The beauty of the K12 curriculum, iCademy Middle East’s home-schooling system is that it is fully supported by our dedicated team of online learning coaches and teachers who can make sure that your children are reaching all the expected academic milestones at a pace that works for them, while also supporting the at-home learning coach in guiding their charges to academic success.
But critically, without a learning coach taking the reins of the education process at home to keep students on track, the K12 system will not be successful in maximising your home-schooler’s potential, even with the best support available.
That is a lot of pressure to put on a parent, who more often than not won’t have any experience as a teacher. The decision to home-school comes with its challenges, but there are a number of things that you as a parent and learning coach can implement and make yourself aware of that can help make the entire process more streamlined and easier to manage.
Build a network
The school community is an important part of teaching and learning. Therefore, as a home-schooler – finding, making contact with, and supporting fellow home-schoolers in a community-based learning environment can pay enormous dividends to you and your children. It can give much-needed space, support, and guidance to implement solid learning techniques, while also providing support to you as a parent.
Building a relationship with other home-schooling families is not only beneficial in terms of having a network of support, but can also help share the load and responsibilities of home-schooling, giving you crucial perspective. For example, should you have a particular strength in a particular subject, you can share your tips and suggestions on lesson planning, field trips, and case studies that may help others in your network. At some stage they may also be able to do the same for you.
This system can also help if you need to step away from coaching duties. Leaning on other members of the home-schooling community – who know and understand the rigours of the home-schooling academic process, and who may be able to supervise your children alongside their own for an afternoon – will give you the ability to conduct some daily business without feeling you are compromising your kids’ academic needs. There are numerous Facebook groups and forums that connect and support home-schooling families. Find one in your area and get to know your fellow coaches. More often than not they are very willing to help and share their experiences.
Be organised and systematic and establish accountability
A positive learning environment starts with a well-organised space in which to learn, a regimented approach to schedule, and the agility to adapt to any issues that may crop up on any given day. Children thrive on routine, so try to maintain that for them, and for yourself – but also be prepared to shake things up a bit should they begin to lose interest, moving them away from their computer to more practical tasks.
Organisation is very important when it comes to home-schooling more than one child at the same time. Preview lessons so you are one step ahead and know what is coming up for your kids. Perhaps also consider creating a calendar and treat it like a masterplan for your day-to-day teaching and learning agenda. Also important is to establish expectations and encourage your children to meet them. Your students should know what is expected throughout their education and should understand that they will be held accountable.
Give yourself a break
Being a learning coach can at times be stressful. After all, the typical parent whose children attend public or private school would typically only be responsible for learning after school hours by helping with homework, projects, and exam preparation. Being in the driver’s seat of teaching and learning is a dauntingly big responsibility, even for the most prepared. Perfectionism and the drive to get things 100 percent right all the time can lead to burnout. Home-schooling needs to be fun for you and your children to maintain momentum. Without enjoyment it will feel like a chore and a sacrifice.
As a home-schooler, you may begin to feel you never truly get a break from the process, which is why it’s so important to ensure that you do have a social life of your own and friends and family who can support you in your efforts. Teachers in public schools get days off occasionally, so you can take a day off too. A happy and focused learning coach is vital to the success of the home-schooling family. And remember, if it’s all getting a bit too much, you can always lean on the iCademy Middle East family – who are always on hand to help provide support and guidance in achieving the very best outcomes for your family and your students.
It may sound trite, but it bears repeating from time to time: children are not the same. They all have different personalities, different perspectives, and different preferences – particularly when it comes to schooling. It stands to reason that given the individuality of each child, that individual learning styles should be adopted – ways in which children absorb, process, comprehend, and retain information to best effect.
The homogenised way in which conventional schooling operates, assuming that every child will absorb and process information the same way and at the same speed as their classmates, is often the reason that parents begin to look at home-schooling as an option in the first place. But as a learning coach – or a parent of a home-schooled child – understanding what learning style works best for your student is essential.
Individual learning styles depend on cognitive, emotional, and environmental factors, as well as experience. In other words: everyone is different. It is important for you as a learning coach to understand your students’ learning style, so that they can implement best practice strategies into their daily activities, curriculum, and assessments.
The notion of learning style is important, and indeed it has gained widespread acceptance, even being adopted in mainstream academics, but in many cases, without close, one-on-one support running in conjunction with individualised learning, the theory is less successfully applied.
Students are currently recognised as falling into four learning categories. They are visual learners, auditory learners, reading/writing, or kinesthetic learners. These categories are commonly represented by the VARK acronym. This model accepts and acknowledges that students process information in different ways otherwise called ‘preferred learning modes’.
How these modes are addressed has a significant influence on behaviour and learning, and also on comprehension, motivation, and metacognition.
Visual learners prefer learning through imagery. Whether this is through photographs, pictograms, maps, or charts – visual thinkers like to see information presented in a processed and visual way to understand it.
Auditory learners use their ears to learn, listening and speaking and learning content through explanation. Aural learners habitually use repetition as a study technique and benefit from the use of mnemonic devices.
READING AND WRITING
Students with a strong reading and writing preference learn best through the written word. Copious note takers and avid readers, they are able to translate abstract words and concepts into words.
Practical and hands-on, kinesthetic learners best understand and absorb information through touch and by figuring things out practically.
By taking the time to understand learning styles and developing teaching techniques which suit the student, you will make the most out of the time you are investing in their education. By making your kids better able to learn, gather information and harness it, you will be able to make informed academic decisions and choose appropriate courses of action and communicate lessons more effectively.
Moving to the next level – college and university
Perhaps the biggest misconception about homeschooling is that it functions in isolation and that kids who have been home-schooled are at a disadvantage when it comes time to applying for places in tertiary education. It is too often thought that once children move to the stage where they are applying for places at college or university the door will be closed, with institutions frowning on homeschoolers and refusing to offer them places. This is far from accurate – indeed, often the opposite is true – particularly if children have undertaken an internationally accredited curriculum, as is the case with iCademy Middle East students.
Indeed, when asked, many university professors openly admit that they find a greater sense of maturity and preparedness in home-schooled children once they attend university – and that the requisite self-motivation and organisation that comes with learning from home translates beautifully to university education. Time management, the ability to manage additional activities, and the resilience to deal with challenging academic environments are issues that home-schoolers are prepared for, whereas students from ‘mainstream’ schools can find the lack of structure overwhelming.
According to Marjorie Hansen Shaevitz, who previously worked in the office of the Dean of Students at Stanford University, home-schoolers have many of the characteristics colleges look for – that they have “all the kinds of things that colleges are looking for – curiosity, confidence, resourcefulness, ability to deal with challenges.”
Universities are increasingly attuned to the growing number of applicants with a home-schooling background, and are well-prepared to assess students on their academic merits, rather than make judgements based on the types of school they attended.
These days, even the Ivy League is not out of reach. Home-schoolers are regularly attending Harvard University – (Click this link to read more www.businessinsider.com/homeschooling-is-the-new-path-to-harvard-2015-9) and a brief look at the Princeton University admissions page shows that even the top universities are looking beyond the traditional: “We recognise that your experience as a home-schooled student will be somewhat different from students in traditional schools. We’ll look at your academic record and non-academic interests and commitments within the context of your particular home school curriculum and experience.”
Indeed, even professors are recognising noticing the benefits that home-schooling has on the positive quality of a student, and that they can play a key role in positive classroom dynamics and in propagating positive learning behaviours among their peers.
Dr Jay Wile, an author of academic literature for home-schoolers and a college professor himself says: “In my experience, home-schooled students are hard-working, polite, and engaged. They are not afraid to ask questions and engage with the instructor. They are the most serious about class. They always attend, ask questions, and respond when questions are asked of them. Outside class, they learn better on their own. When I ask questions that are covered in the reading but not in class, they are the ones most likely to answer correctly.
“My home-school students are some of my ‘favourites’. I hate to put it that way, but they are well-mannered, respectful, almost always have their work done, are attentive, are ready for class, and typically have a good work ethic. I find them to be ready to learn in a way that I don’t see with public school students. I don’t know if this is because they are excited to be in the college classroom, or if it is something else. I have taught at the college level for over 20 years, and I can honestly say that home-schooled students are now more prepared for college than ever before. I really enjoy having them in my classroom.”
Tips to help prepare your children for tertiary education from Dr Jay Wile:
Routine and schedule – keeping your children on track
As an iCademy Middle East parent, you are now in control of your children’s learning journey. You have the freedom to design and plan that journey specific to your children’s needs and abilities; working with their learning coaches to get the very best out of them. But that freedom comes with its own challenges – not least of which is creating a clearly-defined and well-thought schedule.
For a home-schooling parent keeping your children on task and on schedule is one of the most important aspects of your role as a learning coach. At home, there is no bell dictating when the day begins and ends, nobody to report to if lessons are missed – the responsibility falls on parents, so here we will give you some really useful advice to help you establish a clear routine to keep your kids on track and make them aware that there is a time and place where they are expected to study.
Plan ahead and look at the big picture
When planning your schooling, do make sure that you are taking everything into consideration – vacations, events, extra-curricular activities – and plan accordingly. A 180-day school year is fairly standard and works out to four nine-week quarters, two 18-week semesters, or 36 weeks, but this can be changed to suit your child’s abilities and to accommodate any additional advanced classes in which they may be enrolling.
Make the week your own
Once again, flexibility comes into its own here, because unlike bricks and mortar schools, you can take your weekends or days off whenever they work best for you and your family. This is great if for example you have an unconventional work-week or you simply want to maximise family time.
A neat suggestion for weekly scheduling is the 4:1 ratio – four days with the children working from their desks at home, with the fifth reserved for field trips or outdoor activities. This is a great way to break-up their schedules and again, you can move the days around to suit your kids – for example it is a Tuesday and you can see your children lacking in motivation, you can schedule an impromptu external day to revitalise and reinvigorate them, without falling behind on their studies.
An additional tool is establishing a block learning schedule. With this method you can divide the curriculum into larger chinks, so your children will focus on a specific subject for a larger period of time rather than little and often. This method allows students to fully focus on a particular subject without over-scheduling the school day.
Take it day-by-day
If you are new to home-schooling, you may be slightly concerned about how many hours per day to sit your children down to learn. It is very important to remember that your schedule can be much tighter than that of a mainstream school. For instance, there is no need to add time for admin tasks such as roll-call or moving around a large campus. Lunch breaks can be much more efficient – preparing lunch for one or two is a great deal easier that for a class of 30. You will also not have to provide time for students to move from one classroom to the next between subjects. In addition, learning speed can often be accelerated in children who are learning in a one-to-one fashion, so it’s important to see and understand how your children have responded to the home-schooling environment.
Many parents of young children through first or second grade find they can easily cover all subjects in just an hour or two. As students get older, it may take them longer to complete their work – as much as four or five hours in high school – but what is important is that provided there is a learning-rich environment with teaching aides, books, art, crafts materials etc, you will come to understand that learning happens even when the school books are put away. Students can use all the extra time they have been given to broaden their horizons by reading, pursuing their hobbies and talents, and becoming more rounded and happier children.
Remember, your daily schedule should be shaped by your family’s needs and the academic ability of your children – and nothing more. There is no one perfect home-schooling schedule and finding the right one for your family may take some trial and error. And it will likely need to be adjusted from year to year as your children get older and the factors affecting your schedule change.
Learning to be a learning coach
Taking responsibility of your children’s education can feel like an enormous obligation – which it is! But it is not something which should overwhelm you. As a home-schooler, it is important to remember that you are not your children’s teacher in the traditional sense – the K12 programme takes care of that by providing lessons, syllabus, curricula, and all the support that runs alongside. However, the role and the duties it entails should not be underestimated. You are taking the lead in driving your children’s academic achievement, and as a learning coach, you are there to guide them towards their academic progress. The oversight, prompting, encouragement, and structure you provide will play a vital part in ensuring the success of the home-schooling programme.
But this is a learning process, not just for your children, but for you as well. Becoming a ‘superstar’ learning coach doesn’t happen overnight and will require a little time and effort. Be patient with yourself – the adjustment won’t happen overnight, but once you find your feet in this exciting role, most parents find their involvement in their children’s virtual schooling to be very rewarding. Here’s a little advice to get you going on your journey to becoming a learning coach.
Open the lines of communication
Communication plays an enormous part in home-schooling. You will need to make sure from the outset that your children are able to talk to you when they are struggling, or have not mastered the topics you will cover. As they get older, it is also crucial that you can prompt students to speak to teachers directly should they think they require additional support. You will need to encourage this and reassure the child that asking for help is not a problem when they are struggling with any concept or its mastery.
It is also important that you as their leaning coach maintain an understanding of the curriculum so that you are best-placed to help your children progress. Should you find that you do not understand the subject matter, do not hesitate contact the subject teacher to get feedback and support.
Maintain routine and schedule their day
Routine is the cornerstone on which you can build independent learners. With routine, your children will know what is expected of them, and importantly, you will know what to expect each day. The structure that routine will bring will also encourage personal responsibility as your children will need to be made as accountable for their time and for their own learning journey as much as you are. Discipline will be enormously helpful in achieving that.
That is not to say that you must be overbearing: you will need to work this discipline into their lives in a way that supports their best learning habits. But successful routines largely eliminate any power struggle by empowering children to plan their own day. This helps maintain consistency and expectations. There is a sense of safety in routine, and it’s an essential component of success.
Help your learner set up daily and weekly study schedules. Preparing these in advance will help spread out the studying into realistic time increments – and creating a plan ahead of time will make it easier for the learner to stick to the commitment. An established routine will also make it easier for your learner to slip into ‘school mode’ during the pre-planned study time. A daily or weekly study schedule keeps learners on track and accountable — even if this schedule is just 10 minutes a day to prepare for an upcoming math test.
The task at hand
Staying on task will play an important part in progressing through the curriculum – particularly as a large portion of the K12 programme uses technology. With the distractions that the internet provides, monitoring your kids and making sure they are moving forward is essential. Of course, every child will need encouragement, but you as a parent will know how much they will need. A tip here is to break down their day into chunks, and help them focus on one task at a time, minimising distractions and motivating them to persist. Another key point here is to schedule regular breaks – this will allow a period where they can decompress and prepare for the next lesson. But a break should in itself be productive and we wouldn’t recommend allowing free internet privileges during this time. Use the breaks to encourage physical exercise as it will help keep children engaged.
Approval and praise
Approving completed lessons is important as it means that you are able to ‘sign off’ the tasks your students are undertaking. It will also allow you to monitor progress before moving to the next subject. Make sure that the quality of the work itself is of a good standard and if you are unsure, ask the K12 support teachers for their opinion before moving on. Equally important, remember to praise your children when they have done a good job in mastering the subjects.
Failing to prepare is preparing to fail
Maintaining your schedule is as important for you as keeping tabs on your children’s progress. Prepare for lessons at least a day in advance and ensure that there are no surprises around the corner. This will also prevent any potential clashes or power struggles later on and keep productivity high for the learner and for you as a learning coach.
Enjoy the process
Learning coaching is a hugely rewarding part of the home-schooling experience. You will find out how to understand your children’s learning style and with time, learn how you can get the best out of them. An investment of time and effort in developing yourself as a learning coach will see you grow in confidence as a teacher and as a parent. Remember to enjoy the process and to make it fun for you and your children and the rewards will be clear. Here are a few key tips to bear in mind along the way.
POINTS TO REMEMBER
Accredited home schooling – why is it important?
There is an argument that accredited school curricula are not the be-all and end-all of home-schooling – but there are some very important benefits that must be considered.
The best home-schooling systems couple blended home learning in-line with the high standards associated with the K12 curriculum.
Over the 10 years that iCademy Middle East has been operating, it has developed a reputation as a leader in this field. And with its recent New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) accreditation, parents can be 100 per cent assured that the quality of education their children receive is of the highest quality.
Accreditation means that the school is examined for proficiency and quality by a third-party entity, in this case the New England Associate of Schools and Colleges – one of the oldest and most prestigious facilities in the USA.
NEASC is an independent and not-for-profit membership organisation that connects and serves more than 2,000 public and independent schools, technical/career institutions, colleges, and universities in New England – plus international schools in more than 65 nations. The Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) in Dubai, where iCademy Middle East is based, has teamed up with NEASC to establish and implement an accreditation process appropriate to US schools in the emirate, and to offer students and their parents a curriculum where academic standards and attainment are benchmarked against international norms.
To achieve NEASC accreditation, US schools in Dubai must deliver educational content that closely reflects subjects taught in American or international schools, with the mission to deliver quality education and learning to all students. Currently, 31 schools in Dubai teach the US curriculum to 45,862 students, amounting to 18.8 per cent of all private school enrolments – all adhering to NEASC standards.
By being NEASC accredited, iCademy Middle East observes the stringent requirement specified in the American Common Core curriculum for the provision of education.
As a NEASC accredited online school – the only one of its kind in the Middle East – iCademy Middle East gives parents the assurance that their child’s education needs are being met – the kind of confidence that is invaluable in an online school – particularly if parents have never experienced home-schooling before.
Importantly, accredited systems are often regarded more highly by tertiary education institutions. The measurable outcomes that such schools provide offer greater insight into the child’s educational capability. Accreditation also validates their certificates and their acceptability to tertiary institutions.
Accreditation unquestionably raises parent confidence, eliminating any worries a home-schooling parent may feel in taking responsibility for their child’s education and future.
As the weather begins to allow for more fun in the sun, here are a few ideas to take your kids outdoors and enjoy the cool weather, without missing out on their lessons.
GO TO THE GARDEN – AND INSPIRE THEIR ARTISTIC SIDE
Subjects – Art and Biology
Using the backyard for something a little more sedate than play will give your kids a chance to recharge their batteries and enjoy the calmness that nature can bring. Mindfulness and positive psychology can be enhanced by encouraging your kids to take a pause, and to draw something they can see out of doors. Keep you kids sun-safe of course with a nice big hat and sunscreen, but give them the time to come up with something creative and beautiful in a quiet space. If your children are not ones for sitting still for too long, give them a camera and challenge them to photograph as many different species of flora and fauna as they can.
GO TO THE BEACH – AND MAKE A VOLCANO
Subject – Science
There is nothing finer than a trip to the beach when the weather is good. But there is no reason this can’t also be an educational experience for your kids.
Get them to pile the sand as high as they can into a mountain shape and make a crater in the top. Place a small pot of bicarbonate of soda into the crater and get the kids to pour some sea water on top of it. Watch their eyes light up as they are rewarded with an exploding volcano. If they are old enough, you can go ahead and explain the chemical reaction behind the explosion (H2O + NaHCO3). You can also get the younger children to go on scavenger hunts to see all the different things you can find at the beach or indeed devise mathematics lessons round the shells they collect from the shoreline. Think on your feet and you can have a great day out, keeping the children thoroughly entertained while they learn.
GO TO THE MOUNTAINS – AND LET THEM GO WILD
Subject – Pastoral and Physical Education
Let it never be said that physical education is not an important part of learning. Keeping your children active is a fantastic way to help their physical and emotional development and should not be overlooked. The Middle East has some fantastic hill and mountain trails which are ideal for a nature hike, perfect for getting your children away from their computer screens and into nature. This is great for kids because by changing their environment, you are giving them the chance to see something new. This will inspire them to devise their own lesson for the day. Let them go and make discoveries and you can build on these, dropping in some lessons on the fly. This will foster fascination and wonder in your kids while letting them enjoy their environment. Remember though, that to get the most out of this exercise, devices should be left behind.
Taking your child’s education into your own hands can be a daunting prospect. Here are a few pointers to help get you moving on the path to achieving quality home education.
If you have never been exposed to home-schooling before, the decision to take your children away from ‘mainstream’ education can be intimidating. But it needn’t be. Children are constantly learning, and with the help of the internet, dynamic curricula, and well-sourced support networks, home-schooling has never been easier to implement, more affordable, or better in quality. For many people, home-school offers a more detailed and diverse education than typical school systems can offer. But once the decision to educate at home has been made, what are the next steps? Where do you go from there? Here are some tips from iCademy Middle East that can help you to set-up your home-school and get your kids on track.
UNDERSTAND YOUR CHILD’S LEARNING STYLE
Take a look at how your children learn best – and work with them to harness their potential. They could be visual processors – learning through sight – or they might favour auditory learning or indeed they could be kinesthetic (also known as tactile) processors – those who learn by doing. Perhaps think about the tasks or projects you have seen them do that have had the best outcomes – either in school or in play. Whichever type of learner your child is, just remember… you know your children better than anyone else; use that knowledge to your mutual advantage!
MAP OUT YOUR GOALS
The reasons for home-schooling are varied but the desired outcomes are consistent – giving children the best possible start in life. By being goal-oriented you can help shape how your children are learning. Give yourself some goals at the beginning of your school year and work towards them. Here are just a few examples.
SET UP YOUR SPACE
The environment in which your children are learning plays a significant role in their education. Don’t be tempted to try and create a ‘typical’ learning space. It is important to remember that a home-school is not a public school that’s at home. It should be a flexible space designed around your kids and your domestic needs. Remember that as a parent and learning coach, you are 100% in control of your children’s learning environment, so set it up to best suit and reflect their personalities and learning styles.
Keep the space relatively clear and quiet. The less clutter or distractions the better. But don’t go overboard, the room should feel welcoming too. When your child enters that space, they need to be prepared to learn – so think about creating an environment which fosters a learning mindset.
There should be a good amount of natural light – your children will be spending upwards of 25 hours a week learning in this space, so make sure it’s well lit.
If you have the space, perhaps create some learning stations – one for reading, one for the computer, one for arts and crafts, and indeed a space for you as their learning coach. It will help keep your space organised, and encourage your children to manage their space carefully.
DEVISE A SCHEDULE – AND STICK TO IT
Regardless of your reasons for making home-schooling a reality for your family, be they gifted and talented or in need of more one-to-one teaching, it is very important to write up a schedule – and try your best to keep to it. Routine and repetition play a big part in developing good learning habits. Of course, one of the benefits of home-schooling is its flexibility, but if your schedule is thrown off course, try to get it back on track where possible. Your children will learn better as a result. The online K12 course that iCademy offers will help you to manage your time, but remember that you can manage your time to suit you and your children. Design a plan that works for your family.
One of the key issues that often puts potential home-schoolers off the idea is the misconception that children who are home-schooled are socially awkward due to the lack of constant exposure to kids their own age that mainstream schooling offers. This is far from the case.
Give your children the opportunity to socialise with kids after school hours in sports teams or clubs and they will develop fantastic social skills – as good as any typical school child. Indeed, it has been the experience of many university lecturers and professors that home-schoolers are typically better able to conduct themselves in a ‘professional manner’ than their public-school counterparts.
iCademy plays its part here by encouraging our entire student body – be they full-time home-schoolers, our learning centre cohort, and our iCad+ department to regularly come together for key celebrations and events. Doing this encourages our parents and our students to connect and gives a great opportunity to come together as a community.
Also, don’t be afraid to go on field-trips! Take them out to places like museums or art galleries to give them some first-hand experiences. But don’t forget that anything can become a learning experience if handled correctly – even a trip to the supermarket. Make teaching your children outside the classroom bold and dynamic and don’t forget to have fun with it.
DON’T BE AFRAID OF SELF DOUBT
When you start home-schooling, you will probably often find yourself questioning your decision- making. But that is completely normal, and will lessen over time. The K12 program we offer at iCademy Middle East is designed to help give you and your children the very best education. We are ready to support you wherever we can and our team of online teachers are prepared to help you when things get a bit confusing or your child is struggling to understand key concepts. There are support networks across the board to help you navigate the challenges of home-schooling.