What Homeschoolers Must Know: The Real Scoop
I know you're feeling anxious and worried. You just pulled your kid out of school last week, and now you're looking at them thinking "what next?"
That parent who's been homeschooling for awhile now but you've hit a bump in the road, or the curriculum you chose isn't working, or you're worried about high school and beyond.
I want you know know that you're not alone. Every single one of us, at some point has been in your shoes. Everyone has doubts. Everyone worries whether or not they are doing the right thing and that includes parents who send their kids to public and private school.
So for all of you parents out there, take a moment and breathe. You've got this.
What Do I Truly Need To Make Homeschooling a Success?
What many new parents get wrong when they first start homeschooling is that they worry too much and about the wrong things.
Some feel that if they aren't replicating the 5 or 6 hour school work day then their child will get behind or won't be able to meet standards or expectations.
According to David Albert of besthomeschooling.org, many studies have shown that on the average school day, only about 75 minutes of instruction on new material occurs. So other time is spent in review but also in the general management of a large group of kids: getting them to sit down, handing out items, taking questions, lining up...you get the picture
So when you think about that, the bar is not that high. So as a homeschool parent, even if you want to replicate "school at home." The amount of time you actually need to spend doing seat work is likely far less than you envisioned.
Here is a checklist of what you really need to do to have a successful homeschooling experience.
1. Check your state laws.
In the United States, every state has different laws and requirements. In some states you need to take a test every year.
In others you need to keep a portfolio showing your child's progress.
Other states require attendance records.
But not only find out what your state requires. Also find out what that MEANS in terms of homeschooling.
For example, some states may require the homeschool student to complete a standardized test every year. Sounds intimidating, right? However, you may find out that the scores are given to the parents only as a guideline for them and to help them track progress, not so the state can judge the homeschooler.
Sometimes there are other options to complete requirements such as virtual schools or umbrella schools.
The best way to find out about these is to both research AND ask veteran homeschool parents. These are the ones that have done it. They know the best evaluators, testers, and they know what the laws really mean when applied.
2. Take time to deschool.
Not enough new homeschooling parents do this and it really is an important concept.
At it's core, deschooling is when you take them time to remove yourself and your student from the old "school" way of thinking. You're allowing a mental break.
Many times parents may remove students from school because of a bad experience. Maybe they were having extreme issues with social situations such as bullying. Or maybe, due to learning differences they needed more time or attention than what the school setting allows. Often, if a child is pulled from school it is under duress and frustration.
This is why it is important to not immediately plunge right back into the situation causing stress, even if you plan to handle it a different way. Go to the zoo. Build a kite and go fly it at the park. Go watch a movie in the middle of the day. Bake cookies.
In other words, think of deshooling as destressing. As allowing you and your child to remember again what it's like to face life without the anxiety that the school situation was causing.
The time period for deschooling may be anywhere from a few weeks to a few months but it really can be a great way to take a deep breath and get your bearings.
3. Be flexible.
Many parents get caught up in plans and ideals and have a hard time changing directions once they are marching down a path of their own devising.
But the truth is some approaches are not going to work. One kid may thrive on workbooks and the other one hardly touches them. Some do well using computers to learn and others need physical textbooks.
Waldorf method works well for some. Others prefer classical. Still other kids thrive in a more unschooling environment.
It's important to realize now that the path you envision may not be the path you and your child take.
Relax. It's okay. You're going to be fine. Your kid's going to be fine, too.
4. Find a social group.
I really can't emphasize this enough. There's of course the dreaded "What about socialization?" question that we homeschoolers get several times an hour.
But truly, homeschooling does not have to be and should not be an isolating experience. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about 3 percent of the school age population are homeschooled students. That's actually quite a lot of people.
There are likely to be other homeschoolers in your town or city.
The best way to find them is to not be afraid to put yourself out there. Search through a search engine. Put in words like "homeschool group *your city*." Or go to Facebook and search for homeschoolers in your area.
Find a cooperative by searching through websites such as homeschool-life.com.
The benefits of a social group are, of course, friends for your kids, but also support for you as a homeschooling parent. You can get ideas, exchange curriculum, talk through issues that other parents may have faced and generally, having a social group allows you to just not feel alone.
There is no reason that homeschoolers can't have a rich and diverse social experience. They can develop deep friendships and grow and thrive in their communities.
And don't forget that there are after-school programs and sports where homeschoolers can mingle with homeschooled and public schooled kids alike.
All these experiences are important and necessary for a more positive experience.
5. Make it enjoyable.
Finally, this adventure really should be fun. It should be about family bonding and about having the time to explore passions in-depth.
If you're not enjoying it, if you're butting heads with your kids or you are both feeling frustrated then it's time to step back and re-evaluate.
Take a break for the day and go do something fun. Play a game. Invite some friends for an impromptu park day.
While anyone can have bad days, if both of you are miserable, then it's time to change something up.
Review what I've said in this article.
- Should you approach the subject a different way?
- Should you put the subject aside all together? (for now)
- Are you spending too much time cooped up and not enough time out enjoying activities?
- Can you and your child sit down and discuss a compromise?
Homeschooling should not simply be "school at home." There is no reason that you as a parent have to replicate the methods of the public school system. Many of those methods were designed to tame a classroom where multiple students' needs must be at least partially met all at once.
As a homeschool parent you can tailor and adjust to your, likely, much smaller audience.
Stop Being Anxious!
Homeschooling is a growing movement and now, more than ever, there are support systems in place to help make the process smooth and successful.
If you are worried about "doing it right" you need to stop right now. There is no "right," there is only "right for you and your family."
We as human beings are naturally curious. We naturally want to learn and to succeed. As a homeschool parent you have the unique opportunity to open up a world of possibilities for your child.
Remember Why You Are Homeschooling
You're not alone in your worries. Just remember to not let them take away from your joy.
What worries you the most about homeschooling?
© 2015 L C David