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Foundations for Successful Homeschooling

Do’s and Don’ts to Successfully Homeschool

By Ann Zeise

The Multiage Classroom, by Sandra Stone

The Multiage Classroom, by Sandra Stone

Those with large families often wonder, “How do we successfully unschool my family when my state requires me to report?” Schools, meanwhile, are trying to create a large-family atmosphere at their sites so that young children may learn as if they were in a home setting! Many advanced school systems are attempting to copy what unschoolers have been doing all along; they just use ‘educationalese’ to explain what they do. They call this academic setup a “Multiage Classroom.” We homeschoolers, of course, recognize this immediately as a “homeschooling family with two or more children.” This is a review of a book meant for teachers and parents of children in such classrooms called Creating the Multiage Classroom, by Sandra Stone. The theory behind this “new” educational technique seems to be: Children learn best in a family setting. I recommend this book, especially to those trying to unschool a large family with a number of children ages 8 and younger. Make adjustments because you are a real family in a real home. There are lots of good tips for creating unit studies that all your family will enjoy.

Here I paraphrase Ms. Stone’s table about how to make the “Multiage Classroom” succeed.

Foundations For Successful Homeschooling

This Works

This Doesn’t Work

Help your children develop knowledge and skills in many areas and learn how to learn. Focus on discrete skills in primarily academic areas.
Focus on your children’s successes. Focus on your children’s deficits.
Have different expectations for your children than the “norm” for your community. Have same expectations for your children as those in same grade in your community.
Value every child, developing self-esteem and sense of competence. Evaluate children by group norms where some succeed and some do not.
See every child as unique with her own rate of development and allow each child to move at her own pace. Expect your child to reach arbitrarily set goals, such as grade level expectations, irrespective of their learning rate or previous knowledge.
Provide integrated learning experiences through learning centers and projects. Divide curriculum into separate subjects with a certain amount of time allotted for each subject.
Provide opportunities for your children to learn by doing; skills are learned in meaningful contexts such as projects in appropriate home or community spaces; involvement is active. Engage in predominantly parent-directed learning activities with the whole group; pencil- and- paper activities; children working quietly at the dining room table.
Plan learning environments for your children. Create workshops, music practice rooms, a quiet library, in your home, for example. Plan lessons and correct papers. Spend your weekends doing this instead of enjoying a recreational opportunity with your family.
Support your children as they work and play individually or in small cooperative groups; promote social learning. Expect your children to work alone, silently, at a desk; discourage them from helping each other.
Provide concrete, real, and relevant learning materials, such as typically found in a home library, kitchen, workshop and garden shed. Limit learning materials to primarily textbooks and workbooks.
Provide opportunities for your children to play both indoors and outdoors. Limit play opportunities to so children have more time for academic tasks.
Support pro-social behavior by providing opportunities for children to learn through actual social experiences in the home and community. Lecture on pro-social skills, but provide little opportunity for social interaction.
Support a high level of moral development by providing opportunities for you children to develop self-control, grow through mistakes, socially problem-solve, make choices, and take responsibility — all within meaningful social contexts and with positive guidance from you, the parent. Limit your children’s opportunities for a high level of moral development by imposing strict rules with rewards and punishments; make parental control in your home more important than children learning how to control themselves.
Encourage intrinsic motivation: children learn because they see it as valuable and self-fulfilling. Reward learning with prizes or other forms of extrinsic motivation.
Support your children as competent learners; never embarrass a child; value each child. Embarrass children; hold them up as examples of incompetent learners; devalue certain children.
Model empathy, caring, passion for learning, enthusiasm, love for each child at all times. Limit your role as “teacher” to the dissemination of information during “school” hours.
Allow children to achieve success as its own reward. Motivate children through giving grades.
Use authentic assessment such as portfolios. Assess children through tests and worksheets.
Report your children’s progress through narrative reports or portfolios. Report your children’s progress through graded report cards or transcripts.
Never resort to holding your child back, which can seriously damage your child’s self esteem; support your children by not referring to their grade level at all. Repeat a grade level because they haven’t gotten one subject yet and you have to buy curriculum in full grade sets.
Encourage more distant family members to participate in the learning experiences of your children. Limit homeschooling to just Mom and Dad, vaguely reporting what you do to grandparents, aunts and uncles.
Provide community experiences that are relevant, enjoyable, and meaningful; realize that children also need opportunities to play and enjoy others outside the family. Sign your child up for only academic community activities, and for so many classes you must sacrifice playful family time.


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