Should you homeschool? More than any other year in recent memory this question is popping up in social media feeds, text threads, and Zoom meet-ups. Here are some thoughts on the topic from Heather Renfro, an experienced educator who chose to homeschool one of her children for several years. Connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Part of an occasional series featuring educators’ perspectives on school reopening and distance learning.
With so many of our kids’ schools starting off online this fall and all the uncertainties about what school will be like this year, many parents are considering homeschooling. We’re thinking, would it be better for our kids (and us) to take the reins and be in control of our kids’ curriculum instead of scrambling to keep up with whatever our school delivers? If we’re at home with them and doing so much work with them anyway, should we just take the dive and become official homeschoolers?
This is especially true for those of us who know our students won’t thrive with virtual school, and we’re wondering what we can do. As a parent who has chosen homeschooling in the past for a child who learns differently, I’ve had some opportunities to learn about how it all works. If you are wondering what “homeschooling” really means, and whether it might work for you, here are a few things to consider.
In California, some homeschoolers enroll in a Charter School specifically for homeschoolers. This grants the student some funds, but also requires regular check-ins with an assigned educational specialist, demonstration of work completed, and standardized testing. Other families create their own school (even with a student body of 1) and file a “private school affidavit.” This option provides more freedom in terms of what is taught and how it is assessed, but offers no curricular support. Yet another option is to enroll in an online school (one that was originally designed to be online), where all the content is prepackaged, delivered and assessed online.
It is easier for elementary age students to re-enter school after a homeschooling stint, both because peer relationships are more flexible and curriculum is easier to cover. If your student is a middle or high schooler and you plan for them to go back to a physical school, you’ll want to consider what classes and how many units they will need to cover so they can re-join their peers. A highschool will require a transcript to make sure the student is given credit for the classes taken.
Having our child’s education in our hands can make us worry that we’re not doing it “right,” or doing enough, and we’ll pass that anxiety on to our kids. That can quickly become a negative spiral of doubt, nagging, resentment… not the things we envision for our homeschool adventure! Consider how your child will respond to you as teacher or facilitator of classes, and whether they need some outside accountability. (Or whether you need some outside assurance!)
In our homeschooling, my child almost always had a separate teacher or curriculum, whether online or in person, and I could function as support. Every parent – child dynamic is different, but preserving a positive relationship with your child should be a top priority, whatever schooling situation you choose.
In the hours I’ve agonized over the choice to homeschool, or choose a private school, or our public school, I’ve tried hard to weigh the costs and benefits of each. In the end, I could never predict as much as I wanted to. I wanted so much to make the right choice for my child! We have chosen all of those paths at different points over the past 10 years, and mostly let our gut feelings be our guide. We chose what felt right at different stages. With each decision, we gained some and we lost some.
Homeschooling allowed us to take a step back and focus on developing fundamental skills and quell the anxiety of being in a classroom every day that wasn’t the right fit. It also meant some losses: the extras at school (music, PE, art), the constant building of social skills, the relationships with those adults. When we entered traditional school again, we were gaining those things back, but losing the autonomy to tailor a program to our needs. There were stresses with each, just different ones. That’s sure to be the case this year, too, when considering the “distance learning” that our schools provide or homeschooling.
So, in 2020, consider all the potential gains and losses, what your child needs, and what options are possible. With your child’s best interest at heart, one thing will start to feel more right than the others. Whatever you choose, go in making sure your child knows you have their back, and try to enjoy the journey. Those things will count for more in the end than any curriculum.
So, should YOU homeschool? It’s a tough decision, but hopefully you have more to consider as you make the choice.
Distance Learning Special Education via The Piece of Mind Retreat