You chose homeschooling for a variety of reasons: to encourage your child’s love of learning, to tailor their education to their learning style, and to provide a challenging, individualized education. But as your child gets older you realize that you might not be able to provide for all of their needs. For example, what happens when your child wants to learn something you are unfamiliar with, like coding, and you have never coded anything in your life. How do you stay connected with their work and track their progress when you have no reference point? You want to be involved and lead their education, but there’s no need for homeschooling parents to go it alone. Thankfully, there are many methods you can try and helpful sources that you can seek out when you don’t feel completely comfortable teaching your child a specific subject all by yourself.
There’s no shame in telling your child that you don’t know something. Sure, maybe you shouldn’t tell your 10-year-old that you’ve forgotten how to do long division – brush up on that skill ahead of that lesson! But if your child wants to pursue painting for their art lessons, and you don’t know the difference between oils and acrylics, why not learn together? It’s the perfect excuse to follow along to a Bob Ross video and listen to his encouragement, advising that anyone can learn how to paint. Not only will your child have the opportunity to explore a new interest, but they will learn a valuable lesson that it’s never too late to challenge yourself and learn something new.
Pool your resources
We all have different strengths and weaknesses, and there is probably a lot of untapped talent among your friends or other homeschooling parents you know. You might love algebra but dread trying to teach physics. Offer your help to another homeschooling parent in exchange for their expertise in a subject that gives you trouble. Or what if you are trying to teach a history lesson, but you’re having trouble making it meaningful for your child? Maybe you have an older relative who can share their experiences of living through a specific historical event. And what if your high school student is interested in architecture and you don’t know the first thing about the occupation? Your architect neighbor might be willing to talk to your child about the skills they use at work, and what their day-to-day schedule looks like.
Supplement with online classes
Every topic imaginable is available on the internet to study, so why not take advantage of the benefits of the 21st century and find an online class to fill in the gaps in your child’s education? One of the most fascinating topics for children is technology as it relates to gaming. Technology surrounds us, and it’s natural if a child is interested in how it works and wants to learn how to code. Most of us use technology on a daily basis, but how many people understand it well or can teach it? An online coding class for kids is the perfect way to teach important technology and problem-solving skills. Coding classes specifically designed for kids introduce complex topics in simple ways and connect the technology to the things that interest kids the most. Perfect! But how do you connect with your child and follow along with the online class when you don’t know the first thing about coding? Our Coding 101 guide is a great starting point for learning some coding terminology and broad concepts so you can ask the online teacher questions, understand the progress reports, and share your enthusiasm with your child.
Hire a tutor
What if you generally feel secure in your knowledge of a subject, but your child is asking more detailed questions than you can answer? Or you’ve hit the limit of your knowledge and they are moving ahead of you? You probably know many ways to teach multiplication, but now that your child is studying trigonometry, the part of your brain that once held information about sine, cosine, and tangent is a bit covered in dust. It might be worthwhile to find a tutor in that subject who can push beyond the basics and provide more challenging content. A tutor’s love of the subject might be what your child needs to encourage them to continue past what you can provide. Choose a tutor who enjoys working with children and with whom your child feels comfortable. Take the opportunity to ask questions about your child’s progress and get another opinion on your child’s learning style. You might gain some valuable insight that you can use to expand your teaching repertoire.
Find a community college class
This can be a great opportunity for older homeschooled kids to get a taste of college, and to possibly earn college credit while still in high school. Local universities or community colleges offer a variety of classes with experts in every field, so your child can dive deeper into a topic that interests them. It might serve as a good transitioning plan as well since homeschooling can’t last forever. Use this opportunity not only as a supplement for a subject you can’t teach alone but as a means of having your child take more responsibility for the path of their own education. Ask your child questions about their decision to choose the specific course, how they feel in a different educational setting, and how this might influence the type of university or college they decide to attend in the future. And of course, ask them details about the subject too!
Teach your child how to learn
The common old adage tells us: if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day, but if you teach a man how to fish, you feed him for a lifetime. As a homeschooling parent, you aren’t just passing along some information to memorize and repeat; you are giving your child the skills necessary to learn how to think critically and apply their skills to any problem they face in the future. And learning how to find information is just as important as learning the information itself. Teach your child how to find books at the library, how to effectively search the internet, and how to decide if a resource is a good choice. These research strategies will serve them well and you might just find that your child has learned something without your help. Continue to encourage their independent learning by asking them to teach you what they learned. This can work at any age. Young children love to “stump the teacher” with difficult questions, while older children will build their confidence and their love of learning by explaining things to you that you don’t know.
You can’t know everything, but luckily you don’t need to. Take advantage of all the tools at your disposal to make the most of your child’s education. Look online, in your community, and among your friends. Homeschooling isn’t about eschewing any outside help; homeschooling is about choosing what is best for your child to maximize their learning potential and make their education meaningful. Whatever source you choose to help you teach, remember to stay connected to their progress by following along, asking questions, and educating yourself.