Have you been asked to teach a homeschool enrichment class? This can be a daunting task, especially for the first-timer.
Teaching homeschool students is much like teaching in a traditional (4-wall) classroom, but there are many differences as well. Use the below outline to make the process smooth and to save your sanity.
Deciding What to Teach
One of the biggest determinations you’ll need to make before teaching an homeschool class is what you are going to teach. You may be asked to teach something specific (which will save you the hassle of figuring it out yourself), or you may be given an open-ended opportunity.
Determine whether your class is going to be an “academic” class, or a true “enrichment” class. Oftentimes homeschool parents feel that they have the “academics” down but want their child to meet other kids and learn from another teacher. This isn’t always the case, however. Some homeschool parents feel deficient in a certain academic area and sign their kids up for an enrichment class (or co-op opportunities) to fill in these deficiencies.
Whenever possible, choose a subject area (academic or not) that you are passionate about and that comes easily to you. This will save you a lot of time and frustration later on.
Even if you choose an academic subject, start brainstorming ways you can make the material fun and interesting – maybe there’s a certain angle you can take or ways you can bridge two passions together.
Making a Plan
Spend time up front making a plan. You do not want to have to sit down each week and start from square one. Instead, spend a few hours creating a skeleton outline of the class from beginning to end. Look at the calendar to decide how many class sessions you will have. Note if there are any holidays, events, performances, or exhibitions during the class dates.
Make sure you know how long you will be teaching during each session. Planning a 45-minute session once per week is much different than a 3-hour block. Leave some time in your plan for review and catch up.
Consider your audience
All of the following will affect the class you are teaching:
- Number of students
- Ages of students
- Ability of students (be sure you are aware of students who have special needs, such as gifted students, special education students, students with behavioral challenges, etc.)
- Whether or not younger siblings will be present
- Other adults that will be available to help
Preparing each class
Be sure to have all materials printed, prepared, gathered, and organized before each session. This will mean arriving early to set up. If you will be using any sort of technology, make sure it works, and make sure you have a back-up plan. Nothing kills the momentum of a class like a teacher scrambling to get a document camera going, shuffling to find a stack of handouts, or leaving the room to search for a science supply. The more prepared you are, the smoother the class will go, and the less time that will be wasted.
Differences between teaching homeschooled kids and non-homeschooled kids
Kids are kids. Kids test boundaries and thrive with structure – homeschooled kids are no different in this regard.
There are some key differences you should note when teaching homeschool enrichment classes. They are outlined below.
- Homeschooled kids have different levels of “school” exposure. Some may have been in traditional school in the past. They may know how to raise their hand, sit criss-cross-applesauce, wait in line, and ask to go to the bathroom. They may have been homeschooled their entire lives but still know how to do these things based on parent-instruction and participation in other life activities (church, sports, camps, etc.). Some homeschooled kids have very little practice in these areas. These kids must be explicitly taught. Do not assume your bunch of kids does or doesn’t know these basic “school” skills.
- Homeschooled kids are used to the instruction being differentiated (adapted) to their needs. Homeschooled kids are likely to be working academically above or below their “grade level.” When put into a classroom situation, some homeschooled kids will push back when asked to do activities they are not used to. Establishing a good relationship with the children you are working with will go a long way. In general, most kids like to please and do a good job.
- They are wiggly. Young children are wiggly – it’s their nature. Homeschooled kids may seem more wiggly than the average students. This may be because in their home setting, they have ample opportunities for movement. They may be able to stand up to complete their schoolwork, so requiring them to sit for an hour straight is a lot to ask. Provide frequent opportunities for movement and expression.
- There is a reason many homeschooled kids are homeschooled. While homeschooling is the first choice for many parents, some parents homeschool because traditional school wasn’t working for their child. Perhaps they were being bullied. Maybe they struggled with a learning disability or a chronic illness. Whatever the reason, be sensitive towards the students you teach. Homeschooled kids (and their parents) aren’t used to being put into a box.
Structuring your class
If you haven’t taught a class before, a good structure to follow is a warm-up, followed by the “I do, we do, you do” model, and ending with a conclusion or exit ticket. Each step is outlined below.
- Warm up – At the beginning of the class, the teacher activates learning. This can be done through a short group activity, a warm-up problem on the board, reviewing something previously taught, asking a question, taking a poll, etc.
- I do – the instructor/teacher models or demonstrates.The teacher gives direct instruction and shows the student their thinking process. Example:the teacher defines the term “personification” and gives an example for the class.
- We do – The teacher works with the students to work on the materials. Example: the teacher displays books or passages that contain personification. The students point out the examples of personification while the teacher circles them, being sure to clarify any misunderstandings.
- You do – The student works on their own or with a partner to identify personification in a passage. The student records the examples on a worksheet or white board to give to the teacher.
- Closure – Wrap up the learning for the day. This can be done by giving students a short “exit ticket” where they take a mini-quiz or write a reflection. You may also bring the group back together and have students say what they learned. You want to take a minute or two to leave the students feeling that they have learned something, and to give them a “heads up” for the next class.
A word about classroom management
Homeschooled kids typically LOVE attending enrichment/co-op classes, so classroom management issues are few and far between. This being said, it is a good idea to use part of the first session (and other sessions as needed) to establish your expectations. You cannot get mad at a student for leaving the classroom without asking if you haven’t gone over the procedure for this. It may feel like overkill, but trust me, it’s not. Here are a few things you may want to review:
- Classroom Rules – Stick with 2-4 rules that are easy to remember. Post the rules, practice the rules, and refer to the rules often
- Materials – How will students get and take care of their materials? How will you handle sharpening pencils? Distributing highlighters? Are students expected to bring their own paper/notebook, or will you provide it?
- Restroom Use – What is the procedure for using the restroom? Are students expected to go during their break-times only? Can students go with a buddy, or will this cause issues? Don’t want until it comes up to address the restroom issue.
- Eating/Drinking – Are students allowed to eat and drink in class? If so, what items are/are not allowed? When?
- Cell Phones – Are students able to bring and use cell phones during class? For what purpose and under what circumstances?
- Absences – Are students responsible for the material they miss when they are absent? Consider whether this is a necessity for your class.
- Seating – Kids love the idea of choosing their own seat, but from a management perspective, it’s usually not a great idea. Having a seating chart reduces student anxiety and gives you a measure of control. You can seat students in certain places for classroom management purposes. Place easily distracted students facing away from windows and near the front of the room. Make sure English Language Learners are seated near strong English models. One technique I like to use it having a notebook with each student’s name on it laid out at a desk/table ahead of time. That way you can seat students next to different classmates depending on the activity you will be doing that day. Students enter the classroom and find their notebook. It’s an easy, non-verbal way to set up your classroom.
To assess, or not to assess?
If the purpose of your class is for fun, exposure, and socialization, you may not need to do a lot of formal assessment. If you are teaching a more academic class, or a class that builds on prior learning, you will want to include both formal and informal assessment. Assessment helps you determine what has been learned and where misconceptions lie. An informal assessment may be as simple as having students give a thumbs up or thumbs down when you ask a yes/no question. A formal assessment could be a project that is done or test that is given to assess comprehension. Regardless of the assessments you use, be sure to consider the information given, and use this to plan future lessons and review activities.
Teaching a homeschool enrichment or co-op class is fun and rewarding. Kids LOVE learning from people who aren’t their parents, and it is very likely that your class will be the one they look forward to all week. Being well-prepared and keeping your sense of humor will go a long way to becoming a successful homeschool teacher.