With the advent of the current health situation and now other developing circumstances, many parents are facing a dilemma regarding school this fall. For the first time, you may be seriously considering pulling your child from traditional school and pursuing homeschooling.
In this post, I’m going to help you begin to sort out the big questions. It’s virtually impossible to answer all of the questions that could be asked in only one post. However, I can help you significantly narrow down your thinking so you are better equipped to move forward. First, I’m going to give you some basic clarification questions to ask yourself. Then I’m going to give you some things to think about based on my personal perspective.
In case you’ve never read anything I’ve written before this, here’s a tiny bit of my background so you’ll know where I’ve been and where I am now. I’ve spent my entire adult life in education and homeschooling so I do believe I can help many families trying to sort this out.
- I’m a former elementary school teacher in private, Christian, and classical Christian schools.
- I have always homeschooled our only child, a daughter who is currently 13 and will be starting 8th grade.
- We are Relaxed Homeschoolers meaning that we see ourselves as a family first and education flows out of that.
- My daughter is gifted/2e which means she has tested as both gifted and has a learning difference.
So let’s jump in!
Questions to Help You Think About Potentially Homeschooling
I’ve put together a series of questions to help you clarify what you want to accomplish this year. There is no right or wrong answer. These are simply geared toward helping you clarify for yourself exactly what it is you want.
Knowing the answers to these questions will also be helpful as you read about homeschooling and talk to other homeschoolers. Telling someone that you want to homeschool is kind of like telling someone you want to buy a car. There are lots of questions that a car dealer would ask you in order to get you in the right car. These are questions that will help point you down the right homeschooling path.
Why are you considering homeschooling this fall?
- I’m concerned about medical safety and/or physical safety
- I think the social distancing plans for the schools are not appropriate for my children
- I realized during the lockdown that I want to homeschool my kids
- My kids have asked to be homeschooled
What are your goals for this year?
- Give things time to settle down so I can send my child back to school second semester or next year
- Basically do school at home but without the school telling us what to do
- Try homeschooling, but keep the option of going back to school
- Switch to homeschooling permanently
What is your goal for next year?
- Send my children back to school full-time
- Continue homeschooling
- It depends on how things go
What do your kids need academically?
- School curriculum that aligns with Common Core
- Accountability to someone other than me
- Structure, but in a homeschool kind of way
- Freedom to explore their interests with input from me
- Time to heal from a bad school experience
- My kids receive special services for learning challenges
- My child is gifted/2e
What do you need as a homeschooling mom?
- I need to be able to work from/at home so my kids need something highly self-directed
- I need something that will walk me through every step since I find the idea of being responsible for my kids’ education overwhelming
- I need something that helps me relax and enjoy my kids
- I have no idea what I need because there are so many conflicting opinions about homeschool methods and philosophies
What will successful homeschooling look like to you at the end of the year?
- We complete the curriculum I buy
- My kids are ready to join their age cohort in school next fall and don’t lose any ground in the Common Core process
- We will have successfully transitioned to a homeschooling family
What is your biggest worry about homeschooling?
- Socialization for my kids
- My own well-being
- Not being able to meet my kid’s academic needs
- Not being able to make my kids do the work
- My kids will fall behind the Common Core and struggle the rest of their school lives
Reflecting on Your Answers
As I said, there are no right and wrong answers. The right answers are the honest ones that will help you make the best choice. I’m going to guess that after doing that exercise, you fall into one of these general camps.
- I will keep my kids home for their well-being, but plan on sending them back as soon as possible and don’t want them to lose any ground in the Common Core process.
- I am pretty sure I will send them back, but Common Core requirements aren’t a concern and I just want them to learn and keep up.
- I think I want to keep homeschooling, but I am uncertain or nervous.
- I am all in on homeschooling.
Those four general camps make it a bit easier to provide general direction. And please recognize that this is very general advice to just get you started. I could write multiple posts about all of these options.
- If you are in the first camp, then you probably want to look at an online school with teachers/proctors or boxed grade level curriculum that is aligned with Common Core. You can also look into distance learning options that align with Common Core.
- If you are in the second group and don’t have to consider Common Core in your plans, then you have a bit more flexibility. You will want to pay close attention to math because that is the one highly sequential subject that would make it more challenging for your students to slide back into school if you do decide to send them back at some point.
- If you are in the third or fourth groups, you have the most flexibility. You can take a deep breath and give yourself the opportunity to think about what you truly want for your family, your children, and their education. Since you are not focused on keeping them in step with their age cohort, you have a lot more leeway.
5 Things I Think You Should Consider
In closing, I want to share a few things I think everyone should consider.
(This is the part where I’m offering my personal opinions as a parent, homeschooler, and former educator. This is also the part where I try to persuade at least some of you to go all in on homeschooling.)
Understand That Homeschoolers Are Struggling, Too
The lockdown has taken a toll on homeschoolers, too. Contrary to what homeschool detractors like to say, homeschooling is not about staying home all the time. Most homeschoolers are actively involved in many outside activities. (This is why we laugh at the socialization question/objection.) My child lost out on her homeschool co-op, volunteer positions, and other outside activities. She misses seeing her friends and activity leaders.
So switching to homeschooling under the current circumstances is not going to be what homeschooling usually looks like. Depending on the state of things in the fall, many of the activities that homeschoolers enjoy could also be shut down. So I strongly encourage you not to judge your potential homeschooling experience by what is going on now. This has been tough on all of us.
There are opportunities for homeschoolers to interact with others. Are they ideal or what we normally expect? No. We are all having to think outside the box right now. But we are and we will because we are a creative and resilient group of people.
So, no, you may not be able to replace the activities your children love. If your child wants to be in marching band, there are homeschool marching bands. But they may or may not be happening. There are choirs, sports teams, debate groups, and all kinds of homeschool activities that most kids slide into when they leave a traditional school. You may not be able to do that in the current situation. You may have to find alternatives just like current homeschoolers have had to do in recent months.
The Guidelines Being Issued for Schools Are Inhumane
I’m not pulling any punches with this one. I’ve seen the guidelines that are surfacing regarding what will be happening in the schools this fall and they are horrible. There is no other way to spin this.
I’m not going to apologize for being truthful. In fact, I would guess that this is one of the reasons you are reading this post and still with me. You KNOW they are inhumane.
No recess, no gym, no lunchroom, no art, no music, no library, no social interaction, no sharing supplies, no leaving the classroom. Staying at your desk all day. Days at school and days not at school so no flow or continuity with the days and weeks.
There is NO ONE who thinks this is good for kids. I know that there are families who will have no other choice and I grieve for them. But no one in their right mind would suggest this will lead to children flourishing.
But if you have a choice, then exercise that choice for the sake of your kids – even if you have to sacrifice to do it. Believe me when I say that there are a lot of homeschoolers who have sacrificed a great deal to educate their children at home. A lot. Careers, retirement savings, vacations, a nice home in a nice neighborhood, etc. The list goes on and on.
If your gut is telling you that this socially distanced school plan would be bad for your kid, LISTEN TO YOUR GUT. You know your child. This is going to be psychologically damaging for many kids. If you think you should keep your child out, then find a way to do it.
Give Your Child the Greatest Freedom
You need to choose what will benefit your child the most and I believe this includes giving your child the greatest freedom. Freedom may look different now, but there is far more freedom at home than in school.
I spent most of my teaching years in the lower elementary grades and I will tell you this. These guidelines being issued are especially horrific for little ones. If you have a PK, K, 1st, or 2nd grade child, please strongly consider keeping him/her home. Yes, I am literally begging you to not send your little one to school if you have the option.
Your little child needs to be able to run around outside, play, be creative, etc. That cannot happen effectively in a socially distanced and highly controlled school. It simply cannot.
You can teach your small child to read, write, and do math. If you have access to books, a computer, the internet, a printer, creative supplies, and the ability to play outside, you have enough. Truly. The internet is full of posts helping homeschoolers work with their small children. It is truly doable if you desire to do it.
School at Home is the Worst of Both Worlds
This isn’t to disparage the teachers who had distance teaching thrust on them. I am certain the vast majority of them are trying to do the best they can. But from a learning standpoint, it is the worst.
Teachers are trained to teach to a group. That is the essence of the current classroom – teach to the middle of the pack and catch as many as you can. It simply doesn’t effectively replicate over a computer screen.
As a parent, you also get the worst of it. You are expected to keep your children occupied at home, make sure they keep to the schedule when they need to sign in, and you get no input over your children’s education. You are constantly waiting for someone to give you permission to do something or tell you what to do. Most parents are capable of much more.
There is also the issue of equity and this is a big one. I read discussions online of teachers being told they could not teach anything because if they weren’t delivering an equitable education to every child in their class, the school could be sued. I’m not going to get into the philosophical arguments about this. Just know that the buzzword equity is driving a lot of what is or isn’t happening in your child’s remote public education and it may not have your child’s best interest in mind at all.
In a Crazy Time, Peace of Mind is Best for Your and Your Child
If you believe that things are going to be crazy for some time, then homeschooling is probably your best option starting now. Make the decision now and run with it. There are three overarching reasons I’ll leave you with.
- Continuity – Your family will have a structure and plan. Rather than starting traditional school, being forced to switch to school at home, and then desperately trying to switch mid-year to homeschooling, go all-in with homeschooling in whatever form you are comfortable with. Make the decision and go with it. You can always change your mind and go back to traditional school next year if things improve.
- Psychological – Do not underestimate the impact all of this is having on you and your kids. Choosing to homeschool gives you and your children a measure of control over your lives. In times of difficulty, it’s important to feel that you have control over aspects of your life.
- Physical – Kids need room to be kids. They need to play outside. We all need to be out in nature. Traditional school already takes this away from kids. With these new socially distanced guidelines it will be truly horrific from the physical standpoint. Homeschool your kids and know that they can play outside every day, something they truly need.
I sincerely wish you the best as you make decisions for your family. Feel free to leave a comment or question and I’ll try to do my best to point you to any additional information you need. I want you and your children to be happy, successful, and confident in your choices.