With the dawn of COVID-19 and the subsequent changes that have taken place with schooling in the United States, many parents, possibly yourself, have been asking me about homeschooling. With 8 years of homeschooling our two children under my belt, I can honestly say that what I see parents of public and private school children going through (as well as their children) breaks my heart. I know the schools are doing the best they can to keep their normal going on through the pandemic, but it simply is not enough. Most parents I speak to are not only frustrated with the lack of information they are receiving, but they are also finding out that their children aren’t learning as much as they thought they were. Now, they are looking into homeschooling as a way to remedy that situation. It is my hope that I can shed some light on a topic that so many are now interested in finding out about.
“I think I want to homeschool my children, but I don’t know where to start.”
Step 1: Breathe
This is honestly the first thing I tell any parent who comes to me for advice about homeschooling. Whether it is because of Covid or not, it is easy to either be extremely anxious or on the opposite end, excited about the prospect of homeschooling. There IS a lot of information out there regarding homeschooling that I will not cover in this particular post, simply because it can be overwhelming. But understand, it doesn’t have to be. So breathe. If you are looking to homeschool because of the pandemic, take an even bigger breath, Seriously. This pandemic whether we like to believe it or not has caused an immense amount of stress on us, especially moms and caretakers. Making an important decision like this one requires a sense of peace. Research shows that most major decisions should not be made in the midst of a stressful time BUT, sometimes you have to make hard decisions and you don’t have time to wait. So please, give yourself a moment to breathe. You are not in this alone. You are not the only one thinking about embarking on something new. You have support. More than you are aware of right now.
Step 2: Become clear with your WHY
Homeschooling your children is a big decision. You need to know your WHY before you even start. Start with a piece of paper or a notetaking app and start brainstorming your reasons WHY you are thinking about homeschooling. If the words or phrases freedom, time with my kids, knowing what they are doing, ability to travel, being in control of their education/destiny, ability to structure learning around their passions, or something of that nature start showing up, you are on the right track.
If however, these words pop up, fear of the future, the unknown, uncertainty, worry about socialization come up, pause for a moment. Those words do not mean you shouldn’t homeschool, but just know that each of them can apply to homeschooling and one is a myth. This is where speaking to a homeschooling veteran helps. We can help put things in perspective.
You need to know your WHY because it will impact every decision you make from this point forward with regard to homeschooling. My husband and I were very clear of our WHY and we still are to this day. It guides a great many of our decisions. When we have thought about moving, our WHY comes into play because moving requires new state requirements that may or may not affect our children’s educational opportunities.
So be clear on your WHY.
Step 3: Understand what homeschooling is and what it is not
First of all, let me start with something that has had many homeschoolers shaking their heads at-all because of something the media has gotten all wrong. Anyone who has been thrown into teaching and guiding their children at home because of COVID-19 has NOT been homeschooling. What you have been doing is what can be deemed as crisis/isolation schooling. Parents did not have a choice in whether or not their children were going to be educated at home. There was no other option. There was no time to research. There was no time to find out if your job would allow you the time to devote to it. What happened was merely because it had to be done. If you think that what you have been doing is homeschooling, you would be incorrect and the best part is that it is SO much better than what you have been doing!
Homeschooling is and should be in one word…freedom. That is why it is important for you to know what it is and what it is not.
Homeschooling is guiding and listening to your children. It’s finding out the things that interest them, the things they are passionate about. It’s taking them from learning solely from books and maybe videos to learning in the real world from real-life interactions and situations. You are able to show them how to learn in everyday life and how much learning actually comes naturally through our imaginations and general inquisitiveness. It allows them to learn to think critically, analyze, and interpret what they come across and understand the context.
It’s very hard to teach a child about a subject in history simply from a book. For instance, trying to get across the concept that a certain fort was across the harbor and ships sailed in between as cannonballs flew through the air is something he or she might be able to picture, but take that same child to the port across from the harbor and show the fort out in the water…you have now just made history come alive! Now not every day is like that in homeschooling, but there are so many experiences that help bring to life whatever it is they are learning. As adults, we tend to not see those things because we are so busy with life as usual. With homeschooling, there is no rushing. You work at YOUR own pace. Your child works at his or her own pace. Once you are able to have that type of freedom, the whole world becomes a classroom. That my friends is the beauty of homeschooling.
And please, please, please do not fall for the myth that homeschoolers lack socialization. If anything, this pandemic should have shown you that in this day and age, there is NO lack of socialization. In fact, many homeschoolers have had to cut back on outside activities way before it started because the activities took too much time out of their schedules
Even though we have all been isolated, we were still able to interact with one another whether it be through Facetime, Messenger, Zooms, or texts. This is one of the areas that the media has latched onto; people who were forced to school at home have been homeschooling because they were isolated. In fact, it is the exact opposite. Homeschoolers, like our family, have been going just as crazy (if not more) by not being able to be out and about. Our normal modus operandi is to be out exploring nature, going on field trips, meeting our friends at meetups, going to co-op classes, heading to the museum or aquarium for the day. That all came to an abrupt end when COVID started. THIS is not homeschooling and we have missed our ability to do everything we normally would.
Step 4: Research regulations in your state
You’re thinking about homeschooling and you start to either get really anxious OR really excited. The thoughts start swirling about whether or not you are qualified, will you have the patience, and usually the biggest one…where to start with choosing curriculum. Remember step 1? Breathe. Let’s look at what you REALLY need to find out first!
Regulations for homeschooling in your state. EEK. Sounds scary right? Not really. BUT, there are differences state to state and some can be like night and day. You will hear a lot of people refer to “homeschool friendly” when referring to certain states. That means the state has very few restrictions and allow the parents to truly have the freedom to educate how they see fit. There is no one size fits all when it comes to homeschooling in the United States. The easiest way to find out what the regulations are is to go to the HSLDA website and look up your specific state. They are a wealth of information.
Step 5: Find local homeschool groups
My last step is probably the most important in terms of your ability to navigate through the different homeschooling styles, curriculums, groups, field trips, and co-ops. Look for homeschool groups in your state and local area. The best and most efficient way to do this is not through Google, but through Facebook. In the search bar type in “homeschool in (enter your state)” and then hit enter. You will see an option which says “see all groups in (your state)”. From there, you can start looking at the different groups. You can also narrow your search by county. Just be aware that some will be support groups like the one I lead in the Charleston, South Carolina area, some will be curriculum groups, and some will be accountability groups which are a requirement in some states.
Once you join the groups, introduce yourself and let the members know what grades you plan to teach and ask questions. My members LOVE to help others, especially those who are just starting out. Join a bunch of them because they usually offer different perspectives and different options. Some may have field trips included. Some may not. Some are faith-based like mine. Some are secular. It all depends on what you are looking for.
There you have it. The Top 5 Steps You Need to Take Before Starting a Homeschool Journey. I hope this post has helped alleviate some of the anxiety you might have been feeling about homeschooling. It has truly been a blessing for our family and I believe it will be for yours as well. One thing to remember is that like I said at the beginning, you are not alone. Your homeschool journey will take different turns, your curriculum will probably change throughout the years (ours did), there will be days where you want to pull your hair out, but there will also be days when you see something has clicked and your child is thriving. There will also be days when you ask yourself why you waited so long to start. And when you are about to have your child start high school and you are constantly asked how you are possibly going to teach high school, as a veteran, you will STILL be looking to your support group for advice and support! Yes, that last part is where I now find myself. In the 2021-2022 school year, I will have TWO high school students…one set for medical school and the other for engineering. You better believe that over the course of what is left of our homeschooling time, I will be referring back to my advice for Step 1. Breathe.
You can do this! If you have any questions or need any tips, please head over to my Facebook page, The Blessed Family Life. I would love to help support you on your journey!