Part II - You think we should homeschool? Yeah Right!
Our lives took on a whole new meaning when my wife and I decided to homeschool our two boys in 2012. We experienced a lot of ups and downs as a family, but I can positively say it has been well worth the ride! Besides being extremely blessed and having a wife who is committed, I remained steadfast by telling myself over and over "I have one shot to make the greatest impact on my sons’ lives, so make it count." I basically had a Stephen Curry mindset when it came to homeschool – if we can hit a 3-point basket from half-court, then we’re going to take the shot. Thankfully, we've made it more times than we’ve missed!
For many families, homeschooling just isn’t possible. With more and more parents working to support the family many people don’t have the luxury of staying home to school their kids, even if they do feel homeschooling is the best option. However, if you do find yourself in the position to homeschool, there are many things you need to consider before making the ultimate decision to start. Here are just 6 simple questions to ask yourself before you decide.
1) Do we have time?
First and foremost, you need to know that homeschooling tends to take up a lot of time in your day. It is more than just sitting down with books for a couple of hours. There are experiments and projects to be done, lessons to prepare, papers to grade, field trips, park days and the list goes on. It can be much like a full-time job, but this is your child’s education, so making that kind of commitment needs to be fully understood for them to benefit. Having a set schedule can help you manage your time as well.
Homeschooling also requires a certain amount of personal sacrifice from one or both parents. The homeschool parent may have limited personal time or opportunities to spend alone. If care is not taken to set aside time for yourself, it is easy to get overwhelmed and never have time alone. That can be extremely stressful, so make sure you schedule time for yourself.
2) Can we afford it?
There is a financial commitment for the family, but homeschooling can be accomplished using a sound budget. Keep in mind that at least one parent may have to reduce their work schedules back to part-time or maybe not work at all. My wife was the designated person to homeschool our boys and reduced her work schedule to part-time. The important thing to remember is that one-size does not fit all. Some financial sacrifices will need to be made, especially if the family is living on two incomes.
3) How will it change our everyday lives?
Homeschooling will undoubtedly change the way your family operates. For example, as you begin your homeschool journey, life will require a certain amount of mundane work in order to maintain an orderly household. Housework and laundry still must be done, but it probably won't get done first thing in the morning. If you are a stickler for a spotless house, you might be in for a surprise! Depending on the age of your children, this can be a perfect opportunity to teach them how to contribute to a family unit through chores. Yes, it does take a village to raise a child, but in my village, you have to work!
Another adjustment will be made in your child’s social environment. Even though school will take place at home, your child will still have many opportunities to develop outstanding social skills. We were able to involve our boys in various clubs, classes, sports and other social groups that I don't think they would have been a part of otherwise. Unlike a public-school setting, homeschooling allows you turn "the world into a classroom". For example, my sons spend on average one day a week at my office, learning about what I do, interacting with professionals and meeting people from all walks of life. This kind of exposure and creative social interaction has afforded me the opportunity to hire both of my sons to their first job working for me, dad!
4) Does my spouse support homeschooling?
All family members should be included in the decision to homeschool. When you have the support of your spouse, your job as teacher will be much easier. It is important that both parents agree to try homeschooling as it can be very difficult if one parent is against it. If your spouse is currently against it, try doing more research and talking to more people so that you will be armed with as much information as possible to bring your spouse around to your thinking. Even if you're both on the same page, you still might consider just taking it one year at a time. There’s no need for your family to become overwhelmed with a lifelong commitment. Life circumstances change, and public or private school is always going to be there if you find that homeschooling is no longer an option for you.
5) What can I do to get started?
Do a lot of research and know your child’s learning style. At the beginning of our homeschool journey it was very important to find the right curriculum, tools and resources to teach our kids. After a lot of research, we decided to go with a virtual public-school curriculum. Through our homeschool classroom experience we had the expertise of certified teachers and educators walking us through curriculum and materials so that we were well prepared to teach our boys through the 8th grade. Now in high school, they attend classes virtually online. They equipped us to homeschool by ourselves but not be by ourselves.
Remember as I said earlier, one size does not fit all. Although virtual online learning worked for our family it may or may not work for you. Whatever curriculum or guide you use to educate your kids remember to do your homework. Talk to other people who have experience with homeschooling. Listen to the reasons why they made the decision and how do they feel it's working. They can become part of your support system as well, so it’s good to make the initial contacts before you decide rather than after.
6) What are the advantages and disadvantages of homeschooling?
My wife and I are big fans of the pros/cons list. This list can be an opportunity for you to brain dump all your thoughts, hopes and fears about homeschooling. Start by dividing a piece of paper in half with a line down the middle of the sheet. Label one column “pros” and list all the possible advantages and label the other column “cons” to list all the possible disadvantages. This should give you a better idea of whether your mind and heart are in the right place.
Here are just a few advantages and disadvantages that my wife and I discovered along the way that may help you and your family be successful.
We believe we know our children better than anyone. Because of this, we were able to custom tailor their learning experience. Each child’s interests, abilities and learning styles were accommodated. In addition to the traditional subjects taught in school, we spent a considerable amount of time teaching life skills such as money management, cooking, etiquette, organization, communication and problem solving.
Homeschooling gave our family more time together, to strengthen relationships, to share values and to experience life. It also took less time than the traditional 7-8 hour school day. This can be especially good if you have wiggly boys like ours. Although we dedicated quality time to actual schoolwork, our boys had more time to be boys – running, jumping, climbing, falling and wiggling as much as they wanted.
Homeschooling expanded our academic mindset. My wife and I quickly realized that learning takes place wherever you go and during whatever you do. As I said earlier, we made the world a classroom. Every car ride, trip to the grocery store, doctor’s visit or vacation turned into a learning experience. This kind of learning environment exposed my boys to more opportunities to learn and pursue personal interests like cooking, dancing, creative writing, acting, gardening and landscaping.
Contrary to what many opponents feel, homeschooled children can become better socialized than their peers. My boys have not been confined to the same-age-only relationships of the school setting, in which case they’ve developed strong relationships with positive caring adults and have more experience interacting with people of all ages, races and cultures.
Homeschool from my perspective allows a degree of safety that no brick and mortar school system can provide. In many traditional school settings, your child will take in information from people and sources with you having no idea of what they are learning. As a homeschool family, you become the primary buffer between the values you teach in your home and what your child learns about the world outside your home. Homeschooling has allowed us the opportunity to engage our boys in “real-world” learning opportunities that extend beyond the boundaries of our family environment. We’ve set the stage to have meaningful conversations with our children about drugs/alcohol, addiction, violence, sex, racism and other controversial topics that many parents try to avoid.
The awesome responsibility for educating your children rests squarely on your shoulders. There were are times when even the thought of this was overwhelming to our family, but after putting it in perspective, that’s the role of a parent anyway. When it comes to homeschooling, many people may be unwilling or unable to assume the responsibility and would prefer that it be left to others.
Homeschooling takes a high level of time, commitment and dedication, more than just sending your kids to school and occasionally helping them with their homework. In addition to basic subjects, energy is required to stay informed about and engaged in activities, opportunities, legislation, homeschooling methods and ideas. When it’s all said and done you will be happy with the results.
Remember that problems do occur. Try not to be discouraged on these days. All time spent with your children is teaching time even if it’s not all textbook time. Many people feel discouraged at one point or another. Just take a moment and remember why you wanted to homeschool in the first place. Allow yourself this difficult time and wait for the next “AHA” moment!
The most difficult hurdle for me was that our home looked very different when we started homeschooling. Some people find this to be much more difficult than they expect – especially when they are used to “a place for everything and everything in its place” mentality. However, this would be a great time to teach household responsibility to your kids which will ultimately make them more capable of caring for themselves as adults.
Finally, you could be subject to some intense criticism from family, friends, and society in general about homeschooling. Be prepared for this and arm yourself with information. When you are trying to counter criticism, remember confidence, humility, information, and alliances go a long way.
There’s a lot to take in about homeschooling and many people wonder just where they should start? You need to first make your decision wisely and then be strong in that decision knowing you are making the choice to homeschool for the good of your children and your family. In my third and final editorial about homeschooling I will share some of the biggest myths and how to prepare yourself with intelligent facts and positive rebuttals to the barrage of questions, comments and concerns you’ll receive from those around you and even from the ones you love.