With homeschooling in the UK increasing all the time (it has increased by 40% over the last three years) more and more parents and carers are making the decision to take their child out of mainstream education.  If you have made the decision to homeschool your child, follow my 8 easy steps to ensuring success.  Your homeschooling plan does not need to be complicated, a simple and easy learning plan is all that is needed to make educating your child at home a big success.

Step one:     Timetable

You can design and structure this with your child.  You do not need to follow a school routine although there is no harm in doing so if you wish.  The law does not state an exact number of hours, but it is defined as full-time education which in formal teaching at school is around 25 hours per week.  However, this is for 38 weeks which you do not need to stick to; you could shorten the daily hours and lengthen the term times and still achieve a full-time education plan for your child.

Step two:     Learning plan for each subject

Each subject will take your child on a learning journey.  It needs a clear starting point, length of time to complete and the potential outcome.  A learning plan can be broken down into years, terms and weeks.  An example would be:

Subject:   History

Year:   8

Unit 1 Henry VII and VIII

Unit 2 The Reformation

Unit 3 Queen Elizabeth and the Spanish Armada

Unit 4 Elizabethan Portraits

Unit 5 Causes of the Civil War

Unit 6 The Civil Wars

Unit 7 Cromwell

Unit 8 International Study – The Colonisation of North America

In this example you could teach each unit over six weeks with an hour lesson each week. To keep things simple this equates to a schooling year of 48 weeks, however, this can easily be manipulated to fit into your personal schedule. Try and ensure your planning is at least one unit in advance, it can be amazingly simple just break down each unit into weekly topics.  For example:

Unit 1 Henry VII and VIII

Week/lesson 1 The War of the Roses

Week/lesson 2 What type of ruler was Henry VII?

Week/lesson 3 The young Henry VIII

Week/lesson 4 Henry VIII and his six wives

Week/lesson 5 What was early Tudor society like?

Week/lesson 6 How much had changed between the reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII?

Step three:  each lesson needs a lesson plan

You have already established a timetable; keep to this and spend some time the night before planning the lessons.  It may take a little time initially but very soon you will become a lot quicker and adept at lesson planning. Your plans do not need to be more than a couple of sentences, the plan is simply to make life easier for you and your child. Here is an example of what to do:

Lesson – History

Date and time – Monday from 9-11am

Topic – Edward VI and religious changes

Lesson objectives – to be able to explain religious changes during the reign of Edward VI; describe what sort of boy Edward was.

Plan – 0-10 minutes starter activity, 10-30 minutes comprehension task, 30-35 minutes label diagram, 35-50 minutes extended writing task, 50-55 go through answers to comprehension and labelling, 55-60 minutes re-cap lesson objectives.

And that is it.  This clearly tells you the plan for this lesson, share it with your child so they know what the objectives are; at the end of the lesson you will reflect on these. 

Step four:  lesson objectives

It needs to be clear to both you and your child what the point of the lesson is.  What is your child going to be learning about in this lesson, here’s an example for a lesson on the Wars of the Roses:  to develop an understanding of how the Tudors became the new royal family and how they ended the fight for the English crown.

You can either tell your child to write the objective as their lesson heading or do as I prefer and have a main heading such as ‘the Wars of the Roses’, and then discuss the objective together and your child will then write it down under the main heading. I would recommend you then introduce a starter based on an overview of the topic, such as:  ask what three things they would like to discover about the Wars of the Roses in this lesson. Or give them five minutes to research and write all they can find out about the topic.

Step five:  lesson outcome

This is basically what you want them to know and understand by the end of the lesson.  This can be done in many ways and even extended into a homework if you run short of time.  Think about how your child can demonstrate to you their understanding. You will need one or two activities after the starter to take them through the lesson with a final task that demonstrates their understanding. Some ideas to consider could be (using the Wars of the roses as an example), complete Battles Worksheet, create a timeline that shows battles that were fought; they could colour the rose to show who won the battle. Ask them to place the following figures in the correct family (Lancaster or York): Henry VI, Richard III, Edward IV, Edward V, Margaret of Anjou, Henry VII.  Now ask yourself, ‘how will they demonstrate a deeper understanding’?  This is where you will need to consider the attainment and ability of your child, for lower ability students you could use sentence starters or literacy-based puzzles as an accessible way into helping them write down their understanding.  Children of higher ability could write a report to send back to court in 1475. In the report they should explain who they think is on course to win the Wars of the Roses.

Step six:  Homework

Homework is an extremely useful tool to confirm understanding without your support.  For example, you may set a series of questions for homework and then go through the answers together at the start of the next lesson. You can also use it when you run out of time (see below about the importance of sticking to lesson timings). In the main, until you get to the exam years, homework should be reasonably quick and easy.  Whilst posters are not a good example of assessing learning in a classroom situation, they are ideal for homework.  I must admit that for many years I have not been an advocate of homework.  As a teacher I found it to be far too troublesome for the benefits it gave.  However, when homeschooling I see some great advantages.  Homework will enable your child to work independently and develop self-discipline. Homework can also encourage them to take initiative and responsibility for completing a task.  Displaying their work and giving rewards will be a huge motivator here. The main advantage for you will be the time factor so if your child has shown an interest in the battles of the Wars of the Roses and you need to move on with your learning plan, they could complete a worksheet on the Battle of Bosworth for homework.

Step seven:  Routines

A strong morning start will make all the difference to the success of homeschooling. However you manage you timetable is up to you but I strongly recommend that  you start your lessons at the same time Monday-Friday and have a lie-in on the weekend in order to set out a clear difference between a structured school day and a day off. Start your lessons at the same time each day and make sure both “teacher and pupil” have showered, had breakfast, cleaned teeth and got dressed, ready to sit down and start school. Have a 15-minute ‘housekeeping lesson’ at the beginning where you discuss the plan for the day. All equipment needed for today should be organised now for your child to complete their work – this is to ensure neither of you are constantly popping off to collect something. Lastly, stick to the timings of the lessons. It does not matter if the work is not finished, they can do it in their own time or at the beginning of the next lesson.

Step eight:  the school room

Unless you’re fortunate enough to have a home with a spare room you can use solely for teaching, the chances are you will need to utilise some part of your home that is used for another purpose, such as a dining room.  Do not see this as a disadvantage, you just need to be organised.  Get a couple of large storage boxes to keep all your school equipment in. You will find plenty of containers around your home such as, baskets, jars, old Tupperware like containers, newspaper racks and carrier bags.  Label and store all your equipment into the storage boxes and it will take you five minutes at the start of every school to set up your classroom.  A homeschool bulletin board is a great idea to display your child’s work and it could double up as a teaching board for you.

Good luck with your homeschooling, use my simple steps to help get you going and motivate your child to ensure they achieve their maximum potential both academically and emotionally.