Tips for Parents from Homeschool Experts


By Susan McLester

Over the past few months, some parents have found that homeschooling their children is a bigger challenge than they anticipated. To help them out, we decided to check in with parent “experts” who have chosen to homeschool their children for a variety of reasons and are in a position to share what works best for them. Today, we take a look at a parent who is truly a veteran dedicated homeschool teacher.

Emma has been teaching her four children for 14 years from the family home in the San Francisco Bay Area. She holds two Bachelor’s degrees and has taught at a private college, but emphasizes that such degrees and teaching experience are not requirements for successful homeschooling.  Emma chose to homeschool her children because she wanted them to acquire self-managed learning skills. Two of her children are now high school graduates, and the other two are in the ninth and 12th grades.

Here are Emma’s six tips:

Use a homeschooling curriculum from an accredited school. No knowledge of specific subject areas is required to teach if you select a pre-made curriculum. The manuals that accompany the curriculum literally begin by walking you through each day as well as the time period required for each task. “Everything is literally spelled out for you,” says Emma. “So if the parent knows how to read, then they can follow easy instructions all the way to high school. And in high school, there are teachers available to help students.”

Integrate instruction into everyday life. Make a game out of learning. For instance, when children are young and the family is sitting at the table, ask them to read the labels on the salt shaker, milk carton and other products. Make it interesting. Ask why knowing what these containers say is important.

Teach them to read and then customize reading materials. Once students can read, you can provide them the material to continue learning on their own. For instance, if a child is interested in constructing buildings, be sure they have all the relevant materials pertaining to geometry. One of Emma’s high school graduates is a materials editor for a tech company. The other graduate has his own business making battery chargers and testers. They both taught themselves the basic skills needed, and then took on apprenticeships to learn more.

Believe in your children’s abilities. Parents, don’t blame yourself for what you think might be your shortcomings. Believe that your children can succeed, and can even surpass, you. Allow them to flourish. Don’t project your limitations onto your children,” says Emma.  “Have faith in their abilities. Never think ‘I can’t do it so my kids can’t do it.’”

Allow your learners to participate in real world activities. As their flexible study schedules allow, starting in high school homeschooled students can begin participating in real world work experiences. Emma’s ninth and 11th graders both have jobs. The older child works as a contractor for a local company, and is studying for his general contractor’s exam. The ninth grader works by making patterns and sewing for various charity programs, recently making re-usable gowns for first responders in Oakland, supplies for fire victims and more.  “They all love community service and their flexible schedules allow them to pursue their passions and be involved,” says Emma.

Make sure you’re meeting state requirements. For parents who choose to deviate from their district’s instructional curriculum, be sure you are meeting all the rules that will allow your children’s work and study to be accredited. “We had to apply for a work permit for both our younger children, and I want to point to the legalities. Even though they are studying at home, there are legal avenues to follow. The younger child has much fewer work hours allowed, and the hours need to be signed off by the proper authorities. Different states have different laws so people should check where their areas.” You can find your state homeschool laws here:

“I wish people would consider the homeschool option not just out of necessity, but also as a way of raising future generations that learn to learn, and to be self-managed, which is the main difference between traditional schools and homeschooling,” says Emma.


Susan McLester is a consultant for the MindPlay online literacy solution, an education journalist and former educator.