Homeschooling? Here’s Everything You Need to Get Started and Be Successful

Dawn Bevier

A twenty-three-year veteran teacher’s guidance on first steps and valuable resources that will make teaching your child easy, effective, and engaging.

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There’s not a parent in the world right now that is not fearful of his or her child’s safety. That includes me as well as you. I have a thirteen-year-old daughter and hundreds of students that I have taught over the past few years that will continue to progress through the school system during this pandemic.

And as a teacher and parent, I don’t care about the statistics or opinions of doctors, politicians, and other experts who say children “probably” won’t fall victim to the serious dangers of this world-altering virus.

You know why?

As an English teacher of over twenty years, it’s all about words. And the word “probably” is not a word I like. It’s a word of uncertainty. And when it comes to my child and this enigmatic virus spreading like wildfire through our country, I’m not willing to accept it as a reason to send my child back to school.

As a result, I have decided to allow her to learn at home, where the risks of serious physical danger are greatly lessened. And I know many of you share my worries and concerns and have made the same decision to homeschool (at least for the time being).

And because I have a lot of experience teaching, my journey will most likely be less stressful than many of you who are undertaking this venture for the first time.

I know some of you are scared, doubtful that you have the skills to successfully undertake full responsibility for the education of your child at this moment in time.

But you don’t have to be.

Because if you use the knowledge I’m about to give you, your job will be made exponentially easier.

I will introduce you to some basic first steps and programs that you may want to research for the new educational undertaking that lies before you. Let me say before I go further that I am in no way affiliated with any of the organizations or companies which to which I will introduce. Many of these are simply sites that my fellow teachers and I use and look to for both guidance, lesson plans, and learning strategies.

But before you begin this process, you must first know what your child is expected to learn as it concerns his or her grade or subject.

Step one: Know the curriculum standards for your child’s subject or grade level

By 2013, forty-six states adopted a curriculum known as the “Common Core.” World Population Review gives an overview of the most up to date data for those still using this curriculum, but mentions that this information may have changed “since the newest 2014 newest data and mapping available is from 2014.” Here is what they report:

  • Four states have never used the Common Core as a curriculum guideline: Virginia, Texas, Alaska, and Nebraska.
  • Four states have chosen since 2013 to drop the use of these Common Core standards: Arizona, Oklahoma, Indiana, and South Carolina.
  • Twelve states are in the process of withdrawing from this curriculum: Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Maryland.

Note: I know that some of this information has changed as the state I teach in, North Carolina, has now officially repealed the curriculum. However, I also know that the changes made in our state are very subtle ones, ones that still heavily draw on the ideas and skills outlined by this curriculum. And many states have done the same thing, still using the Common Core as a guide but modifying it according to their own philosophies.

While the best option is to call educational experts in your state to obtain a specific list of standards for all subject areas and grades, I have provided a link to the Common Core Standards website. This link provides a list of things your child should be studying and skills that should be taught in both math and reading.

Teachers frequently break these sometimes sophisticated skills down into “I can” statements that provide a much clearer understanding of the specific tasks students should be able to accomplish. These statements are the ones that homeschooling parents should focus on when formulating lessons.

This is a link to a site called IXL that outlines these “I can” statements for free and provides a number of resources that parents can use. The home page provides these statements, but you can also join for a maximum of twenty dollars a month to receive a bevy of pre-made resources.

However, the following are three of the most trusted sites that I can recommend to you as an educator. Most of them are free or unbelievably cheap, and they will significantly lessen the work involved in teaching your children at home.

Free, cheap, and amazing resources for lesson planning and teaching

As daunting as the prospect of the standards I listed above may seem to be, the three sites I will discuss directly align with these standards, so you don’t have to do the research. As I just stated, many of these are free, and some cost very little. Using these resources will ensure that your lessons at home are focused on the specific learning goals your child needs to master to move on to the next grade level.

Resource one: Common Lit (grades 3–12)

Common Lit is one of the sites that I and my fellow educators use most to strengthen student literacy and access and monitor students’ reading skills. All you have to do once you enroll in this program is put in your child’s grade level, and it will give you a library of readings from which to choose.

The site gives your child guided reading questions to test basic comprehension and then an assessment of multiple-choice questions that align with curriculum standards. It also provides an answer key for you as a parent educator. The passages can be printed or done online depending on your child’s needs. The site also provides you with a progress tracker that allows you to monitor your child’s progress and mastery of these standards.

Common Lit is free but it does require you to provide an email address, the name of your child’s school district and state, and a photo of you holding a current identification that shows your age. This is simply to protect educators such as myself from students who would try to make an account and get answers to school-based assignments.

And there is no reason to be concerned about private information being shared through the site because the site states that you can “feel free to redact/hide any personally identifiable information aside from your name, photo, and date of birth when sharing a personal ID.”

Resource two: Khan Academy (all grade levels)

For educators right now who are doing distance learning, there is perhaps no more valuable resource than Khan Academy. For a parent, it could easily be the one resource that would satisfy almost all of your child’s learning needs.

This site is totally free for you as a parent. It provides standards-based videos, lessons, and assessments for all grade levels. The site itself explains that it “engages kids in core subjects like early literacy, reading, writing, language, and math, while encouraging creativity and building social-emotional skills.”

For older learners, the site provides videos, readings, and learning resources for subject-specific skills that parents may not feel comfortable teaching. For example, even though I have taught English for over two decades, there is no way I could teach my child Algebra I, much less Advanced Placement (AP) courses such as AP Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. However, Khan Academy does this seamlessly, and even walks you through the steps with a guide to remote learning and teaching.

There is a section in this site that even has a “getting ready for” each grade section. If you type in things such as “Getting Ready for Third Grade,” it will take you through skills needed for the next grade your child will enter.

There is simply nothing that this site does not teach your children to do. It will probably ease your fears of not being able to provide quality learning for your child more than any other resource available.

Resource three: Teachers Pay Teachers (all grade levels)

This site is one most beneficial to parents who may feel a bit overwhelmed with digital resources (although there are many of these resources also on the site). These lessons are made by teachers themselves and can provide you with both printable and digital worksheets aligned to grade based standards. It is free to sign up and browse the resources available. You can search by grade level, subject, price, and resource price.

The original purpose of this website was to share resources between educators, but it is also a site where many teachers go to make money on their lessons. For this reason, you will see a lot of worksheets, activities, and educational plans that you must buy to obtain. In truth, many of these fees are extremely low. However, almost as many resources are available on the site completely free to both parents and educators. All you have to do to see these is go to the search menu and check the box labeled“free” under price and select your child’s grade or subject area. The site will then filter resources to show you these things.

For this site, I would advise making use of their search bars for grade and subject areas to help you, as a lot of things on the site are things that you may not particularly find useful as a parent. For example, there are many first day of school “getting to know you” activities that you would find unuseful.

The bottom line:

As parents, the thought of homeschooling doesn’t need to keep you awake at night. Even without the sites I mentioned above, instructional materials can often simply be found through a search on the internet or educational resources and workbooks sold through places such as Amazon or Barnes and Noble. These books can usually be shipped quickly and are ready to use immediately until you get more comfortable.

However, the sites I above listed above are truly teacher recommended and used often to ensure students make growth in their learning and acquire the skills needed for their current grade level and upcoming grades.

Just let me say this.

You can do this. I promise you can. And in addition to giving your children exactly what they need to keep their learning on track, you have other benefits that students attending regulars schools don’t.

Working on these lessons and activities with your child can significantly increase opportunities for parent-child bonding.

And the best part? Your “student” already loves his teacher. So, you’re already well on your way to success.

Best of luck, and if I can be of any assistance, please feel free to ask me questions.

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Sanford, NC
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