Advice for a Former School Teacher
I’ve been teaching in the public school system in Florida for 18 years, as a second-grade teacher for 6 years and then as an elementary reading specialist for the last 12 years. Due to the changes to curriculum, gun policies, and the attack on LGBTQ+ families in FL, my wife and I no longer feel the public school system is the right place for us. My kids are headed into 1st and 4th grade in the fall. I am excited and scared. I know I can teach them, but I am feeling overwhelmed by all my years of training. You would think it would make me feel more confident, and in some ways it does, but not really.
Do you have any advice for a former school teacher getting started in homeschooling? What best practices from my classroom years will benefit us as a homeschooling family? What common classroom practices should I let go of to help us be successful? In case it matters, my kids have had an amazing school experience and are also excited to start homeschooling (maybe because they will get to sleep in…lol), but I am the one who really needed to make this change for my own mental health, for the safety of my family, and to make sure my kids have robust & well-rounded accurate education that will serve them well throughout their lives.
Homeschooling: starting in the fall
Kids ages 7 and 10
I am sorry for you had to leave your profession for those reasons. I am also delighted to have someone with the wealth of knowledge you have in our community! Welcome to SEA!
Do you have any advice for a former school teacher getting started in homeschooling?
Advice for a Former School Teacher Tip #1
The first thing you should do is to write down your dream for your children’s journey through learning. Make it big, profound, and empowering. It can be practical. It can be idealistic. The bottom line is, it is your dream for your child, your family, and your homeschool. If you have others who have retired with you, you might want to share these. It’s okay to take a slice of someone else’s dream if it’s a good one.
Once you have your dream, write how you can actualize each part of it. This should be concrete and doable. The good news for someone who is an experienced teacher is that you understand that learning big educational strands is a long game. You have a good idea, for example, how to plan and structure writing over several years, and what needs to be mastered before progressing. There will naturally be some long-range planning in this. It is also very important to include what you will do at the start of this school year to make your dream a reality.
Something I think you might have fun with is to have your children and wife help you write a mission statement. If you the information from the first two steps. Now you can sit down with your children and package it into a paragraph or two that sums up what your home school is all about.
What best practices from my classroom years will benefit us as a homeschooling family?
Advice for a Former School Teacher Tip #2
Your years as a teacher provide valuable insights and best practices that can benefit your homeschooling family. The solid understanding you have of how learning happens is one of these. As a teacher, you understand the importance of recognizing and addressing the unique needs and learning styles of each student. In a homeschool setting, you can personalize the curriculum and tailor instruction to suit your children’s individual strengths and challenges. In addition, the skills you have for mentoring when a learner is strong in an area and scaffolding when they struggle are hugely beneficial. It will foster increased engagement and ensure that each child is challenged at an appropriate level. Wait until you see what happens with children who receive an individualized education where they are taught just an increment above their level. It’s profound!
You have firsthand experience with incorporating learning and executive function skills into teaching. You also understand why they are so important to a person’s success in school and out of it. Knowing how to work on metacognition and executive functioning skills and create a multi-modal learning environment so your child are balanced learners is a big benefit. Along with this, are the strategies you have for keeping kids engaged when they do not love a subject. You will need these.
In the classroom, you likely encountered unexpected situations that required flexibility and creative problem-solving. These skills will be valuable in homeschooling as well, as you navigate the challenges and adapt to the evolving needs of your children.
When I started homeschooling, I remember telling a friend the thing I found most valuable was my skill at planning an entire year of study with the necessary resources to implement the plan. Drawing from your experience as a teacher, you likely have skills in lesson planning, organizing materials, and creating a structured learning environment. Applying these practices to your homeschooling journey can help ensure a well-rounded education for your children. As a teacher, you likely utilized various educational resources to enhance your instruction. You can continue to leverage these resources, including textbooks, online materials, educational apps, and local libraries, to enrich your children’s homeschooling experience.
What common classroom practices should I let go of to help us be successful?
Advice for a Former School Teacher Tip #3
After eighteen years of teaching, it is only natural that you have some habits around children’s classroom behavior. If that’s the case, you might need to work on those. The learning environment at home tends to be much more relaxed and casual. In a homeschooling environment, the dynamic between you as the parent and teacher may differ from a traditional classroom setting. Embrace a more collaborative and supportive approach, allowing your children to have input in their education. Encourage independent thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making to foster a sense of ownership in their learning process.
I urge you to let go of the “literacy at all costs to the detriment of teaching science and history” mindset. The truth is that most homeschooled students, certainly those in the SEA Community get much more and better education in science and history than traditionally schooled children. That is because we do not teach these as a component of language arts. Teach hands-on science and let it get messy. Make history meaningful, diverse, and inclusive.
As a teacher you worked with benchmarks for academic skills. In a homeschooling environment, you should focus more on individual progress and growth rather than external benchmarks as you incorporate the mindset that there is no timeline for learning. How you evaluate work will reflect this. Instead of evaluating based on benchmarks, I recommend shifting the emphasis towards providing feedback, encouraging self-assessment, and celebrating your children’s achievements based on their unique abilities and effort.
I also recommend using a mastery approach for evaluations. Applying your expertise in assessing students’ progress and providing feedback, and then handing the work back to them to get more time with the material they have not mastered. I recommend you plan your lessons accordingly so that there are no holes in learning.
In homeschooling, you have the flexibility to design a schedule that works best for your family. In a traditional classroom, the day is often structured by fixed schedules and specific time slots for each subject. Embrace the freedom to create a more flexible routine that accommodates your children’s learning styles, interests, and natural rhythms. This extends to how you structure work done in subject areas. For example, when working on math, will your kids be given 30 minutes for math, or will you assign work that needs to be completed in order to be done.
The structured curricula and textbooks are gone. If you love some of those, keep using them. You can say “Goodbye” to all the rest! Don’t feel bound by rigid adherence to a specific curriculum. Explore a wide range of educational materials, including online resources, documentaries, educational games, hands-on activities, and field trips. Be open to exploring alternative resources, incorporating real-life experiences, and allowing your children’s interests to guide the learning process. Falling down rabbit holes is a required element of homeschooling! (Just kidding… sort of.)
Test taking, homework, teaching test taking skills: What are you going to do about these? In the homeschooling community, there is no standard for these. It’s completely up to you. If you have strong feelings about any of these, think about why, and then decide based on that.
Again, I welcome you to the SEA Homeschool Community. I hope this information helps. If you have any follow up questions, you can find me online in the SEA Homeschooling Community Facebook Groups.
Much Love, Blair
Do you have a question for the fan-favorite column “Ask Blair” found in The SEA Homeschoolers Magazine? Please use this form to submit your homeschooling questions. The SEA team will select a few questions to be answered by SEA Homeschoolers Founder & Magazine Editor, Blair Lee, in each quarterly issue. Due to space, not all questions will be published in the magazine. Those that come in shortly after a magazine issue has been published will go on this page. These are important questions and we want to answer them for you in a timely way. Please be sure to include all pertinent information relevant to your question – examples: learner ages, grade levels, preferred resource format, topics of interest, preferred homeschool methodologies, state requirements you’re trying to meet, learning challenges, etc.
Submit your homeschooling question through this link.