The Homeschooling Experiment: Tips for Parents

A conversation with homeschooling dad and CEO Kimball Lewis
January 25, 2021 Updated: January 25, 2021

Parents have had a lot thrown at them over the past year. Kimball Lewis has seen the impact of these times on families firsthand, as CEO of parenting coaching company Empowering Parents. The website, EmpoweringParents.com, offers guidance to parents dealing with difficult situations, including defiance, lying, backtalk, and lack of laziness.

“We deal with pretty much the full gamut of child behavior problems that make parenting and home life hard,” he said. “I’d say the most common statement we get from parents who reach out to us is, “I’m at my wit’s end with my child; I just don’t know what to do anymore.”

Himself a homeschooling dad, he offers great advice for those in the thick of it.

kimball lewis
Kimball Lewis, CEO of parenting coaching company Empowering Parents. (Courtesy of Kimball Lewis)

The Epoch Times: This has been a challenging period for parents. What challenges has your company most commonly coached parents through during this time?

Mr. Lewis: Keeping kids motivated and on-task when virtual learning has been the number one problem related to COVID. Schools are very thoughtful and thorough in how they structure the day for learning so as to avoid chaos. Teachers are trained in classroom management. Parents were just not ready to deal with this. But with the proper structures in place, a set of defined rules, and a system of accountability, parents can learn to manage this process effectively. This is how we help them.

The Epoch Times: As a parent yourself, you elected to homeschool your sons. Tell us about that decision.

Mr. Lewis: There were many factors. Primarily, we believed that we could do the job more efficiently and thoroughly than the schools. Also, we wanted the flexibility to pick and choose a curriculum and focus on things like mathematics, writing, and music. And that means focusing less or ignoring altogether subjects that didn’t seem as important. We weren’t beholden to all those requirements.

I also had this fundamental belief that jamming hundreds of adolescents together in the same place day after day is not the ideal learning environment. It always felt to me like a bad sociology experiment. I had this desire for my kids to be primarily influenced by mature adults during their formative years. As homeschoolers, our kids spent 80 percent of their time with mature adults and 20 percent with other kids their age. In a traditional school, that’s reversed—kids spend most of their time with other kids. Parents would ask me, “Aren’t you worried your kids won’t be socialized?” And my response was always, “I prefer my kids to be socialized by mature adults rather than immature seventh-graders.” So I never bought the socialization argument—it never made sense to me.

In any case, it started as an experiment. Our kids were home for April vacation one year, and we decided on a whim not to send them back to school the following Monday. We figured we would do the rest of the year at home just to see how it went. They never went back.

The Epoch Times: What have you found to be the greatest benefits of homeschooling?

Mr. Lewis: We found it much less stressful overall. Our kids learned a tremendous amount without long school days and nights of homework.

Also, our kids were never sleep-deprived. We made sure they always got the sleep they needed and were well-rested. I believe that sleep deprivation is one of the main impediments to learning, and waking up at 6:30 a.m. to catch a bus for a traditional school day is not conducive to getting the 10-plus hours of sleep that many adolescents need. When [they’re] well-rested, behavioral problems are minimized, and learning is easier and more enjoyable.

One thing that surprised me was the tremendous sense of freedom to be suddenly unattached to the school system. It felt as if we suddenly removed ourselves from the rat race. We could go on vacation when we wanted, and we could reschedule our days as we liked. It was liberating.

The Epoch Times: What would you advise parents who are considering pulling their children out of school to homeschool?

Mr. Lewis: You don’t have to do all the teaching, you just have to find the curriculums or other resources. Consider yourself primarily the administrator, not the teacher. As our kids got older and the subjects more difficult, we found alternatives to doing the teaching ourselves. There are learning pods, two-day per week hybrid schools (at low cost), innovative online learning, and local community college courses. There’s so much richness, so don’t consider it a choice between public school versus 100 percent learning at home with you as the teacher.

We homeschooled our kids, but we hardly did any actual teaching. Instead, we mostly just managed their learning. We worked with them to determine a reasonable curriculum, but they executed it. They learned to learn on their own. We mostly made sure they were doing the right things, and we held them accountable for the work.

The Epoch Times: Is there any final advice you’d like to offer parents reading this?

Mr. Lewis: If you’re thinking about it, just give it a try. You can always re-enroll in public school. It’s not for everyone, but you won’t know unless you try it.

Here are some other thoughts from this article: EmpoweringParents.com/article/homeschool-tips-for-parents-just-getting-started/

1. Keep Homeschool Simple at First

Keep things simple for the first few weeks or months while you get acclimated. We decided that the kids would only do school from 9 to 1 each day. Are four hours enough? Yes, that’s plenty to start. You can get a lot done in four hours given that there’s no bus to ride, no recess, and no cafeteria. Homeschooling is low-overhead and efficient.

2. Don’t Try to Replicate What Happens in School

Don’t try to replicate their school experience. If you’re a teacher, you could pull this off, but the nature of homeschooling is that it is not as structured. You don’t need to set up a curriculum for five classes and stick to a rigid schedule. Consider the lack of structure as a feature, not a bug.

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