So, after months of virtual school at home and with an ever-evolving picture of what back-to-school might look like in the fall, you find yourself considering becoming an all-in, bonafide homeschooler.
Welcome to the other side!
One advantage of a summer full of canceled plans is you have time to wrap your head around what homeschooling might look like for you and your family. This may not be something you’ve ever considered doing before, but if you’re like most homeschoolers I know, you’ll look back one day and wish you’d done it sooner.
Of course, that’s quite a leap from where you might find your thoughts today. After all, this is a big decision, requiring a significant shift in the way you think of “school” and education and your role as a parent. The fears and doubts that come up will likely be plentiful.
As someone who has been there, I’d like to suggest some things to think about this summer in preparation for your new season of homeschooling.
Seek Out Inspiration
One sure-fire way to get pumped to homeschool (and restore your faith in humanity) is to check out the multitudes of inspiring homeschool parents and experts who are sharing their journeys, struggles, philosophies, and ideas online. Search online to get a peek at what’s possible. If you’ve never fallen down this rabbit hole, prepare to be amazed at the beauty, creativity, and diligence of today’s homeschooling parents. It’s simply wonderful. Your family is in for a magical shift.
In addition, find local families who are homeschooling. Facebook Groups are probably your best bet; search your town, county, state name, and “homeschool” in Groups, and you’ll likely find many people to connect with and build community with.
Look Back at ‘School’ With Fresh Eyes
It can be helpful, before you set off along a new path, to know where you’ve been. Just as it’s good to know what you want in a homeschool, it’s good to know what you don’t want.
With the benefit of some separation, look back upon your experience with the school system objectively, with fresh eyes. Public school is the standard path for most in the U.S. Many consider the experience a right of passage, what “everyone” does, warts and all.
With the smallest amount of research, though, those who learn about the true history of the public school system and its current practices and standards are quite surprised, to say the least. I highly recommend starting with the works of former New York City teacher John Taylor Gatto for an eye-opening look at what you’re leaving behind.
Additionally, think back to your own experiences with school and those of your children. Was school a good learning environment? Did you learn a lot in school? Did you like school? Is that the best option for education? Be as objective as you can and understand the true nature of the pros and cons for your children and your family.
Understand Your ‘Why’
With a sense of where you’ve been and a glimpse at where you’re going, begin to formulate an answer to the question: Why am I choosing to homeschool my children? This article, “9 Reasons Parents Choose to Homeschool Their Children,” may inspire some ideas.
Your current “why” may simply be to avoid the impacts of the school’s pandemic response. If you plan to send your children right back to school in a year, you may choose a different strategy from someone who plans to homeschool more long-term.
When you know your “why” it can inform the detailed decisions you make in your homeschool.
As the popularity of homeschooling has continually grown, so have the resources available to homeschoolers. You’re starting this journey at a wonderful time. The sky’s the limit. Of course, this abundance can also be a tad overwhelming.
There are many homeschool books out there. I recommend starting with “The Brave Learner: Finding Everyday Magic in Homeschool, Learning, and Life” by Julie Bogart and “The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home (Fourth Edition)” by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise. These two different books both provide a broad overview of homeschooling ideas and point to other resources that you may find more fitting to the style you’re aiming for. Consider these jumping-off points that will send you well on your way.
Set Up a Structure
As you head toward your first day of homeschool, starting slowly and simply will be key. Rather than drawing up an elaborate schedule that will lead to certain burnout by day three, aim to establish a lovely rhythm to your days. Additionally, stay flexible. It takes some time to find your groove and what works for each member of the family. Take it easy. Take it slow.
As the year progresses and you see what works and what doesn’t, get systems in place that help you thrive and continue to tweak your daily, weekly, semesterly rhythms to best create a homeschool life you love.
Hint: When it all breaks down—the systems, the rhythm, the joy—just read books. Read aloud, read individually, put on an audiobook. Tomorrow’s another day.
Finally, know that you are the very best possible teacher your child could ever have. No one knows your child like you do. No one is rooting for your child to thrive harder than you are. No one is more qualified to facilitate their education.
You don’t need to be a trained teacher or an expert in any subject whatsoever. You simply need to create an environment where your child can thrive and to be resourceful in finding the tools, materials, experts, and communities to help your child learn best. You just need to walk side-by-side with your child along this learning journey.
You simply need to love your child and do your best to support his or her education, and that will be leaps and bounds beyond what they could ever possibly acquire anywhere else.