Have you found that communicating with your child, on occasion, is difficult or near impossible? When my children were young, I would ask them the same question every day, ‘how was today?’ or ‘ what did you enjoy doing today?’; but the answer was always the same, ‘I don’t remember’ or ‘nothing’. 

So, after getting an idea from a film I had watched, I started using a game called High-Low. The premise is simple, everyone says their high point and low point of the day. As a family we loved it and it took place at the end of dinner every evening; the one meal we all got to eat together, sitting around the dining table, gadget-free. My youngest, who had previously been like a clam about his day, was now eager to tell us all about his ‘23 highs and 13 lows’. The conversation could often go on for hours and I got to find out a lot about my children’s lives in the process. The key here was motivation. 

“I don’t have any lows today but I do have 3 highs” – Joshua (AKA JoshMan AKA My son.)

Find the hook that draws them in, and you will reap the rewards; which for me was that what had previously been a daily dinner nightmare was now a joy and to this day something we all look forward to.

What you must establish quickly when homeschooling is a clear structure. Children tend to respond to a structure and a routine which clearly shows who is in charge – you. If you want your child to be calm and collected every morning, then you need to show them how to do this. They will mirror your behaviour, so make sure you plan for schooling by at least the night before because, if you are running around like a headless chicken the morning of the lessons, the chances are they will be too. My children hated family mealtime, but when I found the hook everything changed. Use my steps and you will find the hook that helps your child to start to love homeschooling.

Give them responsibility

This can include daily jobs, such as;

  • set up the classroom every morning.
  • If you use an easel or poster board that is put away every evening then make it their responsibility to get these back out the next day.
  • before lessons start or you could get them to organise the table with the correct equipment for the day. Is there enough paper? 
  • Have they got a ruler, pen, rubber etc? 
  • You should have a set routine for lessons and many of you will have a timetable, so your child can be responsible for getting the correct books ready and setting up the necessary websites on the laptop. 

This can be done in the morning or breaks during the day.  The key will be establishing the routine, so that your child is fully aware of what they need to do and when.

Encourage them to research

Each of your child’s subjects will need a learning plan, with both long- and short-term goals.  Encourage your child to pick a topic to research which you can then add to their learning plan. For example, if you plan on teaching them poetry, they could research poems they would like to learn about or a particular poet.

Or it could be that you have poem already in mind to teach, such as Why?, a classic poem by Charles Causley about a child’s reaction to Guy Fawkes night. Before you plan to read this poem with your child, ask them to research the history and traditions surrounding Guy Fawkes night, allowing them to have a deeper understanding of the poems roots; or they could also research more poems written by Charles Causley in order to understand his poetic structure and style.

Let them be independent

When you first start homeschooling, I recommend to stick to a clear routine. However, once your routines have become embedded and you and your child are clearly making good progress with the teaching and learning, you should offer them independence rewards. Let them decide on their placement of lessons in their timetable or give them a free afternoon to work on a subject of their choice and let them decide on which day they do this. Ask them to pick the next reading book or maths topic they wish to learn. Introducing this step will need to be carefully handled by you as many children dislike having to make these types of decisions – if this is typical of your child, create some options for them to choose from (this could be a list of topics you are planning to teach and they can choose the order in which you teach them). 

Reward them for positive contributions…

If your child is younger, make them a reward board with stars to collect. If they are older, monetary rewards work well. Have a think about where they lack motivation and plant your hook there. 

And create consequences for the opposite

Your child needs to learn there will be consequences if they engage in behaviour that you have made clear to them is unacceptable or negative. As a parent you will have your own standards for discipling your child and I would strongly suggest that you try to enforce the same standards, along with clear routines, during teaching and learning time. If you stick to clear routines for the first few months, they will very quickly become embedded. Be noticeably clear about timings; if a lesson is to start at 10am and your child, for an unacceptable reason, misses this time or behaves in a way that means you start later than intended, you should give a definite consequence, such as losing gadget time. 

Routines will help your child relax

One of the perks of homeschooling is its flexibility and you may be happy for your child to get up when they want and start lessons at a different time each day, but I guarantee that this approach will stymie your child’s progress. Stick to clear timings through the week and then have the weekend off. Get up at the same time each school day and tell your child they must shower, clean teeth and dress before lessons start; if they have responsibilities to do beforehand make sure they are complete.  I promise you, having these clear routines will relax your child much more than if everything is left unclear and vague. 

Make planning a daily essential

If you plan to start your first lesson at 10am, aim to ensure everyone is ready to get going by 9.45am. This means breakfast will be finished and cleared away, teeth cleaned, classroom ready and responsibilities done. Then, at 9.45am, you can discuss the priorities for the day.  What are the most important things that need to be done and what are the outcomes? You could split these priorities into levels such as gold, silver and bronze, in order of importance.  Also use this time to ensure all equipment is in place and that there will be minimal to no disruptions during the lesson. 

Goals are important

Remember your child’s face when they won a prize, or achieved something they had worked hard for? I do and it was wonderful. Your child does not have to miss out on this competitiveness just because they are being homeschooled. You can do this in a few different ways, but however you do it make sure your child sees the value of reaching their goal. For example, if they are finding fractions difficult then you could set them a target to reach and a reward they may receive once they hit this. Discuss with the child what they would think is an acceptable and sensible reward for when they achieve their goal. 

If your child can see the value in what they are doing, they will be motivated and enthusiastic. They will want to do it! Your child can love homeschooling. Just like my family and our mealtime issues, you just need to find the hook and there will be no stopping you (and them).