Homeschool: how to get started
To homeschool or not to homeschool, that is the question. Or maybe one of the questions.
We all can get to a point where we wonder if what we are doing with our children is the ‘right’ thing. I’ve had conversations with other moms along this line. We all wonder and worry to some degree. I think we worry more about the unknown and homeschool is definitely an unknown for most. We might know school isn’t quite working for our children but to try something completely foreign is too risky. We might be chancing their future success. Maybe.
But maybe you already are doing that by taking no action.
No matter where you fall on the spectrum, be sure you have actively chosen. Are you choosing traditional school because it’s all you know and are too scared to do something different? Or do you like what it is doing for your children? If you do, awesome. If you don’t, then you must consider another option.
For those of you that are looking to the future and considering homeschool, I’ve tried to think about what I wish I would have done differently. Life changes are a lot to think about. And while I tend to live in a world of love, blessings and instinct, I can be practical too. I thought I would offer some practical advice to those of you that are ready to take the leap.
Talk with your child/children about homeschool.
This is a big decision. We, Josh and I, had been discussing homeschool for almost two years. It constantly felt out of reach and there was some barrier as to why it could not work. When we finally made the decision, we slowly began talking to our children about it but not nearly enough. It felt like a possibility to them but not something we were going to do. So when it happened not according to our plan, it was a shock.
My kids were not prepared for this transition. My oldest was 12 at the time so had been in a school setting for many years. The longer we have been in the system, the harder it is to remove ourselves from the hidden mindsets school created. He has struggled to be open to new ways to learn. He believes there could be something wrong with him because we chose this route; he views himself as ‘not normal’ because homeschool isn’t the norm. So it’s been tough to say the least.
No matter the age of your kids, talk with them about this possibility. Listen to their fears and concerns. We did this some but not enough. Maybe it would not have made our transition easier. I can see this hindsight.
I would have taken more time listening to their concerns and fears. I would have told them this decision is being made out of love and not fear. That if we were fearful, we would continue to stay in school because this was the safe choice for us. I would have written their thoughts down and referred back to it to see if they were still feeling that way months and years later.
As the parent, you make the decisions but they feel heard. This is your job and it’s a tough one.
I know I wouldn’t have decided differently; I just wonder if we would be in an easier place if I had taken more time on the front end preparing them.
2. Fill out the homeschool paperwork.
This may seem intimidating but you can do it! Our district required a one page letter of intent; this was a very easy form (children's names, birthdates, assigned school); the child’s birth certificate, a parent’s high school diploma or GED, and immunization records.
It took me longer to dig up my high school diploma than to submit or fill these things out! They didn’t want my college degree or my master’s degree, just my diploma. 😉
Spoiler alert: if you are looking to homeschool, your traditional education is not going to assist you with this process. Anyone can do this no matter how much education they have. Use the diploma the school system gave you to move your family onto a new path. It’s not going to be easy but I still believe it will be worth it.
3. Deschool and get away. Just have fun!
If you have been in the traditional system like we were, it has been difficult to deschool. We didn’t choose homeschool so we could replicate school at home. So there is no guide for us to follow.
We have been so conditioned to what learning looks like. My picture of learning for over thirty years has been a classroom setting with lots of sitting and listening, reading and writing. It can be hard to realize the freedom and potential of homeschooling. This opportunity requires imagination and creativity to create something different.
No matter how much I try to remove myself from school, it keeps finding me! Two months into our homeschool journey, we had a house fire. This fire distracted me and required me to do things I have never done. I was in the midst of a homeschooling struggle and now was faced with a family trauma.
We lived in a hotel for one month. During this time, we did nothing that would look like school. That doesn’t mean we didn’t learn, love, or live.
We colored, ate out a lot, attended happy hour three nights a week and played board games or cards. We swam every day, sometimes multiple times. We slept in, enjoyed continental breakfast together, argued about whose turn it was to take the dog out, took naps, watched a lot of TV and movies, and played a lot of video games (the boys, not me).
We did this for one month. A WHOLE month. No school-like things.
Honestly, I could not get myself to do much else. I was tired: physically and emotionally exhausted. I did not sleep well at night; our kids took turns sleeping in our beds. I did not sleep through the night one time in thirty days. (We still are not sleeping awesome but better and it’s been much longer now.)
I cried. A lot.
I continued to manage my business while Josh continued to work his fulltime job.
We were not worrying about what our homeschool looked like. We could not think about this. We just had to try and move forward anyway we could.
It has taken us another month to settle into a rental. We finally have most of our clothing, furniture for every room, and a sense of normal coming back. Boxes keep arriving with more items to put together (Josh is still baffled as to where they keep coming from or why we would need such things! 😂)
These months would be considered ‘wasted’ in a traditional system. There would be no value placed on any of the life lessons my children had to go through. No discussion about what was happening in their lives. They would continue to ‘fall behind’ in the eyes of the system.
We are not behind. We are right where we are supposed to be.
We will take up the hard work of reading, writing, and math again. Because now we can. We are ready.
And we will carry with us the lessons of love and relationships this has taught us. Lessons such as: when we need rest, we take the time to truly rest our bodies and souls. We ask for help when we need it, even when it is so, so hard. We vulnerably put our faith in people and watch them show up for us.
These past couple months have been crucial to our homeschooling journey. The fire distracted me from forcing learning and from ‘figuring out homeschool’. Homeschool is just living.
What do our days look like now? Months later?
We wake up when we are ready. (I usually get up early to have time to myself.) We started meeting at the table at 9 am most days. Then we read a one page devotional, get out some learning (I chose the Good and the Beautiful because it is pick up and go style), I sit with them and assist with reading, writing, or math. They generally do not do all three in one day; they have amazing negotiation skills. And I remind myself something is better than nothing. Next we might play games or the boys might choose to go do something together while I do work for my business. One day a week we go to our homeschool group for the morning. This gives us social connections. Other days we might have chores and tasks, or outside time. Still other days we might be running errands and stop at the library. It’s life and we are doing it together.
There will always be more to do but focusing on these simple things will keep you focused on getting started:
Talk with your kids.
Fill out the paperwork.
Deschool by prioritizing your family’s needs and having fun above traditional learning.
Walk away with your head held high. Decide to have fun and live a life you truly want. No more living it around a school schedule!
This journey is difficult because it requires you to figure out your own shit and make more decisions than you ever have in your life. No one telling you what to do. Just you to stand on your own and decide what is best for you and your family. You have chosen.
You can do it.
Even when you think you can’t.
Photo: Zander and I enjoying a cup of (decaf) coffee together while we do his work. It is just a glimpse and a moment. Not all moments are peaceful, fun, calm, or enjoyable. So don't let this one photo fool you. But remember to look it as moments. They will pass: the good and difficult. You've got this mama.