Home schoolers are experts at transforming areas or rooms of their homes into learning centers. A typical home school has all the tools for learning that any public or private school might have. From whiteboards to motherboards, home schoolers utilize household living areas not only for science projects and seatwork, but also for family meals and recreation. Doubling for school areas increases the importance of basic safety practices. Using your home for homeschooling does not create requirements to adhere to any safety regulations or laws. However, it does make good sense to take extra precautions in areas where occupancy and usage will be increased. These safeguards are easy and inexpensive but could make the difference between life and death for your child.
Several of the following safety tips can be turned into educational experiences for the children. Many organizations provide information free of charge and tailor-made for reports and unit studies. Make sure to include your children in the inspections. This experience adds to awareness and trains additional eyes for hazard recognition.
Try to imagine the typical safeguards a regular school might have. While home schools are drastically different from public schools, many of the necessary safeguards are the same. Use the following tips as a checklist to help make your home and home school safe.
Perform annual fire drills. This may seem unnecessary, but it is better that questions are answered in a drill–not in an emergency. Be sure to address escape routes, meeting places, emergency phone numbers, and fire extinguisher locations. Smoke detectors should be in every home school. It may be necessary to have more than one detector since schooling may be going on away from cooking and heating areas. It is a good idea to mark on your calendar to check these each month at the same time you change your heater and air conditioner filters. Dirty filters can cause fires, mechanical problems, allergies, and dust as well as reduce efficiency.
Most local fire departments will provide a home inspection at no cost. These inspections can offer fresh sets of eyes to uncover potential hazards. You may contact the National Fire Prevention Association for free brochures and teaching material. They provide outstanding material designed especially for children. A field trip to the fire station is always fun for children as well.
Check the electrical condition of your home. The circuit breaker or fuse box should be clear of obstacles for three feet in front of the breakers. If small children are in the home, all electrical plugs should have childproof covers. All circuit breakers should be labeled, noting where the circuit breaker feeds power. Light fixtures should have covers over bare bulbs. Remove electrical cords from walkways. Electrical circuits should not be overloaded; when more than two appliances are plugged into the same receptacle, use multi-receptacle surge protectors. Avoid three-prong ground adapters, and never cut a ground prong off of a plug.
Annual tornado drills should be conducted. In some areas, hurricane drills and training should be an annual event also. The American Red Cross offers excellent brochures on both tornado and hurricane safety tips at no cost. This is a good example of safety training being the catalyst for a new unit of study.
Document medical history of everyone in the household. Some communities’ Emergency Medical Services (EMS) offer “Vials of Life,” a fancy name for pill bottles containing medical information for every family member. The bottle is kept in the refrigerator. This may sound unusual; but in an emergency, instant access to information concerning prescription medication being taken, allergies, and other medical problems can save valuable minutes for emergency personnel. Your local EMS station can also schedule a tour for your students.
Learn about the 911 emergency call system. Knowledge of 911 procedures for even the youngest of children has saved countless lives. Have agreed-upon meeting places in case of an emergency. The entire family should know which neighbor’s house will be used for the designated meeting place. Make sure the children know that the fire, police, and EMS workers are friendly helpers. Most 911 dispatchers will schedule field trips with proper appointments and preparation.
Instruct children concerning answering the phone. Giving away sensitive information to strangers can be dangerous. “My mommy and daddy are gone right now” is not information you want revealed to anyone who calls.
These safety tips might seem simple. They are! They may sound trivial. They are not! While they are simple, they are extremely important and become even more important in an emergency. Have your home school children help recognize and eliminate hazards. Be prepared for emergency situations before they happen.
At the time of this article’s first publication, Dan O’Brien, from Fritch, Texas, was a Safety Manager and a Certified Safety Professional. He and his wife Gloria had been homeschooling their children, James and Madi, for three years.