Sunday, August 25, 2013

So, you've decided to homeschool

There is one question that comes up repeatedly in homeschool forums: "What advice do you have for new homeschoolers?".  So, I thought I would take advantage of this quiet Sunday morning and share my homeschooling advice.

#1 - Find support! - Being a homeschooler is HARD WORK!!!  Anyone who says otherwise is a liar.  Between making the decision to homeschool, researching curriculum/learning styles/ways to homeschool, knowing the laws, being a minority in education choices for children, dealing with friends and family who are not supportive, figuring out what works best for you and your child, personality dynamics, etc.  it is a lot and can be very overwhelming and frustrating.                    You need someone you can talk to that "gets it".  

My greatest support (beyond my family and friends) are all the moms I know who are also homeschoolers.  They don't just get it, they LIVE IT!  I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to sit at an event for one of my local homeschool groups, a play date or mom's night out and be able to openly discuss fears, frustrations, etc. with a bunch of people who are standing up and saying, "Oh my God, me too!!"  I think this is especially important when you are lacking support from some of the most important people in your life....friends/family.

Online support is great too, don't discount it!  I have gotten loads of information and help from the 17(ish) homeschool groups I belong to on Facebook.  Chances are no matter how you teach, what you teach, what you believe or what your individual situation is there is a homeschool group on Facebook for you.

#2 - Know your homeschool laws! - It has not happened to me BUT there are hundreds if not thousands of homeschoolers who have been lied to by their local Board of Education (BOE) when it comes to rights and responsibilities of homeschoolers.  Sometimes is it is intentional but many times (in my opinion) it is because the local BOE isn't sure what the laws are either.  It is not their responsibility to make sure you know the laws....it is yours.  Should they know them?  Absolutely!  But we cannot control what they do and do not know.

Now, many homeschoolers (especially those who homeschool for religious reasons) join the Home Schoolers Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) and highly recommend it to others.  I do not.  I have had no reason to and I do not like a lot of their practices/beliefs.  Also, as a secular homeschooler, I have read a lot of mixed reviews on their handling of secular cases.  If I were to run into an issue with the local BOE that I felt I couldn't handle on my own, I would seek out assistance from my local home educators association.  For those of you who would like to check out HSLDA you can find them here - http://www.hslda.org/.

#3 - Be confident in your decision to homeschool! - This goes along with number two.  If you know your laws and know that you are making the best decision for your family, flaunt it!  It is nothing to be ashamed of and you are not doing anything illegal.  

I find questions like, "what school do you go to? or a "is there no school today?" innocent and they do not bother me at all.  People are just trying to make conversation.  But I've heard of strangers going so far as to offer up their unsolicited opinion on homeschooling.....this doesn't happen to me and Eric swears it is because, "I carry myself like a homeschooler."  

I tell people (if asked...I'm not obnoxiously running around town screaming that I homeschool) with confidence and my head held high that I homeschool.  I am proud that I homeschool and I am proud of all the work that I put into it.  I am not afraid of someone calling Child Protective Services and I don't care if they judge me.  I do not hide during normal school hours and I won't take any flack from anyone which will take us to number four.

Not 100% confident in your decision but you feel that you need to give it a try?  FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT!  Be confident in the knowledge that you NEED to try homeschooling to see if it is a better option for your family.

Let me also add that your confidence in your choice will give your kids confidence in it as well and before you know it, they will be standing up and proudly saying, "I'm homeschooled!"

#4 - Do NOT take sh*t from people! - Numbers two and three are part of this.  Do not let people belittle or degrade you for homeschooling, ESPECIALLY in front of your children!

Nothing grinds my butt more than hearing about how people are grilling homeschool children to see if they are learning.  Don't let anyone and especially strangers do this to your kid.  You know they are learning and you do not need the approval of some random person in the street.

This goes for family members as well.  Just because you are related to someone doesn't mean that you have to take their sh*t.  If you have a loved one who offers nothing but negativity, stress and criticism I urge you to sit down with them and tell them, point blank, to keep their negativity to themselves.  That, if they have a genuine concern about the well being of your child(ren) you will be happy to discuss it with them if they can be respectful of your choices but beyond that they need to keep their opinions to themselves.  

I know, harsh!  Sometimes you have to be.  Being inundated with that constant negativity and stress isn't good for you or your children.

#5 - Be an open book! - Yes, it is 2013 and yes, we have a wonderful thing called Google but you would be AMAZED how many people know NOTHING about homeschooling.  A large part of the country still sees homeschoolers as Evangelical Christians whose children are so awkward in social settings that they cannot put together a simple declarative sentence.  I know this is wrong, you know this is wrong....we need to show the world this is wrong!

Many people are curious about homeschooling and will ask you questions, answer them but don't forget about number four up there.

#6 - You will screw up, accept it. - Everyone makes mistakes and homeschooling parents are no different!  Don't beat yourself up because you bought the wrong curriculum for your child's needs, you didn't get in as many experiments or field trips as your wanted, etc.  That's the beauty of homeschooling, you have all the time in the world.  You are not restrained by a August to May school year with loads of days off.  You don't have to worry about snow days or spending X time reviewing what was lost over the summer or prepping for test and you can change your curriculum whenever you like be it first week in or half way through the year.

#7 - Don't think you have to be a small version of public schools. -  Want to unschool?  Do it!  Are you more comfortable with them doing their school work online?  Do it!  Prefer to homeschool at night?  Go for it!  Have a child that likes to read while hanging upside down from a tree branch?  More power to them!  Want to homeschool year around and just take days off when you need/want them?  That's what I do!  Want to be a small version of public school?  If it works for you, have at it.

There is no one way to homeschool so be open minded and don't be afraid to try something different.

#8 - Don't be THAT homeschooling parent! - I see this a lot in my homeschooling groups and it drives me BATTY!  "I didn't have children for the government to raise them."  REALLY!?!?!  Most homeschooling parents attended public schools, you really think the government raised you?  I'm pretty sure I was raised by my parents and they sent me to public schools (how dare they!).

Being proud of your choice to homeschool and being confident in your decisions does not give you license to be an a**hole!  Sorry, there's no nice way to put that.  In fact, what you are doing is making your fellow homeschoolers look bad.  Being a homeschooler is hard enough sometimes, we don't need you adding insult to injury.

The majority of public school parents are doing what they feel is best for their family just like you!  Respect that as you want to be respected for your choices.  If you choose not to respect that then don't complain when you are met with loads of negativity from both sides of the community!

#9 - Enjoy homeschooling! - Homeschooling is going to take up the bulk of your time so you may as well enjoy it.  Learn with the kids, get down and dirty during science and art projects, have crazy hat days, make funny faces, read upside down, dance and sing, etc.

Life is too short to take it so seriously!

#10 - It is OKAY if homeschooling isn't for you! - Oh yeah, I said it!  I am not one of these homeschoolers that swears everyone should/could homeschool.  It isn't for everyone, just as public school isn't for everyone.  If you tried and you can't make it work it is okay!  There's no shame in it.  We all need to do what is best for our families and if it isn't homeschooling, try something else.


What's your best piece of advice to new homeschoolers?  Share them in the comments below!

8 comments:

  1. If you are just starting off, hang in there. That first week I was ready to pick up the phone, make an appointment with the public school in our district and put him back in public school. Then we learned to "unschool". School was the problem so why try to duplicate it in homeschool. Lesson learned.

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    1. Been there myself! Thanks for sharing.

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  2. Chasa,
    I would LOVE to reprint this post at SecularHomeschool.com! Beautiful advice! If that's something you'd consider, would you email me at kerry at secularhomeschool.com?

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    1. Kerry, that would be amazing! Thank you!

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  3. Love It and I definitely need the encouragement!!! We're on week number two and exhausted. :-)

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    1. Hope this help! Have a good rest of the week!

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  4. Great post. I think we're almost there, decision-wise, which is TERRIFYING. This is helpful and supportive, so thank you.

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