind that it’s possible to have combinations of dominant styles! [Note: While there are many different learning style theories, I prefer the VARK (Visual, Aural, Read-Write, and Kinesthetic) method. The VARK website is an excellent source of information about these different learning styles and includes a free, short quiz that you (or your older student) can take.]
- Visual learners learn best by sight. Visual aids and graphic representations help them to process and retain information. A visual learner is typically very spatially aware and can remember things just by seeing them.
- Auditory learners learn best through sound. Lectures, podcasts, and discussions help them to process and retain information. An auditory learner might read aloud or talk to themselves. They may also repeat questions or information they hear.
- Read-Write learners learn best through the written word. Books, handouts, and note-taking help them to process and retain information. A read-write learner will excel in a text-heavy environment and will often use lists and notes to help get organized.
- Tactile-kinesthetic learners learn best by doing. Being physically involved in a lesson through acting out or participating in a hands-on activity helps them to process and retain information. A tactile-kinesthetic learner may be most interested in someone’s real-world experience with a topic or need something to fidget with during a lesson if there is not a physical outlet.
- Now figure out your own learning style! It may come as a surprise to you that the way you learn informs the way you teach. So if you have conflicting learning styles with your child, problems are sure to arise. For example, if you are a read-write learner, you will naturally gravitate toward text-heavy workbook curricula. But if your child is an auditory learner, he/she will grow bored with all the looking and reading you are requiring (no matter how engaging it is.) You will end up feeling ineffective and burnt-out soon after you begin. Note: Should you find yourself with conflicting learning styles, don’t despair! Stay tuned to my blog for the very next post in this series about curriculum! I will have more suggestions and ideas for what you can do.
- Choose a place in your home that will serve as a home base for your schooling activity. Although you can choose to create a dedicated homeschool room, that is not necessary. You may not have the funds, the space, or the time for such an undertaking. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t have a successful homeschool. All you need is a place to store all your homeschool-related items such as curricula and supplies and some sort of table or desk that you and your child can sit at, when necessary, for your lessons. Although we all would like a Pinterest-worthy work space, it is often not a realistic achievement and will end up being a source of stress if you put too much pressure on yourself to accomplish such an endeavor.
- Create some sort of homeschool planner. This can be a calendar, a binder, a notebook, or lesson planning software. Even if you are not the type to plan things out, you will still need a place to record the general direction you want to take with your lessons. Homeschool days and weeks can vary depending on what’s going on in your life so whatever planner you choose, make sure you can edit it easily and quickly. If you’re handwriting it, I definitely recommend a pencil with a large eraser! Creating something too permanent will only end in lots of wasted time and frustration each time life throws you a curveball and you have to change it up…again.
- Compile a list of homeschool resources (both local and online) that can help you along the way. Although you may be tempted to strike out and accomplish your entire homeschooling journey completely on your own, there will likely come a time when you will need help, guidance, or direction. Create a place where you can save a list of resources that is easily accessible and editable. This may be a file on your computer or a list in your homeschool planner. Watch for my post in this series about getting involved with different types homeschool organizations for more information and helpful suggestions on this topic.
This list may feel like a lot to tackle, but don’t worry. Just take it one step at a time and you might be surprised how it can all come together for you. To help make it easy, I have created a free worksheet to help you walk through each step on your own! Click here to download the worksheet now and start creating your own Homeschool Environment Plan!
Also, here is a handy navigation list to all of the posts in The Beginner’s Guide to Homeschooling Series:
- Part One – 9 Reasons to Homeschool
- Part Two – Planning Your Homeschool Environment
- Part Three – The Curriculum Conundrum
- Part Four – Creating Your Homeschool Schedule
- Part Five – Getting Involved with Homeschool Organzations
- Part Six – Expert Advice from 5 Experienced Homeschoolers