As a homeschool parent or teacher, you may be wondering how to create a positive learning environment for your students. Take a moment to think back on your childhood educational experience and recall your favorite teacher or what you loved about being a homeschool student. Why was he or she was your favorite? Was it their tough but fair grading? An inviting learning environment full of well-organized materials? Or was it simply that you knew the teacher cared about you and your success? It can be difficult to understand exactly what about your favorite teacher or homeschool experience appealed to you, but ultimately, the positive learning environment he or she created made your experience enjoyable. We’ll help you understand what a positive learning environment is and give you tips on how to make your classroom or homeschool an effective place for learning.
What is a positive learning environment?
A positive learning environment is an atmosphere where students are free from other concerns so they can focus on learning. The climate should feel safe, and the rapport between teachers and students and between students and their peers or siblings must be free and open. Students should feel that they are heard, understood, and loved. An effective learning environment in a classroom is one in which students are empowered to make decisions and take responsibility for their learning. In a homeschool setting, students can receive learning tailored to their needs and may feel more safe communicating. A classroom teaches students to learn alongside others who may have different needs than their own and give them the opportunity to show empathy and kindness.
What is a negative learning environment?
A negative learning environment is one where students and teacher lack the support they need to focus on learning. What has a negative impact on learning?
- A lack of appropriate learning materials
- Extensive use of digital content instead of face-to-face interaction
- Unclear expectations from the parent or teacher
- Unrealistic expectations for students
- A lack of awareness of individual needs
- A disregard for physical or emotional needs or safety
- An unwillingness to communicate
Characteristics of a Positive Classroom Environment
A positive classroom environment is characterized by:
- Students are not distracted by concerns for physical or emotional safety.
- Mutual respect. Teachers and students have a rapport with one another so that each person feels valued and included.
- Teachers ask guided questions to help students uncover truth. Students ask questions because they are curious, and they know questions are encouraged.
- Personalized learning with a variety of experiences. Children learn in a variety of ways, so we vary the learning experiences to cater to each one’s needs. We provide opportunities for active learning to involve students in the learning process.
- Constant opportunities for practice and growth. Most people who learn a fact or skill will need practice. New concepts build on old concepts, and students will need to master foundational concepts through practice.
- A growth mindset. A student is not allowed to say, “I can’t,” without a teacher interjecting, “yet.” With a growth mindset, we persist through challenges and obstacles and find a way to master the skills through effort.
Goals of a Learning Environment
The main goal of a learning environment is learning. This goal is supported by several mini goals. Empower your children to make decisions about their learning and to take responsibility for their learning. Model a growth mindset and cultivate it in your students and children. Be transparent about what success is, in a particular class as well as in life. Finally, genuinely celebrate your child’s growth and achievement.
Benefits of a Positive Learning Environment
Because a positive learning environment does not cause undue anxiety or distraction for students, they are free to reach their full potential. You should see improvement in student
As a homeschool parent you should ensure that you have the support you need so you can provide a great education for your children. You will not need every school supply and manipulative that is available for purchase. Be strategic in outfitting your homeschool with critical supplies as well as some fun ones.
10 Ways to Create a Positive Learning Environment
Assuming safety and rapport are well in hand in your homeschool or classroom, here are ten ways you can create a positive learning environment.
1. Make your homeschool room or classroom a clean, bright, organized space to learn.
Even if the rest of your house does not fit this description, having a place to learn that is clean, bright, and organized will positively influence your student’s ability to focus on learning. in a homeschool room, give your student the responsibility to keep her personal learning space clean. Natural lighting, access to outdoor spaces, and displays of student’s work all boost performance on learning tasks. This organized space should include plenty of books, manipulatives, and other materials that will enhance learning. See how homeschool moms have organized their homeschool rooms.
2. Establish a routine.
Children young and old benefit from order and routine. Be sure to include physical activity and breaks in your routine so your children don’t have to sit still for extended periods. For homeschool parents teaching multiple children at home, they will know when to expect your attention and when they need to work independently.
3. Model organization and focus strategies.
Your students need to learn important skills that you have been working on for decades longer. Give them a glimpse into your world and let them know the strategies you are using to increase focus and stay organized in the school room. One focus strategy might be simply taking a break when you notice focus slipping in yourself, your child, or the class. Instead of just saying, “Let’s take a break,” say, “I’m having trouble staying focused right now, so I think we should all go for a walk outside.” This verbal cue, about why you are choosing to take a break now, will help them recognize that they can use the same strategy for themselves.
4. Make the learning content as relevant as possible.
Relevance gives students intrinsic motivation to learn. Use cross disciplinary studies so different subjects are relevant to each other. Find the application to your students, the home, the church, or the community. If you can make the application a reality rather than only theoretical, you will reap even more benefit.
5. Take each child on a personalized learning journey.
Here is where homeschooling has a clear advantage over standard classroom instruction because it has fewer personalized journeys to conduct. Differentiated instruction accommodates individual learning needs by varying the way content is presented and assessed. Each child may have a unique combination of learning styles. Active learning involves students in the learning process rather than merely reading or listening and supports all learning styles through multisensory learning. You can let your children make some decisions about how they would like to learn to boost their investment in the learning process. By providing different types of learning experiences, you remove barriers to their learning.
6. Ask questions and encourage questions from your children.
Question-driven classrooms are an exciting place to learn. You can try the Socratic questioning method of teaching, when it is appropriate, to model the questioning process for your children. Using questioning develops creative thinking abilities.
7. Use many sources for learning materials.
Your BJU Press curriculum, with the standard books and extra resources, is a great place to start, but your local library or the internet offer many complementary sources you can explore. Some sources may conflict with each other, providing you the opportunity to model the critical thinking needed to evaluate your sources.
8. For homeschooling, look for opportunities to collaborate with other students.
Depending on your specific situation, you might have more or fewer opportunities to collaborate with other homeschool families. If you are isolated, create a multi-grade level project for your children to work on together, giving each of them age-appropriate tasks within the larger learning project.
9. Offer plenty of assessments with opportunities to improve.
Assessments before, during, and after teaching the content are all useful. Give your students a chance to reflect on their understanding after an assessment. For some subjects, such as math or science, let them rework the questions they got wrong.
10. Celebrate success without using rewards.
You want to avoid offering extrinsic motivation for your students to work hard. Instead, truly celebrate their achievements to encourage them. Praise the hard work it took to succeed. “I can tell you put a lot of thought into that.” Decorate the walls in your room with excellent examples of their work. Invite other family members, students, or teachers to celebrate with you.
Importance of a Positive Learning Environment
A learning environment is so important to a child’s success in school. The environment you create is more than a comfortable place to sit. It also includes a mindset in which each child has value and potential to succeed. No doubt you feel that way about all of your children, but be sure that the whole learning environment communicates that mindset to each of them in a way that is meaningful.
How can a learning environment influence behavior?
Many behavioral issues that manifest in a classroom environment are signals that all is not well in a child’s mind. The child may become disruptive or defiant because he thinks no one likes him. One who is disrespectful or oppositional may be experiencing stress because he does not understand what is expected of him. In your homeschool, non-school interactions between parent and child might influence your child’s behavior and reactions to you as teacher. A positive learning environment should work to eliminate these sources of anxiety and distraction for children. An effective learning environment will help your students get into learning mode each time they enter.
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Valerie is a wife and a mother to a very busy toddler. In her free time she enjoys reading all kinds of books. She earned a B.S. in Biology from Bob Jones University, minoring in Mathematics, and a Ph.D. in Molecular Genetics from Ohio State University. Valerie has 15 years of experience working in research laboratories and has coauthored 8 original research articles. She has also taught several classes and laboratories at the high school and college levels. She currently works as a Data Analyst and a freelance writer.