How to Use Scaffolding to Help Your Child Learn

Homeschooling parents approach educating their children with love, desire, and enthusiasm. We want our children to learn. We work hard to achieve successful outcomes. While some homeschooling parents have a background in education and have been teachers in a traditional setting, many do not. Instead, we base our educational techniques on what the curriculum we are using tells us to do, or on what we have learned through our own personal study of educational theories and methods.

Over the course of my homeschooling career, I’ve read countless books and articles on how children learn. It can be a tremendous challenge to figure out how an individual child learns best.

In addition, as homeschooling parents we are sometimes asked to teach larger groups of children in a co-op setting. At those times, it can be helpful to have more tools in your educational toolbox to help create a more positive teaching and learning experience for all involved.

Christ in the Classroom: Lesson Planning for the Heart and Mind by Jared Dees, which was written to help religious education teachers, has much to offer anyone involved in Catholic education, including homeschoolers. It has much useful information on how to create a lesson plan that will engage students on both an intellectual and emotional level. We want our children to be invested in what they are learning, not to simply study for a test and then forget the information the next day.

One of the ideas Dees presents is that of scaffolding a lesson. “When we learn something new, we make a connection between that new idea and another idea that we already understand. . . Every new idea you introduce needs to be attached to an idea your students already understand.”

Dees offers seven ways to incorporate scaffolding:

  • Advance Organizers

This could be a map or table of contents for the lesson. This allows your students to see what they will be learning that day. That way, as the lesson progresses, they can see where each new piece of information fits on the map. An advance organizer can be as simple as a list of statements or questions


  • Objects and Visual Aids

Give your students something to touch or look at that connects with the lesson.


  • Songs and Chants

This tool is especially helpful for younger students although all ages respond to music. “Setting sentences and words to a familiar tune or easy-to-remember chant helps with memory recall.”


  • Hand Motions and Gestures

These can work well with songs and chants and once again help with memory recall.


  • Graphic Organizers

“A graphic organizer is a handout that represents the connections between ideas in images rather than simply in words. “ These can be very helpful for visual learners.

  • Demonstration

This is a hands-on component. Whether you demonstrate something yourself or watch a video, there is something to be said for watching how an activity is done and then, if possible, having the students do it themselves.


  • Ideal Examples

Provide models of what you want finished work to look like. Some students will inevitably want to do the least amount of work possible. Give them a high standard to strive for.


While not all of these tools will be applicable for every lesson, using as many as possible in our homeschool or co-op setting will help make for a more positive and enjoyable learning experience for all involved.

Author: Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur

Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur, editor of "Today's Catholic Homeschooling", is the mother of two biological sons and one adopted daughter. She is in her fifteenth year of homeschooling. She has a B.A. in History and Fine Art and a Master's Degree in Applied Theology. She is the author of "The Crash Course Guide to Catholic Homeschooling" and "The Fruits of the Mysteries of the Rosary". She blogs at