Homeschooling has always been an option, it just hasn’t always been a viable choice for all families to consider. But now, at least temporarily, nearly every family in America is effectively a “homeschooling family.” We just saw a RealClear Opinion Research poll released their finding that suggests 40% of families may be more likely to continue to homeschool their children when the COVID-19 pandemic ends. That is huge.
As a homeschooling veteran of over 17 years and 4 kids (3 of whom have graduated!), there hasn’t been a dramatic change for us. We were already home. We already had all of our lesson plans, material, and routines all set. We’re missing our outside activities and field trips, but we’re adapting. But for many of you, your entire life may seem to be turned upside-down.
Some school districts were pretty well prepared. I know our local district already had laptops available and online distance learning mechanisms in place, but others were woefully unprepared. They are still struggling to come up with a way to send out paper worksheets to student’s homes. The rest of the school districts are somewhere in the middle.
When are the public schools going to open back up? California is in the news, unsure if the 2020-2021 fall semester is even feasible in-person. Public classrooms are not big enough for desks spaced 6 feet apart, neither are cafeterias leaving 2 empty seats between children eating lunch. How they expect 6-year-olds to stay in one room all day wearing a mask and not touching other kids is anyone’s guess. Parents are afraid to send their kids back anyway. What is safe any more? And when?
Many parents are finding themselves wondering if they can handle this better themselves at home. The simple answer is yes, homeschooling can work for you, even if it normally wouldn’t have crossed your mind in the past.
Each state has different homeschool regulations. So you will have to look up the specific guidelines and rules for your location. Some states are pretty basic, only requiring a letter of intent stating that you will be keeping your children home (but they can still count those children in their district numbers). Others require yearly standardized testing, portfolio reviews, or curriculum approval.
Either way, it may not be as difficult as you might expect. No matter what state (or country) you live in, I guarantee there are thousands of homeschool families that have done it before you and are currently homeschooling right now. Hoops or no hoops.
There are many considerations when choosing which lesson plans will work best for your family. What are you looking for in a homeschool curriculum? There are many things to think about while curriculum shopping. What’s your worldview: are you religious or are you looking for a secular curriculum? Do you want the majority of your lessons online, or would you rather avoid screens? Do you want open-and-go lesson plans or do you prefer to fly by the seat of your pants?
To add our shameless plug, Build Your Library is a Charlotte Mason inspired homeschool curriculum, but with a 21st-century twist. Using great literature, short and varied lessons, copywork, dictation, and narration, we take a literary approach to learning. I strongly believe that children learn best when they are focused and interested and that stories make knowledge stick.
That’s why we use the most captivating literature in the Build Your Library lesson plans, and that literature is the heart of our curriculum. With our lesson plans, you and your children will read great books, discuss them together, use passages from their reading as copywork and dictation, and use it as a framework to study history, science, and geography. Living books can bring any subject to life!
Charlotte Mason said that “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.” Learning is more than memorizing rote information and being able to parrot it back for a test. She advocated for creating an atmosphere of learning in our homes. That can mean different things for each family – in our home we collect books. I believe in having a well-used home library filled with the best books on a variety of topics. Maybe for your family, it is about gardening, or art, or music, or equipping your kitchen to double as a science lab. Think about the various ways you can make your home conducive to learning.
If you want to learn more about the Charlotte Mason approach to education, this article is a great place to start: Charlotte Mason in the Secular Homeschool. I have also written a book all about using a Charlotte Mason approach in a modern homeschool: A Literary Education: Adapting Charlotte Mason for Modern Secular Homeschooling available at Amazon.
If you are currently public schooling at home, that is a very different animal from what most homeschool families do. But with that being said, every homeschool family is different. The biggest benefit of homeschooling is that you can cater to your child’s learning needs. “Public school at Home” locks you into one model. With homeschooling, we have the freedom to adjust our sails as needed when something isn’t working.
The first lesson in homeschooling is Be Flexible. Does your child struggle with math? Maybe they need a more hands-on approach. In a public school there is only one math curriculum. Perhaps different teachers can make that math curriculum easier or more difficult for a child to learn. But either way, that’s the only math text used so deal with it. But homeschoolers have the flexibility to toss out a program that isn’t working. We tried at least 5 different math curricula before finding one that worked well for us. Every child is an individual and being able to individualize their curriculum is the biggest benefit of homeschooling.
Current times excluded, homeschooling doesn’t mean staying at home all day. We are educating our children at home, but that doesn’t mean locking ourselves away from the world. Most homeschoolers spend quite a bit of time in outside activities. In fact, there are often more opportunities for homeschoolers than time in the day. From co-ops, to book clubs, to sports, classes, and field trips, there are tons of opportunities for socialization!
Even if you don’t currently know anyone who homeschools, I promise there are homeschoolers in your town/city/neighborhood. Find support for this journey. Research local groups on Facebook or Google. They will be a great resource for understanding your state homeschooling laws and learning about classes, co-ops, and other learning opportunities in your area.
If you gathered a dozen homeschooling parents in a room and asked them what a typical day looks like, you’ll get 12 completely different answers. Because we can cater to our children’s needs, it gives us the opportunity to study in a way that makes the most sense to both the parent and the child. For my family, that means that literature is front and center because reading is my passion. Learning with literature is what makes the most sense to my children and me. It takes time, but learning how both you and your children learn is paramount to successful homeschooling.
On that same note though, beware of comparison. It’s both inspiring and stressful looking at what other homeschool families are doing. Following homeschool blogs and YouTube channels can be a great way to get your feet wet and learn more about homeschooling. But it’s important to remember that their family is not your family and what works best for them might be a disaster for you.
If you are new to this, it can all feel very overwhelming. Taking over your child’s education is a huge responsibility. But it doesn’t need to be stressful. Start out slow. Take a deep breath. Choose one subject or topic that you are excited about (and comfortable teaching), and start there. Maybe it’s history or maybe it’s math. Do that thing each day. When that feels comfortable and routine, then add in something else. Just because your child was in school for 6 hours a day doesn’t mean a homeschool day will take as long.
All school days are not created equal. Many people not familiar with homeschooling may question why public school days are so much longer than a typical homeschool day. While there is no one-size-fits-all homeschool day, like public school schedules tend to be, there are many reasons why homeschoolers can fit in more schooling in less time.
There’s a lot of padding in that 6 hours for lining up, moving from one building to another, quieting the class, bathroom breaks, recess, etc. Actual academic learning can be done in 1 – 2 hours a day for younger children, 3 – 4 hours for older children. Having shorter lessons ensures that your child is able to stay focused. Another benefit of homeschooling is freedom! Shorter lessons leaves plenty of freedom in their day to follow their passions!
It’s easy to get excited (especially when you discover a shiny new curriculum) to want to plan out your child’s entire education. I recall our early years of homeschooling when I would sit with a spreadsheet and plot out my children’s entire educational career. That way lies dragons. I would advise you to only think about the current year, maybe the following year, but that’s all. Circumstances change, children change. What’s working great today might end up flopping in 2 years.
That’s not to say don’t have a plan. Instead of plotting out all 12 years of schooling, think in broader terms. What does it mean to be educated? What should a well-educated person know? Also, what do you value most in your home and family? When you look at the big picture, it becomes easier to plan out the pathway to get there.
The following list of blog posts contains a wide variety of topics that you may find helpful as you embark on your homeschooling journey.
If you do choose Build Your Library curriculum, we have even more helpful resources tailored directly to our program, including more blog posts, support groups, and other resources at your disposal. this additional information can be found at our BYL Support Page.
I can’t imagine not homeschooling my children. We’ve been at this for so long, it’s just second nature to us now. My children tease me that I think about everything like a homeschool mom because I have the superpower of turning nearly anything into a learning opportunity.
As this seemingly endless 2019-2020 school year finally winds down, you can almost feel the upcoming sigh of relief on the horizon. This too will end, leaving you with the summer to consider your next move. Go back to public school with whatever hybrid school at home / social distancing classroom environment being planned? Or take the responsibility of homeschooling your children into your fully capable hands.
You don’t need a teaching degree to be a successful homeschooling parent. All it takes is loving your child and meeting them where they are at. Trust yourself, trust your child, and you’ll do great. You’ve got this!
I hope this information helps lead you down the path of a successful homeschool expedition. Feel free to reach out to us with any further questions or concerns you may have.
Emily Cook is the author and creator of the secular homeschool curriculum Build Your Library, a literature-based K-12 program infused with the teachings of Charlotte Mason. She writes full year lesson plans as well as shorter topical unit studies. Emily has been homeschooling her four children in Southern NH for 18 years. She is passionate about reading aloud to children of all ages and loves to share her love of literature with others. She and her family also makes incredibly dorky videos about homeschooling, books and more on Youtube at ARRRGH! Schooling. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. You can also check out her author page on Amazon.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a small commission if you make a purchase through my links, at no cost to you.