Confession: I never planned on homeschooling.
What a unique time to be writing about homeschooling! While some parents have been pondering this idea for weeks, months, or even years, homeschooling was never the plan for many. I’ve gathered from parenting forums and talking with friends that the tone of the 2020-2021 school year is more strained. So how do we press on? As a mom who has been homeschooling for two years and as a former public school educator, I have a few thoughts.
A Collective Lament
The last two years of homeschooling have been a beautiful adventure. But I was planning to hang up my teacher hat this coming year to focus on my job. This was a calculated, thoughtful decision based on my children’s expressed desires to be with their friends at school and my mental fatigue. But as is the theme for 2020 (say it with me) … “But then COVID …”
I realize I am coming to the table in a very different situation than many mothers. There are moms who are trying to balance full-time work and teach their kids. Educator moms have to choose between teaching their students or taking a break from a career they love to teach their own children. There are also children whose parents are not able to stay home and teach them and children who rely on schools for mental and emotional support, as well as meals.
Personally, I was looking forward to more margin, a more predictable schedule, and some much-needed time to think and breathe. This year is not ideal in many ways.
Have Hope Despite the Global Pandemic
Okay—now that I have summarized a fraction of what we are all feeling (aka complete despair), let me share some encouragement: Homeschooling is awesome! I don’t say that as a blanket statement that will help you choose your curriculum and solve all of your career and childcare problems. But I do mean it. Homeschooling has been one of the best decisions we ever made as a family, though I never thought it was something I would do. When I first contemplated homeschooling, I was hesitant and overwhelmed. I had never been homeschooled, nor did I have friends my age who were on that journey. I did, however, acquire a few nuggets of wisdom that I hope will help if homeschooling is in your future.
Think about how you want your days to look.
This will be different for everyone, depending on your spouse’s work situation, your kids’ ages, nap schedules, and unique needs. But you, as the mom, have the joy and responsibility of setting the tone for the day. If you are overwhelmed, they will feel it. Figure out the recommended time for seated learning per day for their ages, and then plan your day around it.
Getting my kids out of the house 2-3 times a week saves everyone’s sanity. We do better when we get to go do things. That could be digging for worms in the yard, walking to the playground, heading to a museum related to a topic we are learning, or picking up books from the library. There will be fewer activities to attend during the school year this year due to COVID, so this is harder than usual. But we still love exploring the DC area. The DC Area Mom Collective and KidFriendly DC are great resources if you are seeking activities to do in the area—or in the comfort of your own home.
Figure out your homeschooling style.
Books and blogs are great, but my favorite go-to resource is other homeschool moms! No one can provide insight like someone who has walked these roads before. One of my college mentors homeschooled all four of her kids. After spending a few hours on the phone with her, I decided to make the leap. She also helped me figure out what my homeschooling style would be.
Questions to Ask Before Getting Started
- Should I consider joining a co-op?
- Do I want to have everything written down for my kids before the day starts?
- Do I stick to a plan every day or am I more spontaneous?
- Am I willing to forego a lesson for a cool experience? What do I do when no one is feeling school that day?
Answering these questions will help you decide on your homeschooling style.
SPOILER ALERT: No two homeschooling journeys are the same so it would benefit us all to avoid the comparison game.
Use state and county standards as your road map.
State benchmarks are an excellent way to begin to plan for your year. These can be found on your county’s school website. That being said, I’ve found that they make a better passenger than a driver. Ultimately, there are certain things that students in each grade should know how to do and concepts they should understand by the end of a certain grade. But as every homeschool teacher is different, as is every child.
Learning to read and write are big goals for Kindergarten, but maybe your second grader is really advanced in math and gets all the way to division. Good for them. Go with it. Perhaps your high school athlete is gearing up to play collegiate sports and finds that practicing each morning is most optimal and school happens in the afternoon. That is another unconventional but acceptable option.
Learning at home offers the benefits of going at a slower pace and being able to pause and review as needed. You may find that your child detests social studies but really likes writing stories. Cover what they need to know and give them time to concentrate on their gifts. This will make for a happier, more motivated learner and a much less frustrated teacher.
Keep seeking resources.
Check out this list of resources and ideas from other homeschool moms. Don’t lose heart! You know your child best, and together we will get through this.