University Model School
One of the fantastic freedoms we here in America have it the ability to choose how our children receive their education. For most families with kids school is coming to a close. In years past this is the time that parents would be focusing on summer camps, vacations, and leaving all things school on the back burner until Late July or Early August. However, with the current state of the world parents are spending more time thinking and considering what to do when it comes to educating their children for the next program year now rather than waiting until later on down the road.
Last week the CDC shared their suggested guidelines for reopening schools. I’ll be honest, the list is long and daunting. As someone who has spent time in a classroom setting most of the suggestions are going to prove to be beyond challenging to implement. One thing that has come from all of this is that there seem to be a lot of parents who are considering the possibility of transitioning to home schooling rather than re-enrolling their child(ren) back in the public school.
While I am not ever going to be one to discourage a parent who wants to take over the education of their child(ren), what I will do is share some things I believe should be considered before choosing the right path for education.
Things to Consider:
1) State Home School Requirements
The first thing I tend to recommend is to look into the state requirements. For parents who are considering home schooling younger children that haven’t ever been in a classroom yet the process tends to be an easier to begin with rather than withdrawing a child from a school district they have been in for a while. Some states, line New Mexico and Texas, the requirements for home schooling are next to nonexistent. Other states, such as Florida, have more strict requirements that have to be adhered to. The very first thing that I always suggest be done is look into the state requirements.
For the best place (in my opinion) to find the state requirements visit: The Home School Legal Defense Association website. I like going to this site rather than a states education department site because this site gives you the requirements very straight forward. In my experience the state education departments like to hide the home school requirements and make it challenging for parents to really find what they need to know.
2) Consider schedules, time, and devotion to the process.
I almost made this the last point but I figured it also tied into the state requirements suggestions so I put it as my second consideration, but hear me out, if you are really committed to the home school process schedules can be arranged to ensure that learning is done successfully. One thing that we have discovered is that the actual amount of learning time that is taking place during a regular school day is about 1/4 (if that) of the time that most kids are spending in the school building. When Covid-19 made it clear that learning was going to have to take place at home many places put out suggestions for how long instruction should be taking place for each different age group.
Many parents were shocked to learn that an elementary aged student only need about 1-2 hours of instruction a day, middle school kids 3-4 hours, and high school kids 30 min/teacher for no more than 4 hours a day. The truth of the matter is those instruction times are pretty much how it is for us home school families as well. This means that it is fairly easy to work school time around other obligations and responsibilities, such as work schedules, house hold chores, running errands, and any thing else that might be on the calendar. However, that also means being dedicated to get the work done even if that means that learning/teaching has to happen in the evening while tired after a long day of work, stressed over current life situations, or even on the weekends when things just didn’t get finished during the traditional work week.
3) Your child(ren)’s learning style and your teaching style
Kids all learn differently. Some do really, really well when it comes to worksheets, note books, and writing. Other kids are oral learners and can talk though any problem but the minute you put a writing utensil in their hand the world comes to an end. And then there are the kids that need to be able to move and wiggle and touch and do all the things but again when you ask them to share the information they have learned they can tell you just what was read aloud word for word. It is important to take time to know what kind of learner your child is to know how to best get through when teaching. Unlike in a traditional school setting learning can be tailored to the learning style that is best, especially when you are only working with a few children as opposed to a classroom full of 30 or more kids.
Another important thing to consider is what your personal teaching style is. A great way to find your teaching philosophy is to take this little quiz found on Eclectic Homeschooling. This will help to determine how you like to teach. You will learn if you need a structured plan and for someone who has already done the hard work to tell you just what to say, when to say it, and what work goes along with those words. Or maybe you are more of a free thinker and just want to know what the basic guidelines are and you will put together the lessons based on that. Knowing how you would prefer to teach helps to give guidance and direction to your home school journey.
Once that has been determined, you can then hop over and try this quiz to help determine your child’s learning style. By having both of those pieces of the puzzle you can move on to considering what you are going to be teaching.
4) Choosing Curriculum and Resources for Teaching
Once you know the teaching and learning styles of all involved the next thing that needs to be thought through is what you are going to be teaching. This is where the true challenge begins. It is really easy to fall down the rabbit hole of curriculum choices. That is the number one reason I always leave this step to as close to the end as I can. Once you know what your teaching philosophies are and what learning styles you are working with head over to Cathy Duffy Reviews to begin looking into curriculum choices. The reason I suggest you wait until you have the other pieces of the puzzle first is because it will be easier to narrow down your research.
If you learn that you are more of a “Unit Studies” type teacher you can head over to Cathy Duffy’s website and search for curriculum that has a unit study approach. Same with Classical Education, Charlotte Mason, or even an eclectic or “pick and choose” approach. With this ability to narrow things down it is less likely you will get completely lost down the rabbit hole.
5) Financial Consideration and Support Structure
This leads me to my final consideration. It is no secret that homeschooling can get pricey. Curriculum isn’t cheap. However, it also doesn’t have to be. There are several options for homeschooling with little to no financial expenditures. First of all there is a wonderful program called Easy Peasy All In One HomeSchool that is entirely online and provided entirely for free. There is also your local public library. Talk to the local librarian and they will be able to help point you in the right direction for finding the materials you need to educate your child(ren).
Another valuable resource is your support structure. Most communities have some form of home schools support group. This could come in the form of a co-op where parents work together to educate the children or just simply a group for parents to share ideas, buy, sell, or trade curriculum, and offer play dates (virtually in our current setting and physically at a park or on a field trip hopefully again one day down the road.). There are also any number of home school related Facebook groups dedicated to helping engage, support and encourage the growing home school community.
Things to NOT do when considering home school
I don’t have many “things not to do” when considering whether or not to home educate your child(ren), however, I do have a few.
The fist thing I will say is DO NOT make the decision to home school from a place of fear. Take the time to really do your research and determine how it can and will work for your family, what is need for everyone to succeed, and the reasons behind the decision. This pandemic will one day pass and then there will need to be new decisions made so if you feel that home schooling for now is the best way to go after weighing all the options then go for it full force, but be aware of the potential unintended consequences that might arise.
Secondly, DO NOT allow the public school system to hold you hostage with the threat of funding cuts hanging over your head. Yes, our public schools need funding but your child(ren) also need the best possible education opportunities and if home education is that then by all means bring them home. You will have people that oppose your decision and that is okay. You will have the same conversation over why you choose to pull your children from the public school system so many times you start to dream about it, but at the end of the day you have made the best possible decision for your family and that is all that really matters.
Thirdly, DO NOT focus on the little devil that is “child socialization” when trying to decide whether or not to home school. This is a BIG question that gets asked almost immediately when a person learns that you are a home schooling family. Frankly, this is the DUMBEST objection to home schooling out there, right next to “a parent doesn’t have enough knowledge to know how to teach their child.” Currently, we live in a world where no one is getting much social interaction so the best thing to do if this question comes up is to remind people that they too are “working from home” and not “socializing with their peers” and yet they are still surviving. Once we get to a post-Covid world and gatherings are an option again there will be plenty of opportunities from co-ops, youth sports, church youth and children’s groups, and any number of other activities available for children to get social interaction, make friends, and engage in activities with kids their age. For more of my thoughts on this objection as well as a few other “Home Schooling Myths” check out my post here.
Homeschooling is not for the faint of heart, that is a very true statement. However, if we dig deep we realize that parenting in general is what isn’t for the faint of heart. The daunting task of making the best decisions for your family is never ending. At the end of the day, you are the person that has your child’s best interest at heart beyond the distractions and it is your job to be the best advocate for your child no matter what that may look like.