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We don’t like to admit it, but homeschooling can feel isolating at times. Making connections is important at every stage, but especially in high school. A valuable part of apprenticing our teens into adulthood is exposing them to environments that they will face in college or at work.
Hosting and participating in study groups was hands-down one of the most fun and productive things we’ve done in all our years of homeschooling. Before we dig in to the ‘how’ of study groups, let’s look at the ‘why’.
Why plan study groups for your teens?
Something that can motivate teens, expose them to different perspectives and teach them skills they may need in college? Yes, please!
Although our goal is self-motivation, there is something to be said for peer motivation. Study groups provide an atmosphere in which teens can be spurred on to their best work. In homeschooling, kids don’t often get the opportunity to see their work in comparison to others’. And while we don’t want that to be their focus, there are definite benefits to it at times.
Another perk of study groups is that they expose students to new perspectives. Discussion is something that can be more engaging and relevant with a group of peers. It’s a privilege to lead a study group of teens and be the adult who participates in these conversations with them. I can’t think of many other more meaningful opportunities I’ve had to speak directly into the lives of teens.
Study groups also provide students with practice in skills like time management and keeping track of assignments, things that need to be mastered before college. And besides all of that…study groups are FUN! Students build and strengthen friendships each week.
How do I plan a study group?
Pick a topic
Do you want to study a core subject like English, or an elective like World Religions? Either would work beautifully. You need to consider what courses the students are in need of, what they might be interested in, and what you would be interested to teach.
Remember, you don’t have to be an expert in the topic! You’ll have the curriculum to guide you and you can learn with the kids.
Speaking of curriculum, that’s the next step. Do your research and find something that lends itself to mostly independent work. Just like with regular homeschooling, you don’t have to do every part of it. You’re in charge.
Once you secure your primary curriculum, you’ll want to sit down and map out the course. We typically did our study groups as one semester courses, usually about 12-14 weeks each.
After you map out how you’re going to divide your main text among the semester, you’ll want to look for other materials to support your studies. The link above includes many ideas for these. Things like videos, hands-on activities, articles and field trips can all provide a deeper understanding of the topic.
Hosting the study group
Snacks are a must when a group of teens get together. Cookies, popcorn, cheese and crackers, fruit, or just about anything goes. If you can theme a snack to your studies…extra credit for you! We frosted cupcakes to look like brains one week in our Psychology study group.
We always started each study group by reviewing assignments from the previous week. Taking the time to go over students’ homework is great accountability for the teens. It also is a chance to make sure everyone is understanding the material and on track.
After reviewing, it’s time to move on to your new material. This is a good time for the group leader/instructor to do an overview of the new topic, or watch a video introducing it.
Homework for the week always includes readings from the text, along with any study questions or assignments you give. Be sure to go over all of this with the group.
Tip: Print out an assignment sheet for students to take with them each week.
We often used study groups to prepare for CLEP/DSST tests (exams that award college credit). As such, we added a few weeks of test prep review to the course. And by review, I mean review games. Playing Candyland, with a review question asked on each turn, or whatever other garage sale or Goodwill games you can pick up, will be a guaranteed hit.
Study groups are a fantastic way to engage your teens, from middle through high school, in a new way of learning. Don’t miss out on the benefits that they offer!
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