Is your child in school, but you’re considering homeschooling? Here are six steps, or things to keep in mind, to get you started:
1. Recognize that you have options.
You don’t have to send your child to school. While any homeschoolers reading this are likely thinking, “Well.. duh,” I think this simple truth is often overlooked by many people. Kids are sent to school because that’s where kids have always gone, and for better or worse, it doesn’t occur to many parents to question it. But you have options. That’s the first thing you need to realize. It is a choice to send a child to school, just as it is a choice to keep that child home. While the laws vary from country to country, homeschooling is legal in all 50 United States. I think too often when a child is severely struggling in school, or miserable, or being bullied, that one of the most obvious solutions – homeschooling – is overlooked in favor of trying to make it work in an environment that is currently doing more harm than good. I truly don’t understand the rationale behind giving it “one more semester” when there is a positive solution that you can employ NOW. If your child is in an unhealthy environment in school, and you are considering homeschooling, don’t wait! Don’t feel like you have to “get all your ducks in a row” first. You have a legal right to go that school today, right now, and take your child home where he/she is safe. You can work out the details later.
Don’t think you have the option to homeschool? Maybe you are a single parent, or in a dual-income family. I know of many families in unique situations that have made homeschooling work, including single parents, two working parents, and low-income families. Tell yourself that you do have options, and keep reading.
2. Give yourself, and your child, TIME
Even, or maybe especially, if there was urgency surrounding your decision to pull your child from school, when you make the decision to home school, you give yourself and your children the incredible gift of TIME. There are no “have to’s” in home schooling. When you remove your child from school, you can give yourselves permission to take the pressure off. Give yourselves time to decompress and to deschool. “Deschool” essentially means to rid yourselves of the ideas, thought processes and/or negative associations surrounding the traditional mindset of school=learning. Give your child time to recover from any damage. Give yourself time to replace old ideas with new ones. Give yourselves time to stop thinking in terms of grades, semesters, and classes. Give yourselves time to stop thinking of learning as something that is done in a certain place at a certain time. Give yourselves time to realize that learning is not something that is done TO someone, but something that happens naturally and organically and that comes from within the learner. Give yourselves time to understand and appreciate what it means to learn in freedom.
3. Do your research
The good news is that there is a literally unending pool of resources for those wanting to learn about homeschooling. The bad news is that there is a literally unending pool of resources for those wanting to learn about homeschooling. It could be overwhelming for someone new. Where do you start? Well, it depends. And if you ask 20 people, you’re likely to get 20 different answers. These are my recommendations, for just a few places to start, depending on what you’re looking for:
If you’re interested in theories of learning, ideas about education, and the WHY you’d want to homeschool, go to your local library and check out anything by John Holt or John Taylor Gatto. They will both open your eyes, and once you read them, you will never think about school and learning in quite the same way again.
Another great little book that combines both of the above, plus gives a compelling first-person account is Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense by David Guterson. It is one of the first books I ever read about homeschooling, and I still recommend it a decade later.
If you’re not a book person, Homeschool Central has a ton of links and information and homeschooling in general. If, like us, you prefer to take a more organic approach and bypass all of the curriculum talk, then you’ll want to jump straight into learning about unschooling. Two good places to start are Sandra Dodd and Joyfully Rejoycing. Both are filled with great information, answers to common concerns, and links galore.
Finally, use this link to find the specifics about the homeschooling laws in your state.
4. Get connected
Don’t skip this step! Even if you’re not “group” people (which I’d completely understand… we’re not, either), everybody needs a tribe of people who “get it.” People who are walking the same walk, and people who are facing the same challenges and the same triumphs. Check this link for a list of local homeschool groups in your area, but don’t discount online support as well. There are yahoo groups, Facebook groups, Christian groups, secular groups. Basically, there’s a group for everyone. This is especially important if you’re a single parent or have another unique situation that makes finding like-minded parents more difficult. There are others like you out there… you just have to find them. Don’t be afraid to pick the brain of an established homeschooler either. Most of them – myself included – will be more than happy to
talk your ever-loving ear off answer questions and share information, resources, and experience with anyone who’s genuinely interested.
5. Watch, wait, and listen
Simple, but not always easy:
Watch your children. See how they’re learning, what they like, what they don’t like, what they’re interested in, what they’re passionate about.
Wait for deschooling to take place. Wait to see if you’re going down the right path. Wait for the answers to your questions.
Listen to what your kids are telling you, both verbally and non-verbally. They are far and away the most qualified people to tell you what they need.
6. Be flexible
Some of the true beauty of homeschooling is that it can be – and should be! – 100% unique to each family. You do yourself and your kids a great disservice if you try to model your homeschooling experience after a school. You opted out of school for a reason; don’t bring it home with you! In order to successfully homeschool, you have to learn to be flexible. Flexible in both thought and action, and flexible enough to admit that you’ve made a mistake. I can never understand why, when we have the freedom to learn however we’d like, I often hear homeschooling parents complaining about, say, a math curriculum. “I don’t know what to do! Little Johnny just hates his math curriculum! He cries over it every day.” Watch, wait, and listen. Be flexible. Remember you have options. DUMP THE MATH CURRICULUM. Never choose “doing school” when you’re faced with an opportunity to go to the store, or the park, or the zoo (where a million times more natural learning will occur anyway) Never pass up the chance for your kids to help you with dinner, or laundry, or the project in the yard, even though you know it will take you twice as long. Be flexible.
One area that I personally struggle with is not getting stressed out about the change in seasons… the natural ebb and flow of life. This past month we were quite suddenly thrust from a carefree, not-a-thing-on-the-calendar kind of schedule to a jam-packed itinerary of gymnastics, basketball, cub scouts, and church activities. The kids are happy though, and they are living and learning and enjoying life… so I know I need to be flexible, go with the current flow, and appreciate the busy and the calm.
and a bonus number 7:
7. Enjoy it!
Homeschooling is the single most important decision we made for our family, and we thoroughly enjoy this time we’re getting to spend with our kids. I honestly don’t know another homeschooling family who doesn’t feel the same way. So if you do make that decision, do it confidently, and gladly, and enjoy it every step of the way.