Tips for Transitioning to a Homeschool Classroom
After the abrupt end to the school year in March and the uncertainty surrounding the 20/21 school year, many parents are considering homeschooling for the first time. The Little Rock Family staff wanted to learn more about what it's really like to homeschool in Central Arkansas. To help, we reached out to local vetran homeschooler Kristina Keller. Mom of three, she’s heading into her 11th year of homeschooling. During our conversation she offered her best tips for parents transitioning from a traditional classroom.
LRF: Can you tell a little bit about your family? What made you decide to homeschool your children?
“I have three children 14, 12 and 10. When my oldest was four, we noticed that he was ready to read. So I went ahead and started teaching him how. When it was time for kindergarten, we were worried he would be a disruption in class. I had not intended to homeschool when I had kids, but at that point I didn’t feel like public school was an option.
On the other hand, we discovered that my daughter has some learning difficulties when she was in the fourth grade. Thankfully, she was testing higher than expected because of her individualized learning plan. As a homeschool teacher, I was able to see her needs and pay attention to that.
Because of my kids' individual needs and the community support we’ve found, we continue to homeschool. Plus, we found a curriculum that really works for us. We have found our why to homeschool.
That is very important when I think about families coming into the homeschooling realm. Right now, your first why might be COVID, but when you dig a little deeper your why might be medical, academics, or that you want your kids to have a greater impact on the world as lifelong learners.
As a homeschooling parent, it's easy to get bogged down with the details, so we need a reason to help us keep going. COVID has opened many parents eyes’ to new possibilities. So if you're considering homeschooling, start by digging deep and find your why.”
LRF: What’s your top tip for families as they transition from a traditional classroom to a homeschool classroom?
“I believe connection is important. Our curriculum is community based. As parents, we are not meant to do this alone. Everyone needs a support system. As a homeschooler you are not just coming home, you are entering a different school realm.
So you need to seek out opportunities and support. If you start a hobby, you don’t just come home and start it. You need to research it and find connections. You find outlets to meetup and learn from others. Remember, you are not alone.
As a homeschooler, I recommend you start with your curriculum. And then you should be intentional about getting your kids involved in sports and other social interactions. Homeschool kids can interact with more than just their peers and can be out in the community where they can make diverse and intergenerational connections.”
LRF: Do you have any tips for homeschooling in Little Rock specifically?
“You don’t have to be in a co-op, but reaching out is a natural part of the process. Homeschooling offers a broader realm of opportunities than many realize.
There are a lot of resources and opportunities:
Curriculum-based communities — like ours from Classical Conversations
Little Rock Flames — organized sports for homeschoolers
Home Ed — local support group for Little Rock-area homeschoolers
The Education Alliance — Arkansas’ largest state-wide homeschool organization
4-H — offers a 10 week program for homeschoolers”
LRF: For parents who are temporarily homeschooling, what tips can you offer parents as they balance WFH responsibilities and virtual school?
Set Boundaries: Even homeschool families are learning how to all work at home. Try a door hanger to communicate to your kids when it is OK to interrupt and when it is not.
Schedule and Routine: Students are used to structure in traditional and homeschool classrooms. It will help them know what to expect throughout the day.
Realistic Expectations: When we have families join our communities, they expect it to be like what happens in a traditional classroom. The experience will be different because of your child’s individual learning plan. Setting goals of what you want to have accomplished with your child over a certain time frame is key. Be realistic under the circumstances.
Make Time to Touch Base: Set a time to sit down and have your kids be able to express what they are learning, what they’d like to see more of and what they’d like to change. Parents can use this as a chance to build relationships and encourage. You can take time at the dinner table or over a special tea time in the afternoon (complete with cookies!).
LRF: What’s the biggest difference between virtual school and a chosen homeschool environment?
“When I chose homeschool I was able to choose the curriculum, who would teach it, how it would be taught, when it would be taught and where. It gave me freedom of where I would be during the day. I am able to support each of my kids’ strengths and weaknesses with realtime support and accountability.”
LRF: For parents transitioning to homeschooling during the pandemic, how would you suggest maintaining social connection with peers and the community while also social distancing?
“We used tools that were available in new ways for continued interaction. Our students formed book clubs on Zoom. We also did Biology labs via Zoom. And as homeschoolers, we can also continue to meet in small groups as we practice social distancing. Finding opportunities and being creative is key as well. Don’t be afraid to reach out and make new connections. You can plan to shift your focus to more interactions with a few, rather than more interactions with many.”
Counselor by trade home schooler by choice Kristina and Steven Keller, husband of 19 years, are entering their 11th year of homeschooling. This will be their 7th year with Classical Conversations, Ethan in the Challenge II, Emma in the Challenge A, and Elijah in both the Foundations and Essentials programs. Kristina loves sharing the benefits of homeschooling and equipping others homeschool through her role as Support Representative with Classical Conversations in the Central Arkansas area.