However, some people believe it is simply more harmful than good to send their kids to public schools. Children are not meant to live a life of forced socialization with peers they might not choose otherwise to socialize with or to sit in uncomfortable confined spaces for hours on end with less than an hour of time outdoors every day. Every child learns at their own pace and Public School requires children to learn at the same pace, whether they are advanced or behind where society says the average child their age "should" progress. There are innumerable reasons why a family might consider homeschooling.
If you've thought about homeschooling, there are things that you must know.
Pros and Cons
Sit down with your family and write down all of your reasons for wanting to homeschool your kids. You may already be aware of your reasons for wanting to homeschool but actually writing it out will make things clear for you and your spouse.
Also, consider making a list of pros and cons for keeping your child in public school. Don't underestimate the value of having time to yourself and keeping in contact with childhood friends. Living in the country as we do, we are over an hour from town, so the loss of the kids' social contacts was hard on them. Involving them in activities where they could meet new friends or reconnect with old friends helped with this tremendously.
Know what you hope to accomplish. Not only so you can answer any questions that others may have about why you have not put your children in public school, because it really isn't any of their business anyway, but so you can remind yourself when you start to question your choice.
Dealing with Naysayers
Be prepared for the naysayers. They will come from unexpected and expected sources alike. The best friend, the neighbor, a parent, a sibling, a cashier at the grocery store, a stranger at a restaurant. I have about three canned responses that I use most often:
- How many books and studies have you read on the topic because I can absolutely guarantee I'm more informed on this topic than you are.
- Do you have two Master's degrees and live with my kid 24/7? No? Then I'm pretty sure that you are not the expert on how to raise my child.
- Are you a child educator? No? Then how do you know more about this topic than I do?
People are also going to question you endlessly on the topic of socialization. They worry that your children are going to be weird, unsocialized, and awkward if they don't go to Public School and get forced to socialize with other children that they don't know, don't like, or get picked on every day. Some may even wonder if your children are somewhat feral and if they are "safe" for their kids to play with. Seriously, we've had parents say this to us at the playground. Here are some of my favorite responses to this:
- Oh, no Johnny has had all of his rabies shots and he doesn't bite much anymore anyway. We even got rid of all the lice just last week (please say this as sarcastically is possible so they can't possibly miss how much of an ass they are being, it still might go over their heads).
- Right, because they are missing out on bad language on the playground, sexual harassment, and bullying. My children do miss out on those things by not being in public school. If that is what you call socialization, then I'd rather they learned how to be civilized, not socialized.
- Actually we find that they have no problem socializing with Public School kids, as long as they remember to use smaller words and shorter sentences.
It will take time to master what to say to the naysayers because you will still have some self doubt yourself. So, do your research and build up your confidence. Study the research in peer-reviewed journals and collect a few books on the topic. Arm yourself with knowledge. Join some forums, social networkings sites, and elists. Read a few blogs.
Figuring Out What to Teach
When you homeschool, you will always find something new to teach. You can find many homeschooling groups on the internet. This can give you valuable insight and advice on the process. Our children learn music, horsemanship, German, and Latin as well as the basic subjects and we are always adjusting their lessons to their current needs and interests.
There are thousands of free teaching resources available that can be adapted to meet the specific requirements of your child. Keep in mind that you should never just stick with one way of doing things if it seems to not be working for you. If something doesn't work, try something else. Think about integrating more than one method into your child's learning to see if that serves their needs best.
Learning about Learning
Learn about different learning styles. Each child has their own learning methods. Some of them will need a more hands-on approach than others will. Find out how your children learn and adjust your curriculum accordingly. This will allow your children to learn at their maximum potential.
When transitioning to homeschooling from a public school, it helps to have a lesson plan and a discipline plan right from the start. Being the teacher, as well as the parent, means you have to expand your role in your child's life. Before you begin home schooling, take the time to fully understand how this change will affect your life. Having clear-cut rules, expectations, and ramifications for not meeting those expectations makes it easier to enforce the schedule.
Laws and Rules
Understand your state's homeschooling laws and procedures. There are states which require you to become a private school, whereas others do not. Make sure you make the school district aware of your plans to homeschool or you may have truancy charges filed.
Dealing with Multiple Age Groups
Having children of widely varying ages can prove very challenging. Allocate a certain amount of time for each child each day or invest in an online learning program and have the children alternate on the program while providing one-on-one instruction with the other child. You should find things you can all do together as well. Use every opportunity to spend time with each child but take a break for recesses, lunch, PE, and naps (if necessary), or quiet time (ideal for reading time). We used MobyMax, which is free for homeschoolers at first and then added other online resources over time.
Keeping on Schedule
Make sure you have rules about homework getting done when you home school your kids. Just because you are homeschooling, that is no excuse for them to constantly get behind in their schoolwork.
Drawing a Line Between School and Home
Also make sure there is a line between school and home time, you and your child have to learn this. Making a space for school in your home can help but using mobile carts and science project boards to delineate work space at the dining room table can also put everyone into a school time mindset. We use decorated science fair boards as dividers to keep our children from annoying on another from across the table and rolling carts to keep different topics separate and prevent school assignments from getting lost.
You may start feeling overwhelmed with the time and energy it takes to homeschool your children. Spending so much time together can be exhausting and you may consider sending them back to Public School just to have time to yourselves again. This is the time to incorporate activities outside of the home. A weekly STEM, STEAM, or other fun regular activity, so you can get some respite will help tremendously.
The next step you need to take is to network with people who think the same way you do about homeschooling. Parents decided to teach their children at home for many different reasons. Therefore, you should be able to find a group that is in a similar position. They can help you out, from going on excursions with you to trading supplies.
Connect with other families that have made the decision to homeschool in your community. A group of like-minded families can be a great support system for getting advice and talking about your concerns.
Your children can meet your new friends' children and become friends as well. Your kid won't be in a public school classroom, so it may be somewhat harder to make friends. Interacting with other families helps.
It is important to find the right homeschooling group for your family. Some are very religiously minded and some are more secular. You may find you are more comfortable with a group that is more secular if you are a Pagan or you may be lucky enough to find a Pagan homeschooling group or maybe you can start one yourself.
Homeschooling vs Unschoooling
Some homeschoolers are actually unschoolers and they choose to keep their kids at home because they think children should learn more organically and that schedules and routines are bad for them. They can sometimes get very sanctimonious about this with you and you may occasionally have confrontations with homeschoolers or unschoolers who will tell you that you are "doing it wrong."
Remember that homeschooling and unschooling are not the same thing. Some families insist that you are doing it wrong because "the whole point in taking kids out of public school is to get them away from tedious schedules." That may be their reason, it doesn't have to be yours.
Stick to Your Guns
You have your reasons for removing them from public school, schedules might not be the reason. Our kids need schedules, so we keep one, albeit a lot more outdoor exploration time than they got in Public School. We homeschool to work on bonding, emotional disturbances, bullying issues in the school, to have flexibility, and to control the quality of what they learn.
Remember, as long as it works for you, you are doing it right, find another group that is supportive and isn't full of sanctimommies and you'll be just fine.
Homeschooling isn't Everything
Remember that school is not the only thing. Housework, family time, and fun time are important too. Don't loose yourself to schoolwork now that you are homeschoolers. It is too easy to do.
Homeschooling can be all-consuming. Don't let this happen!
Even your homeschooled child can pitch in around the house. It can often be impossible for you to be responsible for all aspects of your child's education. You have to clean the house, shop, keep the budget, do laundry, cook, meal plan, tend to the kids' needs, and more. In our case, we operate a business, feed and care for goats and donkeys, milk goats, bake bread, make cheeses, can and preserve foods, tend gardens, prune and care for orchard, and much more.
Involve your children in daily chores, create a chore chart and make the completion of daily tasks a requirements for certain rewards. We reward completion of chores, homework, and daily showers with an hour of screen time before dinner.
Plan fun family adventures. Go on field trips, camping trips, or vacations, and make some of them educational but allow some of them to be just for fun.
Do family time. Watch movies that don't have an educational theme sometimes, just because it is fun. Play board games that have no point other than to have a good time with your family. Read books or tell stories. Be silly!