Category Archives: Homeschool

Parent Perspective: The Gap Between Home and School

Alana Bremers, parent and ResearchILD Intern, discusses how educators and parents can bridge the gap between home and school.

“My brother grew up with learning differences, and when my mom went to visit him in kindergarten, he was alone at a table with a pad of paper and a box of crayons. The rest of the class was on the floor listening to a story the teacher read.

My mom looked at the room. All the kids had their names self-written, decorated, and hung up on the wall; except, of course, my brother. No one thought to help him write his simple, three-letter name. He had dyslexia but could still participate. 

This was decades ago, but really it’s just the first chapter in a long story. My mom had to fight for everything he got out of school. If she had never visited him in school, he would have been ignored completely. Needless to say, he did not enjoy school.

In teacher training programs, we are trained to do better for students like my brother. We learn about behaviorism, conditioning, Pavlov, and Maslow. We design strategic interventions for struggling students and incorporate methods for scaffolding. We develop pride in our profession and power to help kids shape their futures. We have the best intentions, yet forget these kids belong to another world for most of their lives.

If a child is struggling, shouldn’t the first step be to ask the parents for insight? Is it appropriate to become a mentor to a student without becoming familiar with their parents? Wouldn’t it be helpful to make curricula available to parents and information about their children accessible? How do parents and teachers become team members in support of academic success?

As a future teacher, I want to positively transform the lives in my classroom. I want to be the teacher who inspires a generation of students to be kind and confident. Parents and teachers are on the same side: the side of happy, healthy, kind, intelligent, thoughtful kids. 

We know that relationships are fundamental to learning, and this is true both at home and at school. To be successful teachers, we need to forge positive relationships between home and school. Creating a consistent flow of information and sharing of strategies and ideas sends a message to our students that we are committed to setting them up for success. Especially for early learners, having a positive relationship with parents can help build trust and bring consistent messages from the classroom into the home.

Parents buy a lot of parenting books, read blogs, and ask for advice. They welcome partners in raising happy, healthy, successful, and kind children. Bridging parents and teachers, while respecting students, is rewarding for kids and will, therefore, help teachers achieve classroom goals.”

  • Alana Bremers, ResearchILD Intern

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum:

Research Institute for Learning and Development:

The Institute for Learning and Development:

Parent Perspective: Reentry and Learning Loss

Alana Bremers, parent and ResearchILD Intern, shares her thoughts about school reentry and learning loss after homeschooling her children during the pandemic.

“Between not being able to access specific standards and curriculum from my local district and the uncertainty of this pandemic year, I have no way of knowing how my kid will fit into school next year. 

If I can believe the recent assessments that my daughter took from a free, online program that claims to track specific state standards, she will be a full year ahead in math and two to three years ahead in literacy. She is even passing science tests.

With hesitation, I feel great about this year of homeschooling my children. We appear to be managing a large amount of quality learning in a fraction of the time. While I was initially scared about failing my kids, I’ve instead reinforced bonds between my children and myself. I’m even lamenting our return to in-person schooling next year.

As I consider our school plans for next year, there are a few things I am keeping in mind. No matter what happens, I will continue to leverage free public curricula. These programs can be used to guide homeschool programs, and they also allow parents to be a productive part of any student’s learning experience. If parents can easily access information about where their children stand academically, we can be stronger advocates for high-quality education and more immediately recognize when our children fall behind.

I also think that parents need as much access to data as possible. Is the school providing professional development training opportunities and attracting quality teachers? If I leave a district and enter a new one, is there something I can do to prepare my kids to seamlessly transfer?

So many news stories discuss kids struggling in hybrid or remote learning; however, parents and schools need to learn from what worked this year if students are going to successfully re-engage with learning. One recent news story even reported students with ADHD are thriving in less distracting online learning environments.

How can we continue to apply the positive lessons we’ve learned over the past two years with hybrid and homeschool learning models? Teachers and parents should continue to make expectations, goals, and realities all easily accessible, public information.”

  • Alana Bremers, ResearchILD Intern

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum:

Research Institute for Learning and Development:

The Institute for Learning and Development:

Parent Perspective: Learning to Homeschool

Alana Bremers, parent and ResearchILD Intern, explains how she learned to homeschool during the pandemic.

“While deciding to homeschool my kids wasn’t easy, once I made the decision, I took it very seriously. I wanted to make sure that I developed a plan that would support my new teaching responsibilities, both academically and socially.

The social dimension of homeschooling has been great as I’m able to teach both of my kids together. We can play games, read to each other, and spend time using online learning programs.

We also have more flexibility in our daily schedule, so I’m able to make sure we have time for swim lessons, socially distanced play dates, or general fun. We have two sports days a week and family time on weekends. Homeschool counts time reading and playing games as education, and we can even count play as physical education. As a mom, I felt confident in my ability to keep my kids engaged with their friends and enjoying life.

Structuring their academic lives was a bit more challenging. However, as a teacher candidate, I felt like I could do the research and get this done. I had an interesting experience trying to untangle the local standards for education. After a few frustrating hours, I gave up, instead focusing on the standards of New York because their curriculum is available online, for free, with interactive learning assistance. New York state is very open about exactly what kids are expected to learn.

Connecting with other homeschool parents has been invaluable. I have found tremendous support from the general homeschool community and administrators of various curriculum products I use.”

  • Alana Bremers, ResearchILD Intern

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum:

Research Institute for Learning and Development:

The Institute for Learning and Development:

Homeschooling: Building Executive Function Strategies, Part 2

Homeschooling is an ideal environment to address the executive function demands of both the home and school setting. Here are a few practical strategies for integrating executive function into homeschool teaching. (For more ideas, check out part 1 of this blog.)

Adapt Executive Function Strategies between Settings

As a homeschool teacher, you can help your child deepen their understanding of strategy use by applying strategies introduced in an academic setting to the home setting, and vice versa. For example, the strategy your child learns to estimate and prioritize their homework can be used to plan a weekend trip. Likewise, organizational strategies can be used for a bedroom closet or a homeschool workspace. 

Create Opportunities for Strategy Use

Since you are both teacher and parent, you have the opportunity to make time to help your child practice using executive function strategies and reflect on how effective the strategy was. Homeschool parents also have unique insight into the level of support that is necessary. For example, you can step back from planning your homeschool day and ask your child to take the lead. Provide support by adjusting the steps in a project to where your child can handle breaking it down and scheduling it for completion. You can offer calendars and other resources in the environment and then urge your child to use the tools available. These purposeful opportunities ensure that your child can successfully apply the strategies they are learning.

Role Model Your Own Strategy Use

One of the most important teaching strategies you can use to build executive functioning in your child is to role model when you are using your own executive function. (This true for both homeschool teacher and parent roles.)

Kids greatly underestimate the time parents and teachers spend doing tasks that require executive function processes. When students see parents and teachers, and parent-teachers, using strategies, they understand that even adults face executive function demands and need strategies to be successful. Share the strategies you rely on, such as your menu planning and agenda book, lesson plan schedule, and grading process. Make executive function visible and part of your daily conversation.

Using these methods, you are not teaching executive function strategies for the sake of teaching them. You are teaching them when a strategy is needed to help your child with a challenging academic or household task. This makes the learning of the strategy relevant, and a successful result can be very motivating for your child to use the strategy in the future.

By generalizing strategy instruction across academics and home, you can help your child build a strategy toolbox for any setting—home, school, clubs and activities, sports, college, career, and beyond!

  • Mindy Scirri, Ph.D., Educational Consultant and SMARTS Trainer

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum:

Research Institute for Learning and Development:

The Institute for Learning and Development:

Homeschooling: How to Build Executive Function Strategies, Part 1

Executive function is used everywhere! At home, school, the office — even on vacation — your executive function processes keep you moving along. Executive function demands and strategies, however, can vary across settings, especially at school and home. Here are some ways to integrate executive function strategies into academic tasks and everyday activities when homeschooling.

Executive Function at School and Home

An executive function process such as goal setting can look different in school and at home. Students set goals related to grades, projects, or extracurriculars at school, often using templates and scaffolds created by their teacher. At home, students set goals related to chores, extracurricular interests, and their unstructured time.

When executive function expectations and supports are different at home and school, executive function difficulties may arise. Students who receive direct executive function strategy instruction in school may find the connection to home gets lost. Students who have parents who support their executive function at home may not find those same levels of support at school. (Watch our free webinar “Executive Function: The Bridge Between Home and School” to learn how to understand and support your child’s executive function needs.)

Strategy instruction is most effective when children understand that strategies can be used across tasks, subject areas, and settings. Here are some ways you can connect executive function strategies between academic tasks and activities at home.

Promote Metacognition about Executive Function

As a homeschool teacher, you are constantly observing your child’s executive function strengths and challenges. When helping your child understand their strengths and challenges, focus on the positives and assure your child that there are strategies to help with the challenges. This sets the stage for strategy instruction as your child is aware of strengths but also knows that there is a reason for learning strategies that will help with challenges.

Teach Executive Function Strategies within Academic Tasks

Armed with the knowledge of your child’s executive function strengths and challenges, you can integrate strategy instruction into academic subjects as needed. For example, if your child struggles to manage time to get homeschool work done, teach your child to categorize activities into “have-to’s, want-to’s, and hope-to’s” to organize that day’s tasks. Integrating executive function strategies into projects or tests can also help set up your child for success. 

Introduce Executive Function Strategies in the Home

As a homeschooler, you know that learning is no longer limited to school hours and tidy school subjects. You have the flexibility to create teachable moments throughout your day. These are perfect opportunities for you to introduce executive function strategies within real-world applications. For example, if your child is struggling to keep a closet neat, bring in an organizational strategy—like the SMARTS 4C’s strategy—at that moment.

These are just a few ways to incorporate executive function into a successful homeschool. Check out Part 2 for more strategies you can try.

  • Mindy Scirri, Ph.D., Educational Consultant and SMARTS Trainer and Consultant

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum:

Research Institute for Learning and Development:

The Institute for Learning and Development: