I’ve decided I don’t want to supplement by child’s distance (aka remote) learning curriculum, and want to do homeschooling instead. Where do I begin?
First things first
If you want to homeschool, the first thing you need to do is make sure you do it legally. For example, in Virginia where I homeschooled, you only need to fill out a form to take your child out of the public school system and create a curriculum overview of what you are going to teach. It’s an outline and use the public school district website as a guide. Here’s an example from Fairfax County (a school district in the DC suburbs):
https://www.fcps.edu/sites/default/files/media/forms/it2.pdf (WITHDRAWAL FORM)
Every state is different, so a great resource to begin is here:
https://hslda.org/ (LEGAL INFORMATION BY STATE)
Check to make sure you know how the child will be evaluated to advance grade levels. To stick with my Virginia example, you need a person with a Master’s Degree or above to sign off on the child’s education. If you do not know anyone with this degree, there are usually many of people in the homeschool community that can do this for you. I hired a former teacher to evaluate my child to confirm that she was on grade level and to sign off on the assessment. It was really simple.
Set up a routine.
Once it’s legal and you know the rules so your child will advance after the school year, you will need to set up a routine to give the kid(s) some structure. One of the main benefits of school is that there’s already a built in schedule for the student. If you are homeschooling, you will need to create this yourself. It’s not difficult, but it will take some time. And do not be afraid to adjust—you might have to shift things around as you and your family get used to homeschooling. Consider creating your own routine or an outline. Flexibility is an amazing benefit of homeschooling. When you get invited to a museum homeschool open house or a homeschool friend invites you over for a playdate, it’s easy to shift your lesson plan. For example, instead of doing math, reading, and science in the afternoon on Tuesday, you can just do it in the morning and then go out in the afternoon.
Batch your subjects
Try to batch subjects and work together. Math, reading, and science in the morning, movement activity and lunch, then maybe something they are curious about in the afternoon. You do not need to do every subject every day. Decide which subjects you want to do each day and then the other subjects can be scheduled in afterwards. If you need help deciding what to teach, remember to use your school’s district curriculum as a guideline. In the end, you will have the final say so focus on your priorities and what’s important to your family.
Get everyone involved
If you have multiple kids, you will have to be a little more creative. I know that unit studies work for a lot of families. For example, if you want to read Harry Potter as a family, you can incorporate creative writing as the language arts component, make “potions” (aka reactions in chemistry), learn about England (where Harry Potter takes place) for social studies, and bake Harry Potter theme treats using fractions and measurements for math. Depending on the age of the child, you can use coloring sheets for younger ones while having the older children create their own short stories inspired by the Harry Potter series. Remember everything can be a lesson!
If your children are a wide range of ages, consider letting the older kids teach the younger ones. It’s a good way to get all your kids involved in your family unit and having your kids take responsibility over a task.
Frequently Asked Questions When Considering Homeschooling
How long does it take each day?
This will depend on your family and your child but typically I find that most families teach for about 3-6 hours per day. A lot of families do field trips once or twice a week as well so it reinforces what the child learns but in real life.
One of the biggest myths is that you have to be a former teacher to teach your child. That’s not the case. However, you will have to be patient and curious to be a good homeschool instructor. It takes a lot of work to begin this process. Finding the right curriculum for your child is trial and error so be patient. Each child is different and it might take a few tries to get it right. Take time to figure out if you would like to be on a 4-day or 5-day lesson plan (this is what most families choose between, very few choose 3 days or more than 5 days).
Can I have a flexible schedule?
Do both you or your partner need to work 9-5 pm behind a computer? If yes, then homeschooling younger kids would be extremely hard. It might work for high school students because they are more independent. There are workarounds but typically one parent needs to be around to assist the child. Some suggestions- can one parent work part time to homeschool? Can one parent work 2-3 days outside the home and then swap off with the other parent so there’s always someone around to homeschool?
How can I take a break?
Remember it’s really difficult to be “off” when you are homeschooling. Someone always needs to be around for childcare if your children are younger. If you have the finances, you could hire a nanny, au pair, a babysitter or a relative who lives nearby BUT make sure that you think about this.
Another option is to make other local homeschool friends. Sometimes if you get to know other families, you can have a playdate and leave your kids for an hour or two. You can return the favor, the following week. A simple way to get a few things done for very low cost.
If you enroll your child in extracurricular activities, you can do errands or make calls if everything you need to do is nearby. For example, I liked taking my child to Spanish lessons in a strip mall because the supermarket, nail salon, and post office were all in the same area. This bought me 90 minutes to run errands or make calls.
Look for ways to be creative to free up some time.
How much does it cost?
There are upfront costs, which include text books, workbooks, supplies, and any online resources that you want access to. You might also have to enroll them in classes for socialization, physical activity or even a subject you cannot or do not know how to teach. There are also hidden costs if you used the school’s psychologist, special education department, or speech therapist, for example. If that is the case, you will need to pay for these services out of pocket.
How do I meet other homeschool parents?
Do a Google or Facebook search to look for other homeschool groups in your area. Sign your child up for classes at local museums, zoos, libraries, etc. There will be special homeschool classes held during the day when traditional school is in session. Another option is to post on a neighborhood forum like NextDoor. Check your local library and museums websites for special homeschool days.
What if I’m not comfortable teaching every subject?
You can go above and beyond the core subjects taught in the school. Because your day will be shorter, it will allow for more freedom to discover hobbies and interests. Try multiple hobbies and subjects all year long. Make sure to check out our worksheet for digital resources.
Outsource it. If for some reason you cannot or do not like to teach a certain subject, then consider enrolling your child into an in-person class instead. For example, I’m not the biggest fan of teaching science. But my child loves science. Teaching this subject myself would not do it justice, so I outsourced it. I took her to museums and the zoo for her science classes. She was taught by experts and I didn’t pull my hair out. Win-win!
Join a co-op. In some areas there are homeschool co-ops that meet once or twice a week. Some you have to pay the join or split the cost for the teacher expenses. A good place to start is through a church or your religious affiliation because a lot of the time, they already have groups formed.
Creating your own pod/group. I go into this in-depth in this Distance Learning article.
Give yourself grace – Remember, it’s harder to meet homeschool parents in-person during a pandemic but it should be much easier to meet homeschool parents online because there are just more people online nowadays. When things open up, make sure you search for classes and museums above to mingle in real life. There are some amazing homeschool communities out there and they go above and beyond to welcome you to their tribe.
Some benefits of homeschooling:
- They will be exposed to less germs. You kids will be more healthy and get sick less.
- Want to take a vacation? You definitely can at a moment’s notice and take your lessons on the road. So not worrying about your child missing school.
- You do not have to worry about the gun drills that schools have to do regularly in case an active shooter gets into their building.
- The child will get more 1:1 attention and they will learn to be curious about the world. Schools have to stick with an agenda to make sure that everyone does not fall behind but homeschooling does not.
- A lot of homeschoolers test higher and have higher GPAs. This is a result of giving your child 1:1 attention versus being in a large classroom setting.
Some cons of homeschooling:
- It can be mentally draining on the parent if they do not like teaching.
- You have to be organized to show proof that your children are advancing in their studies.
- It’s a time and financial commitment. If you don’t have time or need more money for your basic needs/lifestyle, this might not be the best option.
- You have to create structure. In the classroom setting, teachers and the school’s staff will create routine. It will be up to you to do this for your homeschooled family.
- If you live in a small apartment, will you have a large enough space to create room for a classroom.
- You will need to create opportunities for socialization. One of the myths of homeschoolers is that they are socially awkward. This could be true if you stay in your house and just learn from books and do not have interaction with other kids. However, I’m assuming this will not be the case in most scenarios. So you will need to take the initiative and seek out homeschool
groups, physical activities such as dance or soccer, and other hobby related classes like foreign language, coding, etc.
- If you are an introvert then this could be really difficult.
Questions to ask yourself if you’re investigating homeschooling:
- Why do I want to homeschool? Get really clear on the WHY.
- Will you be okay financially if I homeschool? Do the numbers make sense?
- Can I afford to spend money on extra classes for your kid(s) such as music lessons, tutors, foreign language classes, etc?
- Do I have enough space to create a classroom environment? (It could be a corner in a room, or an extra table but you need to keep things organized.)
- Am I able to keep good records? Will I be more comfortable doing record-keeping on paper or the computer?
- Do I have the personality to homeschool? Am I an introvert?
- What are my fears around homeschooling? Are there workarounds?
- What does my week look like now? What will need to change if I add homeschooling?
- Will the kids help keep the house clean or do chores?
- What other research do I need to do to feel more confident homeschooling?
After answering all these questions, think about this… is this right for my child? Why?
Do this for every child you want to homeschool and I’m sure you will move closer to your answer.