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7 Ways to Be the Teacher Your Child Needs

What Makes a “Good” Teacher?

Let’s consider this question from a child’s perspective. If you asked your child to tell you what she wants in a teacher, what would she say? Go ahead and ask … we’ll wait!

african american mother and daughter working on schoolwork together

If your child is like most, you probably heard things like “gives me lots of recess” or “doesn’t make me do math.” But if we were to take a poll of the characteristics that children really appreciate in a teacher, we might also hear responses like these:

  • Is nice to me
  • Doesn’t yell
  • Listens to me
  • Cares about me
  • Is excited when I get something right
  • Is proud of me when I try
  • Understands that I’m not like everyone else
  • Makes learning fun

Did you notice that many of these qualities focus on the relationship between teacher and student? Coupled with the fact that your homeschooled child lives with his teacher, the importance of a positive student-teacher relationship gains even greater significance. But in the ups and downs of the daily grind, we sometimes get so focused on teaching and “improving” our kids that we forget to let them know how important they are to us and how much we believe in them.

father and son learning together

Positive Encouragement Is Huge!

We all love working with people who bring out the best in us—people who encourage us, lift us up, and motivate us to reach higher—and your child is no different. If he ever feels discouraged, try some encouraging words to increase his motivation and help him get back on track.

This quote from Mother Theresa is one of my favorites: “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” It can be helpful to have a reminder of that from time to time, so we created this beautiful printable poster to serve as a daily reminder that your kids need your encouragement.

download encouraging words poster

6 More Ways to Be the Teacher Your Child Needs

The impact the student-teacher relationship can have on your child’s ability to succeed is immeasurable. Here are a few more ways that you can be what your child needs most in a teacher.

  1. Treat lesson time as special.
    As your child’s teacher, you will spend many one-on-one hours with your child. Teaching is the perfect platform to show your child how much value he has in your eyes. What a great opportunity to encourage your child, build him up, and help him develop skills and character.
  2. Smile.
    Think about what a difference a smile from your boss or coworker makes when you’re feeling frustrated. To a discouraged child, a smile may communicate you can do it! even better than words can.
  3. boy having fun learning
  4. Reinforce the positive.
    Point out the things your student does correctly more often than you point out his mistakes. The more you reinforce something, the more likely your child is to repeat it. Just follow the basic principles on the graphic below.
list of 5 principles for reinforcing the positive
  1. Avoid comparing your child.
    The temptation to compare your child to another child, to a test result, or even to your ideal outcome is a “big pit” that puts pressure on your child and usually leads to frustration and discouragement.
  2. Listen to your child.
    Attentive listening lets your child know you are engaged and present in the conversation, and a child who knows he is heard and understood feels valued.
  3. Listen to yourself.
    But don’t just listen … listen through your child’s ears. Do you need to include more expressions of approval in your teaching?
boy having fun learning

How do you encourage your child? Let me know in the comments and we’ll add some of our readers’ ideas to the list below.

Tips for Encouraging Your Child, Recommended by Our Readers

  • When my kids are discouraged with a new activity, I help my children remember to keep working at it because they will get better! (Recommended by Renee W. via Facebook)
  • I help my child work toward progress and not perfection. (Recommended by Karina D. via Facebook)
  • I write them small encouraging letters and stick them to the bathroom mirror. (Recommended by Amber via blog comment)
  • I like to give them high fives and tell them that I love spending my days with them! (Recommended by Christina H. via blog comment)
  • When my child is discouraged because she doesn’t understand something, I repeat what she said, but with the word “yet.” “You don’t understand this yet.” (Recommended by Julie via blog comment.)
  • When my kids tell you me “It’s too hard!” I reply, “Yes, this task is hard, but you CAN do hard things!” (Recommended by Kay via blog comment)
  • I love to point out what my son has already accomplished to help him see what he is capable of. “Can you believe you just read a WHOLE story by yourself?” or “You have already read HALF of this whole book!” are a couple of examples. (Recommended by Anina via blog comment)

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Lyndsey Martinez

says:

Thank you for this!

Stacie McGregor

says:

Needed this today. Thank you!

Melody

says:

Thank you this is useful information I hope it will work for my child.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are welcome, Melody. If you have questions, I’m happy to help.

Jesse Rebekah Robinson

says:

Wow, thank you 😊,I really needed this.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Jesse!

Tshego

says:

I hope your tips will help me help my kids.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I hope they do too, Tshego. Please let me know if you have specific concerns or need more ideas.

Hollie

says:

My son lacks self confidence when it comes to school work and is quick to give up. These are great tips to help us build him up and help our days run smoother.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m glad this will be helpful for you and your son, Hollie. If you need additional help or ideas, please ask. We are happy to help as much as we can!

Carol

says:

My son is still young and I never sit him down in one place to teach him. While he’s on his high chair, I teach him his letter sounds through songs, which he loves. I totally agree with all the above and it’s very important to go at the pace of the child and make learning as fun as possible, unlike what we experienced during our school days, when subjects were forced on us. I want my child to love and enjoy learning. Thank you for this post , very informative

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Such a great point, Carol! Yes, learning, especially in the younger years, should be fun and at the child’s pace.

Beth Johnson

says:

Since starting homeschool with my 9 year old, his self confidence has gone way up. He was definitely missing the encouragement. I am pleased I can offer him a positive learning environment for his growth.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

This is so wonderful to read, Beth! I’m happy that your son can now learn in a way that helps him grow in confidence.

Jonell

says:

Our path has not been easy, but I’m starting to grasp some of the concepts mentioned here. Also, exploring neurodiversity resources to guide me in approaching our day in different ways. Teaching a young child just isn’t in my wheelhouse or at aligned with my personality, so I’m constantly trying to learn ways to improve me too.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Learning how to be a better teacher is a wonderful thing, Jonell!

Lauren Yoxthimer

says:

I’m struggling with consistency, because my child is struggling to grasp the concepts in level 1. But instead of forcing it, I think I’m going to go back one level and use what may be an easier level to build her confidence, and create an atmosphere that brings joy through learning instead of it being a “have to” every day.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Lauren,
For some children, going back to a point of success and moving forward again can be very helpful. If you would like help or suggestions specific to the struggles your child is having, please email us at [email protected].

CW

says:

Great reminders! My son is 11, attends public school, and has dyslexia, so keeping it quick and low-pressure is key for us.

Maria Del angel

says:

Wow. Thank you so much! I really needed to read this today. What a great reminder! I printed out the positive words, and the quote bu Mother Teresa.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m so glad this was helpful for you today, Maria.

Jonie

says:

It is definitely hard for my child to adjust from me being mommy to teacher. This is something that we are trying to work on this year. These ideas of words of encouragement are great, and my daughter even agreed with some of them. We will be trying some of these in the near future and see how they make our school days go.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Jonie,
I hope you find these tips helpful and useful in your days!

Sarah

says:

Love this! Thank you for the much needed reminder!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are so welcome, Sarah!

Vignan Vizag

says:

Very Informative article.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Vignan.

Jennifer Henning

says:

This is very helpful thank you so much for the advice. My daughter just started charter school this year for the first time. I’m a single mother it’s been a challenge to try working and also being there for my daughter’s schooling. Luckily I’ve been doing most of these positive things and words with my daughter. This was definitely helpful and I’m very thankful to have found some like minded mother’s.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m pleased to hear this blog post was helpful, Jennifer! Keep being positive and encouraging! It means a lot.

Rachel

says:

Thank you! These things are so important and I need to be reminded of them.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Rachel.

Kobeh Mills

says:

Thanks for the lesson of direction provided.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Kobeh. I’m glad you found this helpful.

Joy

says:

I love your post.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Joy!

Marina Mendoza

says:

These are amazing ideas and it gives me good insight of what I need to do, but how do I actually teach when I don’t know what grade levels need even when I look things up. Is there someone to actually teach me how to TEACH my kids. I would greatly appreciate it

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Marina,
Homeschool curriculum like ours is designed to be easy to teach. It will tell you how to teach and what to cover, no previous training needed on your part.

Jinan

says:

They are really helpfull. I have a little brother and I’m teaching him.
I always thought that if say that he is doing good then he will not try hard. I was totally wrong about that semmes like this is the opsite. I’ll do my best to change myself. Thank you.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Jinan,
I’m glad this is helpful. It is important to praise what you want to see more of. So, if you want your brother to try harder, praise him when you see he is trying and working hard. Even if he isn’t successful, hard work is worthy of positive feedback.

Engie msibi

says:

Its really helping,now I know how to help my son.thank you.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Engie. I’m glad this was helpful.

Sonia

says:

This is great! Loved

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thanks, Sonia!

Jane Evabs

says:

I am always so grateful to you for your uplifting, non judgemental advice and support.Through your constant emails, I have been inspired to succeed with so many of my students during lockdown; it has also been reassuring to know that my practice is sound and makes a difference to each and everyone of the students. Thank you for your golden nuggets.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are so very welcome, Jane. And it’s lovely to hear that you have found our emails so helpful during these trying times.

Christine Marchant

says:

I love your posts!!!
Very logical and sensible!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Christine!

Jenny

says:

I am looking for help for my 6 year old granddaughter who is struggling to read.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Do you have any questions or specific concerns, Jenny? You may find our 10 Tips for Reaching Your Struggling Learner, Signs of a Reading Problem, and The “No Gaps” Approach to Reading and Spelling blog posts helpful. But let me know if there is anything I can help you with.

Awele

says:

Very insightful.

Elizabeth T

says:

Hello, I have a child in 6th grade who is struggling with spelling. My question is where to start? Also, how long does it take for children to get through each level? My concern is that my child will be in this program as a senior in High School?. Thank you for any help you can provide for me.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Elizabeth,
We have a spelling placement test to help you determine which level your child needs to start with, however, most struggling spellers need to start with level 1.

We find that many students simply memorize easy words like “cat” and “kid” but have no idea why one uses a C and the other uses a K, or that the same rules that apply to these words also apply to higher-level words such as “concentrate.” Other students switch letters or leave out letters entirely. This usually occurs because they don’t know how to hear each sound in the word. Level 1 has specific techniques to solve these problems.

However, we encourage teachers of older students to “fast track” if the student knows how to spell most of the words but does not understand the underlying basic spelling concepts. In this case, very quickly skim the parts that he (or she) already knows and slow down on the parts that he needs to learn. Pull out several words as examples. Make sure he understands the concept being taught and that he can demonstrate it back to you with the tiles or app, and then move on. This blog article on Using All About Spelling with Older Students has a good example of how you might fast track.

All About Spelling is designed for you to move through it at your student’s pace. We recommend working for about 20 minutes per day, 5 days per week. We find that short, daily lessons work better than longer but fewer sessions. Each day you’ll spend a few minutes reviewing the review cards, and then you’ll pick up in the book wherever you left off previously. Some steps may be easy for your child, and you’ll go through them quickly, while others may be more difficult. Spend as much time as your child needs to master the material. If your student starts to forget things, that’s a sign that you need to slow down and do more review. This article on the Funnel Concept can help you see why moving too quickly can make retention difficult.

Older students like your child usually get through 2-3 levels the first year and 1-2 levels per year after that. How long each level takes will vary greatly depending on your student: what he already knows, and what he’s struggling with. In her private tutoring practice, Marie Rippel (the author of All About Spelling) normally expects to go through up to four levels in a year’s time when working with older children. The exception is when the child has extreme dyslexia or other learning struggles; then it takes longer. So, don’t be overly concerned about how long it takes. Instead, move as quickly as possible while ensuring mastery. Take it at a speed that’s right for your child. Note, the final level of All About Spelling, level 7, covers through 12th-grade spelling.

I hope this helps, but please let me know if you have more questions or concerns. My daughter was near the end of 4th grade when she started All About Spelling and finished the last level halfway through 9th grade, and the only reason it took that long is that we had to wait almost a year between level 6 and level 7 because level 7 was not yet published (this was many years ago). There is a very good chance your child can finish all 7 levels well before 12th grade.

Liz

says:

Thank you for sharing this.I know better on how to assist my six years old daughter

Krystal

says:

Thanks so much for this! Any advice for a 5 year old struggling with learning her letters and sounds? I have tried everything from coloring, painting, using a keyboard, play dough everything! I’m stranded at this point and feel so bad for my angel.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m sorry your child is struggling, Krystal.

Have you seen our How to Teach the Alphabet to Preschoolers blog post? It has some helpful ideas and lots of links and printables.

You may also consider our Pre-reading level of All About Reading as letter learning is one of the 5 Reading Readiness Skills it focuses on.

With a child that struggles like this, start with just one letter. Keep teaching it and reviewing it until she has it mastered. We have lots of options on the blog for keeping this interesting.

Only when she has a good handle on the first letter will you introduce the next one. Keep reviewing the first letter as you teach and review the second one. Only when she has both down well should you introduce a third letter, but again keep reviewing the first two. Have an ABC chart and sing the alphabet song daily and have her point to the letters she knows as you sing.

Continue this way, taking as much time as needed (will be at least many weeks, could be many months) for her to master the entire alphabet. If she has trouble learning the name of letters and their sounds at the same time, go through the alphabet the first time learning letter names only. Then start again, learning letter sounds the second time.

I hope this helps, but please let me know if you need more ideas. And let me know how things go over the next month or two.