By Heather of OMSH.com
My oldest daughter, now 11, was in first grade when homeschooling became a quick reality for our family. The decision to homeschool was a knee-jerk response to a teacher who chose to use public shame for students’ wrong answers and classroom discipline; my daughter was literally ‘wilting’ under the stress. As soon as my husband and I were aware of what was going on, we made a formal complaint and withdrew our daughter from the school.
Initially, I was overwhelmed with personal doubt - “Did I have the ability to educate my child as well as a certified teacher?” Question after question nagged me through that first night until I rolled out of bed around 2:00 a.m., grabbed pen and paper, started a pot of coffee, and began writing a list of every worry that came to mind. With a deluge of concerns scratched across that paper, I felt my first sense of relief. I knew if I could just answer these questions, I could map our way - and it worked.
Maybe you are in the desperate place I was several years ago. Maybe you aren’t desperate at all, but need guidance on how or where to begin the process of switching your child(ren) to a homeschool. Either way, take time to honestly ask yourself the following questions, and upon reviewing the answers, you too may find your way.
1. Do you have the time to homeschool?
There is no doubt about it - homeschool takes time. There are several different approaches (types) of homeschooling, but all of them take time. Not only will you need time to sit and read, teach, or lead them in their studies, but you will also need time to prepare; there are science experiments to gather supplies for, field trips to plan and initiate, projects to supplement and complete, lesson plans to construct, work to grade, co-ops to participate in, piano lessons to take, craft and art supplies to find, and whatever else you choose to incorporate as part of your homeschool.
When I began our homeschool I worked full-time running two online stores and writing. My entire schedule had to be re-vamped. While older children can work independently on many subjects, an elementary age child requires you to be the teacher and lead them through each subject. Do you have enough time to commit to this kind of schedule?
2. What are your state homeschooling laws?
We began our homeschool in Augusta, GA where we were stationed for three (3) years at Ft. Gordon. A Texas resident, I assumed the same laws applied in Georgia as they did in my home state; this was not the case. At that time, Georgia required the homeschooling parent or caregiver to submit a ‘Letter of Intent to Homeschool’. There were other requirements as well; the child had to be schooled by a parent or caregiver with no less than an Associate’s Degree, monthly lesson plans and attendance reports must be submitted via mail, and finally, children had to be independently tested by a state-approved testing facility at the end of designated school years - beginning with the end of their 3rd grade year.
When our family moved back to Texas, with homeschool portfolios and paperwork in hand, I discovered Texas considers homeschool the same as private school and hardly has any requirements. To find out what your state mandates for you to legally homeschool your child(ren), visit the HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association). Can you meet the legal requirements to homeschool your child in your state?
3. Will homeschooling be a financial strain?
Homeschooling does not have to be expensive, but it does affect every family’s budget in one way or another. On a very practical level, anything and everything you need, if it can’t be borrowed, must be purchased. In addition, homeschooling typically requires the teaching parent to be at home during school hours (again this is dependent on the age of your child). If your family requires a dual-income to meet expenses, you may have to request a reduction of work hours from your employer, find a new job, or maybe just make necessary family budget cuts. Can your family handle the financial responsibilities of a homeschool?
4. Is there a local homeschool support group available near you?
We are a member of a growing local homeschool group. At the start of each new year our group has information meetings to answer questions of potential homeschooling families. During these meetings the homeschool parents share information and strategies, gather ideas, talk about and trade curriculum, discuss scheduling issues and styles of homeschooling, veteran homeschoolers may provide support for different age levels, and we also make space for community businesses and organizations to promote their services.
Contacting or joining a local group like this, although not necessary, will keep you informed and connected. Typically the annual fee for membership remain low (ours is $10.00) because parents volunteer in their area of expertise or interest. Our group members take on responsibities like planning field trips, organizing specialized co-op classes, teaching co-op classes, managing correspondence between families and momma’s nights out, maintaining our website, or planning single events, like spelling bees or graduation ceremonies. Do you have a local homeschool support group near you to answer your questions and support your homeschool efforts?
5. What curriculum or materials will you use to teach?
This was perhaps the most confusing decision for me until I came across Susan Wise Bauer’s article, What is Classical Education?, which led me to the book, The Well Trained Mind. At that point I knew I was a proponent of Classical Homeschooling. That said, I am not as astringent now as I was then, and have changed our homeschool style and curriculum choices along the way.
The best way to decide what curriculum to use is to first understand the learning style(s) of the child(ren) you will teach. Once a child’s learning style is established, the teaching approach you should take is much more clear. A complete understanding of learning style(s) and teaching approaches (or educational philosophies) will point you to the best curriculum for you and your child(ren); in some cases you may find this means not using a curriculum at all.
6. Is this the best decision for your child?
There are times when pulling a child from a public or private school setting is the best choice for the child, but not always. Homeschooling your children is a freedom, and just like any other freedom, it should be exercised with wisdom. Our family’s decision to homeschool is made each new year. All of my children have been in the public school system at one point or another. In both environments they have learned valuable lessons they might not have experienced otherwise.
Bringing your child(ren) home to school does not need to be a lifetime decision; I suggest making the commitment year to year; communicate with your child(ren), keep attune to what is going on in your local public and private schools, and if married, always remain in agreement with your spouse on the issue.
The point is not to add undue stress, but to relieve stress and encourage an environment of learning. Can you create the type of homeschool environment your child(ren) needs to learn?
There were many more questions I asked myself in the wee hours of that night, but these questions, once answered, gave me the peace to move forward and enjoy our first year of homeschool. Since then, our family has grown and now I homeschool three children. Whereas the initial decision to homeschool seemed monumental, it doesn’t overwhelm me any longer.
As parents, we make the commitment and take on the responsibility, for our children’s education each new day - be it in the public, private or home arena. To have school at home means you are the one to encourage them in their excitement about learning; the challenge is worthwhile and the benefits are bountiful.
Remember what W.B. Yeats said, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”
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