For many families across the U.S., a house has become more than a place to eat, sleep, play and grow; it’s become the place they also get their education. When you decide to home school your children, you’re not just deciding to become the teacher, you’re also deciding to turn your home into a classroom, cafeteria, gym, art room, theater and principal’s office. While that can seem overwhelming, setting your house up for home-schooling success doesn’t have to be stressful or expensive. Here, we share advice from real home-schooling moms on how to prepare to teach your children at home.
Low-rated school districts, crowded classrooms, toxic cliques and kids asking to be taught at home are some of the common reasons parents decided to home-school their children in the past. In recent years, safety concerns have become an issue for parents as well, causing some to turn to home-schooling options to ease their concerns.
“A few things contributed to the decision to home-school our kids,” says Brandy Marter, a home-schooling mom of three who shares her teaching adventures and tips on Instagram. “One of the main reasons for me was the ability to cater to each of my children's learning styles and needs. I am able to pay attention to what they are passionate about and then take the extra time in areas of struggle as needed. Some of the other main reasons were more control of their environment both academically and socially, more unstructured learning opportunities, more social interaction outside of a classroom, and safety concerns.”
“We did public kindergarten with my oldest in a part of the country with a terrific public school system, then moved to a state that rated near the bottom of the U.S.,” says Dana Wilson, creator of Train up a Child Publishing, a home school curriculum and resources publisher. “We were very unhappy with public first grade, so we tried private school in second grade. It was really cliquey – even in second grade! So when my daughter asked to home school the next year for third grade, we agreed. She happily home-schooled through high school, along with her younger brother, who home-schooled from Kindergarten through high school.”
Pros And Cons Of Home Schooling
With her children now in their adult years, Wilson can look at the impact home-schooling has had on her family. “During our home school years, our family grew much closer. My kids are now 30 and 27. Both are married and are still best of friends,” she says of her children, who both went on to earn doctoral degrees. “Additionally, we were able to mentor as well as teach our kids, and are grateful they share our values. [My kids] are well-educated and just good people.”
Marter, who is in the thick of home-schooling her children, experiences the advantages every day. “Some of the benefits of home-schooling have been the ability to create a structured school week that works best for our family,” she says. “This allows me and my partner to work from home while being able to school our children together and around our work schedules. The flexibility of home-schooling is a huge benefit. We are able to travel more and take learning outside when the weather is nice. And we can create a lesson in just about any place or situation, allowing the 'classroom' to extend to way beyond the walls of a building. Plus, we get quite a few pajama days.”
While growing closer as a family and extra pajama days are great benefits for both parents and kids, Marter points out one drawback that many parents and public school teachers alike experience: burnout. “One of the challenges I've had as a home-schooling mom is always being home with my kids. It can be a quick road to becoming burned out if you don't take the time to refill your own cup, so to speak,” she warns, quickly offering a couple of remedies that help. “Making sure to stay organized and keeping a basic daily routine all help our family stay on track and overcome daily home-schooling obstacles.”
Choosing The Right Home Schooling Space
To help overcome these and other challenges, you’ll want to set up your home for success. That includes getting the right supplies and equipment and having some sort of space dedicated to your home schooling needs. While most parents say that home-schooling happens all over the home – and outside of it – they do agree that it helps to have somewhere to hold your stuff and have a designated area for many of the school days. This helps keep the home free of clutter and helps kids know where to go for supplies.
“We were fortunate enough to have a finished room over the garage that we turned into an office and schoolroom. We used it more when our children were smaller,” says Wilson. “It was a place that could contain ongoing projects and be a little messier than we wanted to keep the rest of the house. We kept most of our books and school supplies in there and just shut the door when we were done for the day.”
When choosing this type of space, make sure it is comfortable, accessible and meets your child’s learning needs.
“When choosing a home schooling space, I would recommend finding a space with good lighting, lots of surface space to work on and room to be able to move between the children,” recommends Marter. “Our personal home-schooling space is a designated office area. The area includes a desk, kids chairs, easy-access bookshelves and a cupboard of organized supplies. We typically label things to make it easier to find items and clean up after using.”
While Marter has a dedicated space, a lot of the teaching goes on throughout the home, especially in the kitchen.
“Most of the time we teach at our kitchen table, family-style,” says Marter. “It's easy to navigate around them, the surface area to work on is large and easy to clean and the lighting is ideal. You definitely don't need a designated home-schooling room to get the job done.”
Wilson agrees. “Learning takes place everywhere. You can use whatever area you have in the house.” And if you do decide to home school around the home, Wilson has a couple of suggestions: “Keeping books and supplies in portable file boxes or baskets is easy to [move from one room to another] and cuts down on clutter. A simple 6-foot craft table on trestles is portable and inexpensive, too.”
Home School Supplies And Equipment
Wherever you decide to teach your kids in your home, there are a few items you’ll need to help your children succeed.
One of the most important things you need when it comes to home-schooling is a reliable curriculum. You can’t just wing your child’s education, so make sure you have a plan for what you’re going to teach and how. It’s important to remember that you’ll need to choose a curriculum that covers certain subjects that are required by your state. Check out the Home School Legal Defense Association for more information on home school laws that apply in your state.
If you’re teaching more than one child in your home, Wilson suggests finding a curriculum that allows you to teach the same subjects at different, appropriate levels. “You don't need a new curriculum every year for every subject for each of your children,” she says. “Often, you can teach [different subjects] together with all of your children. For example, you may all study the same historical period at one time with all of your children but have them each read books and do assignments at their own level.”
Along with the curriculum, here are some other must-have items for your home classroom:
· General school/office supplies
· Educational games and puzzles
· Crafting supplies
· Supply boxes
· Pencil sharpener
· A shared computer and printer
· Library card
· Teacher’s planner
These items won’t make or break your home school success, but parents agree that they would be nice to have for making it a little easier.
· A large whiteboard
· Plenty of wall space to hang artwork and educational materials
· An all-in-one copier and printer
· Laptops for each child
Setting Up A Home School Space On A Budget
Must-haves don’t just include supplies. It’s also important to commit to home school – even when it gets tough. Of course, you also need to have a budget set for your school year. When creating your budget, consider costs for the following:
· Occasional field trips
· Tutors or instructors for lessons you cannot teach yourself, including music and foreign language
When it comes to supplies, don’t go overboard buying the latest and greatest or, even worse, something you can find for free. “Any of the extra fancy stuff isn't necessary,” says Marter. “Any needs outside of your everyday supplies can most likely be met at your local library for free or very inexpensively.”
Along with using your local library, Marter has a few other suggestions for building a home school space on a budget. “I would start by designating a small space that you could build on,” she says. “I would then assemble a small tote that is easily accessible in that space for the child. It should include the supplies your kids will need for class. To really make the space feel welcoming, add some simple string to a wall to display your child's artwork and previous lessons. It doesn't have to cost a lot to make a nice space to learn in.”
If you’re thinking of home-schooling your child and need more space to do it, Rocket HomesSM can help you find a home that’s perfect for living and learning.