Catholic Homeschool Articles, Advice & Resources

The Secret to Successful Classroom Management


High school counselor Nick Marmalejo offers a 3-step strategy to set a new course for educational motivation, or strengthen the old one, for your review.

“Classroom Management” is the politically correct term educators give to maintaining actual student discipline within a conventional classroom. The subject forms its own large section of study within the field of education. My experience has been that the best educators are also excellent classroom managers. Frankly, those that can’t control a classroom don’t last as teachers.

For homeschooling parents, discipline and organization can be, depending on the student, a very difficult path to negotiate. Part of the reason for this is that, unlike students and teachers in a conventional classroom, children and parents live in proximity. Children typically know the faults and failings of their parents better than most people, even if they do not realize it, and can find or conjure a myriad of excuses to avoid or refuse parental coaxing and direction.

Don’t ask me how I know.

A Three-step Strategy to Stay on Track

Whether you are a veteran homeschool parent who knows the how and the when of educational motivation or a timid newcomer who recoils at the thought of being hard on your student,
here is a 3-step strategy to set a new course, or strengthen the old one, for your review.

The situation is even more difficult for parents if they have been historically weak in leading their child when it comes to discipline. How such a scenario can arise can be very understandable, but when it is recognized, it is time to rebalance and move forward accordingly.

1. Set Clear Expectations

The best leaders are the ones who, by word or by deed, set clear, consistent expectations for those in their charge. As parents, communicating clear expectations to your students creates accountability in the relationship between you and the students, the students and their work, and the students and their environment. These expectations need to be made known, sometimes more than once. The students needs to acknowledge them at the start so that there is some agreement about what they are going to do.

Keep in mind that not all students need to be told the same thing in the same way. With a simple statement, some students instinctively know what to do, are self-motivated, and set about their work.

Others need further stipulations to help motivate them. Here is a quick example: “You don’t get computer time if you don’t do your work.” And yes, I believe in restricting all screen time, but that is perhaps another article for another day.

2. Be Helpful

Once clear expectations are communicated, it is important to help students meet those expectations, or at least, to not get in the way. Hovering over your child can be necessary at times, but it can also smother or hinder natural motivation. The art of education is knowing when you need to step in and direct, or to stay back and let students work out their difficulties on
their own.

If it is a subject that is out of your league and the student needs help, then finding outside aid is the way to go. If this occurs within a Seton course, Seton has academic counselors (teachers) who can assist. They are only an email or phone call away, and Seton students should not feel any trepidation in reaching out.

Another aspect of being helpful is creating, inasmuch as possible, an environment within the home that is conducive to learning. A cool place for the pursuit of knowledge is ideal, a place to set the tone for educational goals and their importance.

However, for most of us, studying in a medieval library is unlikely. But, simply having a dedicated and pleasant space, one with a hardy table and free of unwanted distractions, will work just fine.

3. Hold the Line

As parent-teachers, our job is to act in the best interest of our students, even if they don’t believe we are doing so. When expectations are communicated clearly and effectively and you have been as helpful as you know-how, and the student is checking out, parental-teacher action is required.

The important point is to try and get to the bottom of the lack of progress. Is it too much screen time? Has there been a death in the family? Do the students feel they are being cheated out of the things that are most important to them?

Different situations call for different kinds of approaches. If it’s screens (or any other distraction), they need to go away. If it’s trauma, it needs to be addressed and maybe taking a break is in order. If it’s frustration, finding a compromise solution or re-arranging the schedule should be considered.

The fundamental principle is that correcting back to the line, to our initially communicated expectations, should be the goal. How we go about doing so is just as important as what we are trying to achieve, and our egos should not get in the way no matter how exasperated we may become.

Seeing it Through

Education is a tough business. Those who devote themselves to education deal with the entire gamut of human experience, not just a small segment of knowledge. The mainstream jest that “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach” was almost certainly coined by someone who never homeschooled.

Indeed, being a homeschooling parent is a sacrifice—a worthy one that requires courage and commitment to see it through. The above three-step strategy is but one way to help you stay on track when things get chaotic.

At Seton, we are here to help you achieve your educational goals in both the turbulent and the settled moments of your educational journey.

About Nick Marmalejo

Nick Marmalejo
Nick Marmalejo, a history major, graduated from Christendom College in 2001. He holds a Virginia Teacher Certification and lives in the Shenandoah Valley with his wife and three children.

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