The Right Way to Use Worksheets

The Right Way to Use Worksheets

To judge by the interest on the About.com Homeschooling site, worksheets — word search games, quizzes, and other printables — are popular with both homeschoolers and classroom teachers. But are they a good way to help students learn? Here are some pros and cons:

Worksheets are easy to prepare : Just have children turn to the page in their workbooks, or print out a sheet from About.com Homeschooling or other sites.

They’re easy to evaluate:Worksheets usually ask for responses that are either right or wrong, so teachers can grade them by simply checking them against an answer sheet.

They keep kids busy for extended periods: Worksheets are the traditional go-to resource when adults need a way to keep students heads down at their desks. Like television and other electronic devices, they can serve as a babysitter when a parent or teacher needs to step away to deal with other tasks.

How to Give Young Children a Great Start

How to Give Young Children a Great Start

You don’t need a curriculum or flashcards to “prepare” your preschooler or kindergartner for the learning to come. Children are always learning, and what they need most in the early years is open-ended exploration and hands-on activities. There are lots of excellent educational toys, devices, and media aimed at preschoolers, but you can do just as well with classic playthings, everyday objects, and lots of time to explore and observe the rest of the family in their daily tasks. Here are some suggestions for great ways to help your young children learn and grow at home.

It seems like in the U.S., kids are under pressure to begin reading almost as soon as they can talk. Meanwhile, in other parts of the world children don’t begin academics until age seven, and still manage to get a good education. The point of introducing young children to books is not to get them to read earlier, but for the many other wonderful things they can learn. When you read to children — and talk about the things you are reading — they become familiar with the printed page, the structure of traditional stories, and how to use language to create emotion. Picture books also expose young kids to great art and visual storytelling.

Start Your Own Mini Co-op Class

Start Your Own Mini Co-op Class

One way homeschooling parents break up the week and get out of the house is by joining a co-op. A co-op is a group of families that organize their own classes and other activities. Typically, the classes are taught by one of the parents. Some co-ops are highly organized. They publish regular newsletters, collect dues, rent classroom space, and even sometimes hire professional instructors. The most structured of these co-ops are virtually part-time private schools.

But you don’t have to create something as elaborate or expensive to get the benefit of group classes and regular get-togethers. When my kids were younger, we got a group together for occasional short classes that one or another of the parents would volunteer to teach. A mini co-op class can give you and your kids a chance to meet other families and share the learning experience that fits your busy lifestyle.

Pick a subject your family will enjoy.

It can be something you are qualified to teach, or something you would like to learn about too. The best use of a co-op class is something that lends itself to discussion and cooperation. Projects that involve specialized tools or materials are a good choice too, since you can split the cost with the group or make use of what another family can provide.

Invite other families to join you.

Use your local homeschooling networks to find families who want to take part. Decide how big a class you’d like to have, and what range of ages. If you get your group together at the planning stage, you’ll have a better idea of how to carry out the next steps.

Find a teacher.

If you’re not going to teach it yourself, you’ll need to find an instructor. Your first choice can be to ask the families who are interested in participating. Maybe there’s a chef who’s willing to lead a cooking class, or a mechanic who can teach bike repair. Another good resource is hobbyists and retirees in your community. They are often passionate about their subjects, and willing to share their knowledge for free or a small fee.

Try Self-Directed Curriculum, Textbooks, and Workbooks.

Try Self-Directed Curriculum, Textbooks, and Workbooks.

Many materials for home schoolers, including full curriculum packages and workbooks used for review and enrichment, are designed to be used by the student without a teacher’s supervision. The list includes the Life of Fred math series and Barron’s “The Easy Way” series. You can also structure your own projects for your children to carry out. When my children were older, I gave them long-term social studies projects to work on. They had to choose a topic, research it, draw a timeline and a map, write essays and biographies, and create an artistic work related to their topic.

Use an Online Homeschool Program.

Use an Online Home school Program.

Online homeschooling isn’t for everyone, but for some families it can be a lifesaver. If you want structure and accountability, but you don’t want to be the one who has to plan, review and grade every assignment, distance learning programs may be for you. The pros are that other teachers are available to work with your child; the downside is a lot of time spent in front of a screen (and the temptation to check social media instead of doing math). In addition to full-blown homeschooling programs, there are also many popular educational websites homeschoolers can use when they need their children to work on their own.

How to Help Kids Work on Their Own

The typical picture of homeschooling is a parent leaning over a child who is writing in a notebook. But what happens when parents are too busy to hover over their kids all day? Maybe they need to get some housekeeping done, or care for younger siblings. Sometimes it’s because they have to deal with family issues, or work at a paying job, at home or outside. Whatever the reason, it’s not unusual to find homeschooling children doing schoolwork on their own.

Just like schoolkids do in a classroom with one teacher and 30 students. Or when they’re doing their homework. In many homeschooling families older students take charge of their own learning. It’s good practice if they choose to go on to college. But even young children — with the right structure and realistic expectations — can work productively without constant supervision. If you want your children to be able to keep working even when you’re not by their side, you’ve got some options.