Five Tips for Successful Teaching at Home

Parents can make great teachers. We have some luxuries that teachers at school don’t always have...access to our kids when they are at their best and in a wider variety of environments. We don’t have to hurry. We don’t have to start the relationship from scratch every fall. We already know what motivates and delights our kids.

We can use these advantages for boosting our kids’ learning. Whether we support learning that is already happening at school or branch off with our own set of skills to learn, our kids can learn a lot at home. Here are five essential mindsets to make the most of the time we spend helping our kids learn.

1) Expect the best. Children tend to live up to the expectations of those people they value. Believe—honestly believe!—in your child. He’ll pick up on your attitude. Just as important, tell him you have confidence in what he can do. Be his most supportive cheerleader. Brag up your child’s accomplishments to others in her hearing, always ending with, “But then, it’s no surprise. We knew she could do it.”

2) Make learning interesting. Tie it in to your child’s passions. By relating the topic/activity to something child loves, you’ll keep her interest much better.

If she is crazy for penguins, let her practice her reading on books about penguins. Import images of penguins from the Internet into Powerpoint and let her write facts as captions to make a book. It can be as simple as her writing in the missing word in a repeating frame sentence on each page:  “Penguins _____ ....” She’ll remember—and read—“can” after this activity much better than if she copied the word five times on a worksheet!

Shark Toob toys
Work on ordering sizes using her penguin collection, letting her set them in a line from smallest to largest. Use penguin manipulatives to practice adding and subtracting facts to ten (check out all the types of “toob” sets available through using their search feature; Michael’s Crafts also carries them. They come in every theme you can imagine!).

Bring in music. Maybe I’m dating myself, but I still remember grammar rules from “SchoolHouse Rock” songs played during intermissions between cartoons. Oh, and facts about the solar system from an astronomy operetta we learned in 6th grade. Check out to preview some fun song-fact CDs you could sing together in the car to make good use of that time driving back and forth to therapy. Or type a search into YouTube for “(your topic) songs.”

Make drill work into a game. There are many more ways to practice drill than on worksheets or flashcards! More-than/less-than is pretty ho-hum as a worksheet exercise, but everybody loves a rousing game of War (the new politically correct name is “Top It.” Parents have no idea what that is. It’s just the same good old game of War we grew up loving).  

Touch your head it the number is even, touch your toes if it is odd. Or convert true/false into a Simon Says game; if the fact is true, do the motion. If the fact is false, don’t change to the motion.

There are way too many sources on the Web to list for free online games to practice skills. Just type “free online (your skill) games” into your browser and check out the pages of results! You’ll need to preview them first, because some may require responses that are beyond your child’s capability (i.e.: a child with motor issues might get frustrated with a timed game).

Switch out modes if possible, so that kids get practice at the material in lots of ways. It’s more interesting and it will help them generalize the information later. Sometimes we read a book, sometimes we read the captions on the bottom of a movie (by the way, it’s a great idea to leave the closed captioning ON on your television if you have budding readers at your house and especially if your kids are working on developing rate/fluency!), sometimes we read the words on road signs or cereal boxes.

3) Make learning meaningful. Give it a purpose, a function. Transferring walnuts from one bowl to another is (y-a-w-n) BORing fine motor work. Transferring wrapped candies into goodie bags to pass out to trick-or-treaters gives fun purpose to the same task.

4) Keep practice short but make it often. Do you know what an amazing opportunity sits in front of you if your child needs supervision during toileting? My daughter has memorized so many things during toilet time—sight words, spelling rules, math facts, the order of the planets, anatomy of a fish, you name it! We keep flashcards for memory work on a shelf above the toilet. Working through them 5 minutes at a time, 5 – 6 times a day makes for a great schedule!

If toilet time isn’t an option at your house, try to find some other daily ritual that lends itself to short bursts of practice...often. How about 5 minutes of practice at the end of meals? Waiting for the school bus? In the therapy waiting room?

5) Relax and have fun! Learning isn’t a race. What your child doesn’t learn today, he can learn tomorrow. Take a deep breath—it’s really okay. If something just isn’t sinking in, come back another day, another month and give it a fresh go. Parents have a lot more leeway in this area than the school does so at home, especially, relax. Learning should happen for a lifetime, and so if it something doesn’t click today, you have all that lifetime to keep working on it.  

Learning at home can be very rewarding and lots of fun to boot! Here's a challenge for you...think about what might you help your child learn at home. Did you find any ideas here that might make it successful? Is there something I missed that other parents would benefit knowing about? Be sure to let us know what you are doing!
Also, take a look at Barbara’s blog carnival at TherExtras. She’s asked parents to share what they taught their might get some really terrific ideas there!

Thanks so much for stopping by!


Barbara said...

That free online skills tip is great! Mainly, you share a great attitude toward teaching your own child - not an easy task for many. Thank you so very much, Rose-Marie!

vlmaples said...

This is what we call real life lessons; math and geography in baseball travels, just to name a few. I just wish more teachers would read your stuff. You might should plug it on QIAT when jumping in there. ;-)

Sana said...

Hi Rose-Marie,

Great great post! I've posted it on my facebook page Rett Syndrome Pakistan ( Will write to you soon and update you on everything we've been up to with our daughter..hope Angela and you are doing well!

Lots of love and hugs,

Rose-Marie said...

Barbara, I'm glad you like the search tip for finding games to support skill practice. It's so amazing to me just what you can find when you type a question into the search bar! I am constantly amazed by the wealth of information we have right at our fingertips!

Rose-Marie said...

Valerie, thanks for the great reminder of some of the terrific skills kids can work on as they follow sports! Lots of kids love them, even if playing a sport themselves isn't an option. After all, sports can be exciting!

20-25 years ago, teachers had so much more flexibility in their classrooms. With so much lock-step teaching focused on State Standards, much of that creativity has been shelved. That's where parents can step in and make learning fun and relative to a child's experience.

Rose-Marie said...

Sana, thanks so much for sharing this with your Facebook group! I hope others there will find it encouraging.

I look forward to hearing from you soon. I hope things have been going well for Aaizah and the rest of your family!

Ali said...

Thanks for this post. I am just in the middle of revamping my words of the week units and I found #3 to the most helpful. I have already created a book to work in the words rather than a worksheet.
So THANK YOU for sharing this blog post.

Rose-Marie said...

This is great, Ali! I'm so glad you found a useful tip for your teaching!

Cristina said...

Thanks for the great tips! Expecting the best can be the most difficult but the most important. It keeps both parent and child from giving up! :) Thanks again!

Rose-Marie said...

Cristina, thanks for your comment! Yes, you are so right about how hard it can be to keep up high expectations. I find that to be especially true when I don't see the progressed I'd hoped for. But you are right...those high expectations do keep us going! And I think they are very valuable in helping our kids internalize positive beliefs about what they can do.

starrlife said...

Lovely post- over from Barbara's blog carnival! Great ideas!

Your Therapy Source Inc said...

I love comment number 5 - relax and have fun! We only get one chance in life and if we don't slow down and smell the roses it will rush right by. Occasionally I get caught up in making too much a teachable moment - I need to just let it be at times and just enjoy the moments. Glad you submitted to the Therextras carnival.

Rose-Marie said...

Thanks, TYS! I have a problem remembering to relax and just have fun sometimes myself. Enjoy, enjoy!
Since our daughter isn't a candidate for independent living, it takes a lot of pressure off from reaching goals by a specified time. That helps.

Starrlife, I'm glad both you and TYS made it here from Barbara's blog carnival at Therextras. Glad you're here!