Dear Pandemic Homeschooler,
Nobody in your family has done this before. Take a minute and take that in.
It is back-to-school time and there are a lot of questions surrounding what that looks like for children. Many parents, after losing faith in their school system, are eager to explore homeschooling. So, they turn to the internet and discover it is an overwhelming digital sea of philosophies, curriculums, materials, and opinions. Accredited vs not accredited (what does that even mean?). Virtual vs parent-led. Secular vs non-secular. Co-ops and apps. It can make any new homeschool parent want to retreat, stock up on masks and sanitizer, and send their kiddo off to the world where someone else makes these decisions.
Society has conditioned us to believe that school is the gold standard. That if you are not “acing” homeschool that your child needs to be in school. Often homeschool families feel as if they are under a judgment that schools do not face. While that is true, state laws leave some flexibility for homeschooling families. This means that others’ judgment of how you educate your child is not your problem. Let the school, teachers, and other parents have their thoughts. The burden and the beauty of homeschool is that you are the principal, lead teacher, and guidance counselor. YOU get to decide.
There are no deadlines or requirements that you have it figured out on day one. As a matter of fact, day one and day 51 will look completely different. If you are going into it thinking you need to have it all figured out on day one, you are doing a disservice to your entire family.
Many homeschool families discuss the process of “deschooling.” This is the time spent releasing from the expectations and policies of school. Almost like vacation, but probably less fun. Spending time in your home figuring out your natural flow and needs will help you figure out the best way to begin introducing learning in a way that will create a flow for everyone. Many people may feel that they did this over the summer. However, especially if you spent the summer traveling or operating in a way that is not your norm, it could still be really helpful to deschool.
Approaching this new life change with curiosity will lead you down a much more satisfying journey. Instead of stressing over curriculums and logistics, start day one ready to explore what this means for all of you. There is no perfect formula. But, here is the secret: It does not matter how you start, or even when you start. You just need to start taking steps … baby ones, if you need to.
There is an abundance of opportunity in this break from the norm. Your schedule and flow are completely up to you. So, vacations can be planned around your work schedule, field trips can be taken during “off hours.” Let the kids sleep in or stay up late if they function better that way! The most important benefit of homeschooling is that your child can learn at his or her pace, without negotiating this with the teacher. So, your 7-year-old can jump from “kindergarten” reading levels to “fourth grade” science, without someone telling them that they are behind or restricting their ability to learn more. It really is a freeing experience to see your child learn and grow without grades, shame, or restrictions.
However, it is also crucial to accept that homeschooling is not always going to be a magical experience. There will be magical days but there will also be hard days. The key to making it through the hard days is to realize teachers and school-taught children have hard days. School is not always a magical experience. There may be magical days. But many kids have days where they struggle, even in school. Even still, school moves forward and everyone finds a way.
Homeschool is parenting’s ultimate “Choose Your Own Adventure.” You can choose to stay close to the road that school has laid or you can veer off to more unknown paths. Either way, realize that YOU have never done this before. Your children have never done this before. Have patience with this new path. I hope that you take the opportunity to enjoy this moment, especially if you plan to return to school at some point. Take longer walks, sleep in on a Tuesday, take an epic homeschooling road trip!
The kids will be OK! Stepping away from the school system is not going to make or break their future. Simply by showing up for them and being an active participant in their learning journey, you have already given them the most important tools to success.