13 Questions for Parents of Homeschoolers

Mom Tested Family Approved Homeschool

Mom Tested Family Approved Homeschool (Photo credit: Simply Vicki)

“Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in another time.”
Rabindranath Tagore

“I spent three days a week for 10 years educating myself in the public library, and it’s better than college. People should educate themselves – you can get a complete education for no money. At the end of 10 years, I had read every book in the library and I’d written a thousand stories.”
Ray Bradbury

 After attending TEDxHK, I have thought a lot about teaching practices, and curriculum, During the conference, Dr. Jadis Blurton challenged me to think about what learning that is done at school could not be learned online. Blurton writes” the great need for educational reform is coinciding with technological solutions and innovations.” She spoke about the fact that in fifteen years time, “educational leaders in schools will not be controlling the reformation, “so we educators better think about the value we add as institutions and professionals.”

Each day, I think deeply about what value I am adding to my students’ lives. I occasionally wonder if I am better suited to teach students through online teaching sessions using SKYPE or Google Hangout.

With this in mind, What about the parents that have already decided to offer an education to their children from outside of the classroom? These parents can give teachers a body of knowledge and experience. I feel teaching professionals would be wise to listen to parents of homeschooled students.

Below is a list of questions that I have for parents of homeschool students:

  • Are you presently satisfied with your child’s academic growth?
  • What lessons do you want your child to learn that they do not learn in a regular school environment?
  • What are three things that you look for when making curriculum decisions?
  • What would you want in an ideal online teaching service?
  • What are your first thoughts when you think of an online school?
  • Is homeschooling convenient?
  • What help do you need?
  • How is each learning day structured?
  • How do you give social and emotional learning?
  • How do you collaborate with others?
  • What teaching tools are most effective?
  • Who are your educational mentors?



  • Could I speak with you online to discuss this issue further?      My SKYPE address is barrymernin








Part One: A Day in the Life of an Elementary School Teacher

Greetings from San Francisco International Airport.


First off, I am one of the luckiest teachers on the planet. My school provides me with everything that I could need to do a good job. Alas, after reading some impressive postings about teachers around the world, I decided to share my day’s schedule for all to see.

5:55 AM iPhone Alarm goes off.

5:58 AM get out of bed, stretch,shower, shave, brush teeth.

6:21 AM Kiss wife, meet Taxi Ken

6:23 AM Think of family back in the states, check Facebook, Twitter accounts. Wish I was home for Thanksgiving.

6:38 AM Say goodbye to Ken, arrive at school. Greet security in Cantonese.

6:41 AM Log on to SKYPE . Try to connect with my sister.

6:46 AM Start setting up for Thanksgiving/International Day celebration.

6:57 AM Read and reply to first email of the day.

7:01 AM Prepare my Keynote presentations for the day.

7:05 AM Greet incoming colleague. Laugh about the Petraeus affair

7:20 AM Get my first cup of coffee, eat peanut butter and jelly sandwich, banana for breakfast. Grateful to my wife.

7:31 AM First kid shows up. He speaks to me about a documentary he saw last night  about the history of tea. I look surprised by his info. Tell him about my trip to Sri Lanka.

7:34 AM Another kid tells me that his mom translates my blog posts and sends them to her teacher friends in Taiwan. I am very pleased already with my first two experiences with my students.

7:40 AM Start storing food for Thanksgiving Feast.

7:45 AM Begin to miss home big time

7:47 AM Shake hands, make eye contact and greet each kid with a “Top of the Mornin’

7:52 AM Chitchat ends, kids read silently with their log books, notepads and independent reading books.

8:00 AM Daily Devotion begins.  Recite poem of the Week “When Children Eat by Margaret Yoder

8:08 AM We begin first reading group session with A Hundred Dresses. I am highly complimentary to the four students and their ability to share their thoughts on the story. I compliment them on their work with literal understanding. I give them tips on how to think deeply when conversing. I am grateful for all my work with Accountable Talk.

8:40 AM I wish each kid to have a good recess and to enjoy each other’s company.  Remind them that we are on this earth to be good to each other.

8:45 AM Check students’ word study sorts and note exemplary work.

8:50 AM I drink my second cup of coffee.

8:52 AM I converse with fellow teacher about the ukulele.

8:56 AM Begin to input data into math progress spreadsheet.

9:10 AM I get wrapped up into a conversation comparing Hong Kong and American mathematics teaching.

9:24 AM Tested “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” DVD.

9:37 I fine-tune Math Keynote for Open Response problem solving assessment.

9:40 Students arrive from Chinese Studies class. I instruct them to take their seats to begin Math assessment. Students begin and are highly engaged.

9:57 Compliment my teaching partner’s unit reflection lesson.

10:30 I meet with kids to discuss Thanksgiving and Writing Celebration decorum.

10:38 Begin walking the students to Physical Education class. Notice that my wife texted me to call her immediately. I instantly begin to panic and worry about my folks back home.

10:40 AM High five 60 students as they are obviously excited about their strength test.

10:42 Back in my classroom, call my wife and discover that all is well. She just wanted to chit-chat and see what I wanted for dinner. I laugh and breathe.

Final cleanup before Thanksgiving. Lay out tablecloths on desks. Pass out plates, plastic knives, forks and spoons, Class looks great.

11:30 AM Begin readers’ workshop minilesson.

That is enough for now. More to follow on the other side.

I am off to Osaka, Japan.





Surviving your Teacher Evaluation Year


Having recently completed my international school‘s rigorous teacher evaluation assessment process, I have decided to jot down a few bits of advice for fellow teachers. This year, I have had more than twenty formal, informal and unscheduled “walk through” observations of my teaching. My school’s administrators have provided written and verbal feedback throughout the year and have assigned a score. My salary was determined by my score.The purpose of this posting is to promote learning and to help teachers reflect upon their own teaching practices.

I hope it helps.

Avoid negative people and stay positive

This year, I needed to focus solely on my craft. I did my best to avoid negativity both inside and outside of the school. I stated at the start of the year that I would not utter a negative word about the evaluation process and for the most part, I was able to live up to that promise.I studied meditation exercises and practiced relaxation techniques. Unfortunately, I was not able to hike, nor exercise as much as I normally do.

Plan, organize and invest

I strongly recommend that you arrive early each morning. Most of my day’s work was finished before fellow teachers had arrived at school. This helped me complete whatever needed to get done. I planned each day to the minute and made sure that I was ready for the surprise visits from my evaluators. I had special lessons planned, and on hand, in each subject area, if needed.

Much of my success is due to the hard work I put in August. My classroom organization and classroom management routines were instilled early and from that I was able to reap the benefits later in the year. I tell everyone who will listen that a productive August is crucial to a successful learning year.

For further ideas on classroom management, listen to this podcast.

Finally, invest in a smartphone. The money spent on one will pay off in saved time and an eventual higher salary. My iPhone helped me document evidence of learning, check up on emails,record literacy one on one conferences, update websites.

Differentiate and let your assessments guide your teaching

This year I made a concerted effort to “maniacally” differentiate for all lessons. Each unit began with a pre-assessment of some sort that helped me find “just right” learning approaches for each student. Essentially, I was able to produce an individualized educational plan for each of my 22 students. I made sure to document all of my data using Evernote.

Communicate with parents

My students’ parents this year were amazingly supportive of my work. This  was due to my reputation and to respectful, individualized and positive communication throughout the school year. I never had a regular newsletter. I find them tedious to write and not a good use of my time. Rather, I would email parents occasionally when I had something inspired to post. I oftentimes attached a few photos or videos of student work and would include an educational journal of some sort.

Parents appreciated the fact that I set protocols, return emails promptly and that I made myself available for Skype conferences on most Saturday mornings.

Class Meetings

My students benefitted greatly from regular, weekly class meetings. The students conducted all aspects of the meetings from setting the agenda to developing solutions to problems. This helped me foster a positive, safe learning environment and allowed the students opportunities to develop leadership skills.

I also provided student feedback forms for students to fill out if they had problems that they rather not share with the entire class.

Pace yourself and finish strong

My wife told me often that this year would be a marathon. She was so very right. She constantly reminded me to rest, recharge and relax, so that I could “run through the tape.” It was very important to me that I finish my year strong so that I could support future participants.

Are you going through a contract year?

If you are an educator, I wish you all the best. Feel free to follow me on Twitter @LarryHermanHK.

Good Luck!