Parents are understandably freaking out right now. What is back-to-school going to look like for our kids this fall? How in the world are we going to balance the inevitable school and child care changes with our jobs and other responsibilities? As we wait on pins and needles for schools to announce their plans, you might be tempted to “just” homeschool. After all, you’d have control over your child’s education, including their schedule, as well as potentially reduce their coronavirus exposure.
I’m a former homeschooler, and I want to clear the air. There is absolutely no “just” in homeschooling. If you’re picturing you and your children in some sort of scene similar to The Sound of Music, let me go ahead and burst your homeschooling bubble. Being your child’s parent and opting to also be their teacher is doable for some, but homeschooling is hardly easy-peasy and magical. There are many considerations parents need to mull over before making the drastic move to homeschooling their kids.
Even as someone with a decade-long teaching background, homeschooling had its ups and downs. I only homeschooled one child at a time, as we deemed necessary based on that child’s situation, and even then, we faced our fair share of challenges. I already work from home and create my own schedule, so choosing to homeschool was feasible. Before we opted to homeschool each time, we did our homework (pun intended). You need to know what you’re getting yourself, and your child, into before committing.
Learn your state homeschooling laws.
Each state has their own homeschooling laws, including who can homeschool, how homeschooling should be carried out, record-keeping, and testing. Some states are strict, offering detailed instructions for parents, while others take a more laid-back approach. You may have to officially file with your state as a homeschooling family. It’s important to know what you’re agreeing to before you pull your child out of public or private school and commit to being a homeschooling parent. If you change your mind about homeschooling, what’s the process to re-enroll your child in their previous school?
Realistically analyze your life.
Sounds like a tall order, doesn’t it? Well, homeschooling is a major undertaking. You need to take a realistic look at your current (and near-future) situation. Does your job allow you the flexibility to homeschool? What’s your motivation for choosing homeschooling, and is it possible those reasons go away? Do you have any teaching experience? How’s your relationship with your child, and how might it change because of a homeschooling dynamic? Is your partner, if applicable, supportive of homeschooling? Are there local homeschooling co-ops you can join for support? Before opting to homeschool my oldest, I made a good, old-fashioned list of pros and cons.
Reflect on who your child is and include them in the decision.
If your child is a social butterfly, how will you meet your child’s needs in the homeschooling environment? Does your child have any special needs, and how will those be met? Will you start utilizing private therapies, such as speech, to help your child continue to progress? (Don’t forget to consider the cost of outside therapy services.) If your child tends to be introverted, how you will help your child socialize while being homeschooled? Ultimately, you must ask your child if they are interested in being homeschooled. Be sure to thoroughly and realistically explain what homeschooling would look like, including the daily schedule and your role as your child’s teacher.
Know the academic standards.
Academic standards are listed on your state board of education website. How do you plan to keep your child at grade level? What subjects must be taught, and what is the best methods to teach those? What curriculums meet your state’s requirements? Do you have the technology available to support those curriculum choices? Some homeschool programs are online, while some families opt to use workbooks, co-op classes, and hands-on experiences. If your child isn’t at grade-level, how do you plan to get them where they need to be?
Consider the costs.
Primarily, will you experience a loss of income due to homeschooling, and if yes, how much? How will that loss of income impact your family? Additionally, consider that homeschooling can be pricey. Curriculums can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars (and of course, be an ongoing expense). There are also materials, including electronics, that you may need to purchase. Many homeschooling co-ops have membership and material fees.
Talk to experienced homeschoolers.
Communicate with homeschoolers, asking them why they opted to homeschool, as well as engage in an honest discussion with them about the pros and cons. There are perks to homeschooling, such as creating your own schedule and pace, plus having more freedom to explore your child’s interests with them. There are also difficulties. Being both your child’s parent and teacher can complicate your relationship. You will have less time (or none) to do the things you are used to, including working, running errands, and carrying out other responsibilities. How will your choice to homeschool one child but not the others impact your other kids? What have others established as their back-up plan? (There should always be a plan B.)
I thought homeschooling would be blissfully learning while listening to jazz, sipping coffee, and sitting side-by-side at the dining table with the sun casting golden rays upon us. Yes, we had some wonderful days. However, even the most ideal circumstances and with best laid plans, there were many ups and downs. There’s no such thing as a struggle-free homeschooling experience. This is why it’s important to take a good hard look at your situation and do what’s best for your family after gathering all the necessary information.
Oh, and don’t worry. Today’s homeschoolers are cool. You don’t have to wear a long jean-skirt (unless you want to!) and drive a huge minivan to be a homeschooling parent. Nor do you have raise socially-awkward children. Homeschooling can be cool, as long as you do the job well.
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