New year planning: How one educator on Outschool sets goals for homeschooling

Julie A., an educator on Outschool and a homeschool mom shares her tips for goal setting, customizing your kid’s education, homeschooling with a charter school, and more.

The new year is a natural moment for reflection and planning. If you’re one of the countless homeschool parents adding instructional goals to their list of resolutions, this blog is for you. 

We sat down with Julie, an educator on Outschool and a homeschool mom, to learn more about how she sets goals and plans instruction for her three children. 

Keep reading for our question and answer on Julie’s tips and tricks for customizing your kid’s education, homeschooling with a charter school, and her approach to “living is learning.” 

Meet Julie A.

New year planning - How one educator on Outschool sets goals for homeschooling - Outschool - Julie Alvarez

Professionally, I have been teaching, tutoring and homeschooling in one form or another for over 25 years. I LOVE working with my students and inspiring them through creative learning and play. I teach lots of social classes where learners can connect with one another and develop a growth mindset.

I currently homeschool my three children, who are 6, 8, and 10 years old. With two kids on the Autism Spectrum and one with ADHD, I have experience working with different learning styles and have taught students from many different backgrounds.

I use a multi-sensory approach in my classes. I am high energy and make sure each student feels included.

Why did you choose to homeschool?

I’ve been interested in homeschooling for as long as I can remember. I would have loved to be homeschooled as a kid myself. I was never interested in the busy work stuff at school, and I didn’t like the idea of studying for a test and forgetting everything right after. 

I wanted to homeschool for a thousand different reasons. But one thing that I am thankful for every day is the ability to customize the learning experience to fit each of my child’s particular needs and personalities. 

How would you describe your homeschool philosophy/style?

We are definitely eclectic homeschoolers–we use a little of everything in our homeschooling. I try to balance each child’s natural interest with my desire for them to learn certain things. 

When the kids are having fun, the learning happens naturally, and they retain it much better than if someone sits them down to learn something they aren’t connected to.

What does a typical homeschool day look like for your family?

For us, living is learning. I turn everything into a learning experience in a natural way. 

My kids learned to read by decoding signs while out and about. Their science experiments happened during backyard play. Writing started with letters to our family and companies they were interested in. 

I also constantly seek out learning opportunities that work with their interests. They like to play Minecraft, so I teach them chemistry, spelling, and coding through that. 

Why did you decide to enroll in a homeschool charter?

The charter school experience has been amazing–especially having the funding to do some of the things we love–like Outschool

What are some of the greatest benefits of using a charter? What are some of the challenges? 

I like using a charter for the funds and giving me a general idea of what kids are learning at a particular grade level. Finding work samples that communicate everything the kids are working on through one worksheet is sometimes challenging. 

I am starting to incorporate work samples into the classes I teach, like How Foods Grow, so students have something to take with them that demonstrates what they have learned.

How do you set goals for your learners?

I sit down every so often to think about goals for each child. Sometimes I brainstorm ideas for goals with my Educational Specialist at the charter school. 

It helps to look at the recommended standards for the grade levels as one starting point. I make some notes about the essentials I want to cover, and I plan those things out first. 

Often, I will notice there are little gaps here and there I would like to address. On the other hand, there are also many strengths that I want to encourage and sharpen. 

For example, my daughter is always drawing, creating, and making art in her free time and outside of her art class. I realized I needed to set a goal to help her add specific skills in this area. By pinpointing this, I was able to introduce her to a sewing class which she really loves! 

How do you identify learning experiences for your learners?

We don’t have a set curriculum; I love that because we can create any unique arrangement we like. 

Each of my kids learns differently, so I put the things in place that they need and go from there. For one student, the flex class is incredible in that she can read and watch videos at her own pace and communicate with the teacher. 

It has fostered so much independence in her and helped her to learn and work on some important lifelong skills while studying a topic she is interested in.

We do a mix of in-person and Outschool classes. Outschool has so many cool, quirky courses that you couldn’t find anywhere else. Combining Minecraft and chemistry has been a very cool combination that got my daughters more interested in science. 

My son has been able to make social connections with other kids his age who like coin collecting and Rick Rolling as much as he does. 

When I search for Outschool classes, I usually start with the topic I’m looking for and see what’s out there. 

Since I am not only a parent but also a teacher at Outschool, I just create my own class if I don’t find what I’m looking for. Even if they’re topics we could cover at home on our own, learning in a class with others is much more fun!

The other way I like to search for classes is to set up the day and time filters and look for something to fill a particular time slot. We always seem to have lots of things going on, but there are pockets of time here and there, and it’s a treat to squeeze in an Outschool class. 

In this case, I am not looking for a certain topic and it’s a great way to get introduced to new interests. 

How do you decide how to use your charter funds?

At the beginning of the year, I use the charter funds for the big stuff like semester math classes and ongoing history courses. As the year goes on, I use the funds for random classes here and there–anything that sounds interesting or that the kids want to try. 

They love joining my Lego and Minecraft courses to make social connections and have met friends from all over the world this way!

How do you make adjustments to your plans midway through the year? Do you stick to a strict schedule?

Strict–haha! Um, no, we aren’t strict with much. If something is not working, we have the flexibility to pivot and try something new. It’s another awesome benefit to homeschooling.

What tips/tricks do you have for another HS family, or anyone getting started?

New year planning - How one educator on Outschool sets goals for homeschooling - Outschool - Julie-s classes

If you are just getting started, I would say to jump in and try lots of different things to see what you and your kids like best. Once you find something that’s working, stick with it! 

My kids tend to find a teacher they connect with and then just take everything that person has to offer. They have been introduced to some really fantastic topics this way.

My son started off in a one-time social class with a teacher and really connected with her. When we searched the teacher's other class offerings, we found out she likes theme parks as much as he does. He got to learn about some new roller coasters through that experience. 

The best was when he tried a cooking class she offered. It's not something he normally would have signed up for, but because he knew and loved the teacher, he was willing to give it a try. 

He learned how to make a delicious pasta dish and taught the whole family after class! The meal has become a family favorite!

Outschool has your back 

A huge thank you to Julie for sharing your story and hard-won advice. We hope you’re as inspired by Julie as we are. To sign up for Julie’s incredible classes, check out her teacher profile

Or, browse more Outschool courses. We know you’ll find the perfect class to inspire your kids and support your learning goals in 2023 and beyond. 

Christine GlandorfChristine is a business development lead at Outschool. She's passionate about making education more engaging and equitable. As a former teacher and DI rowing coach, she loves connecting outstanding educators with kids pursuing their passions.

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