We haven’t always been homeschoolers. As a matter of fact, when my kids were very small, I thought the idea of homeschooling was ridiculous. I hated the thought of sending my kids off to school, but as an education major in college, I just thought it was crazy to think of parents teaching their own kids. That’s why I was paying all that money to a college, right?
When the time came to send my kids off to school, I did. I felt sad to send them, but it seemed like the nature progression. Because my boys went to a developmental preschool through our school corporation, they actually both started school at three years old.
As time went on, however, I thought about homeschooling. Still, I didn’t plan to do it. But, when a number of things happened that felt like specific calls from God to give it a try, we answered with a, “we’ll commit to one year, Lord.”
This meant that we pulled our boys out of public school after they finished 1st and 2nd grades. (Molly had not yet started preschool, though she did go for a year during our first year of homeschooling.)
Here are some little pieces of advice for parents who find themselves beginning to homeschool after their children have already been in the public (or private) schools.
Important Note: When I’m talking about the advice, I in no way think that public or private schools are bad. I have two degrees in education, for goodness sakes. I sent my kids to school. I went to school and turned out just fine. My kids just needed more individual attention to thrive that I couldn’t have expected from a teacher charged with teaching a whole class. So, if you send your kids to school, please know that our choice to homeschool is no judgement that your choice to send your kids to school is wrong.
What I Would Tell a New Homeschooler Taking Their Children Out of Public School
Take Time to Deschool
Deschooling is a period of time in which children are given the opportunity to get out of the mentality of public (or private) schooling. Advice is to spend a month doing this for every year that your child was in school. (It is likely that since you probably went to school for at least 13 years, if you didn’t go to college, that you also have that public school mentality.) During this time, you’re supposed to let kids do whatever they want, very much in a very unstructured unschooling type of set up.
Did I do this?
No, I did not. We probably needed it, but we just didn’t do it. (I figure I’m the worst offender though, and I don’t have 20 months to try to get rid of my twenty years of K – 12 and two college degrees.)
Prepare Yourself for Changing Your Mind
The summer that we prepared to begin homeschooling, I often regretted our decision. I had a need to go to their school for something and saw the class lists posted. I couldn’t help but look for their names (since we had not officially removed them from the school). My heart sank when I saw that they both had the teachers that I wanted them to have.
I lamented online, “They both got amazing teachers for next year.”
Someone said to me, “You know what? I heard that they already have an amazing teacher lined up for next year.”
I needed that. I needed to be reminded not to give up before I had even started.
Prepare Yourself for Your Kids Changing Their Minds
It’s probably not personal if your kids get upset, even if they were 100% on board, and say they want to go back to school as the school year nears (or first starts). Don’t beat yourself up.
Tell the kids that you are asking them to stick it out for a certain period of time. A month? A semester? A year? Whatever. Let them know that this is just a transitional time, and it will get better.
(Like wise, even if they are enjoying homeschool, don’t be offended if they make comparisons between it and public school. Or, when they say, “This isn’t the way that Mrs. Smith did it.” Just remind yourself, “This too shall pass.”)
One Child May Not Like Homeschooling
This goes along with the above. It was probably just the twist that kept us homeschooling instead of me giving up and putting the kids back in during just the first few weeks of school.
While one child wanted to go back, another was already in love with homeschooling. I didn’t want to have some in school and some not, so it toughened my resolve. But, it was hard when one wanted to go back.
If this happens, however, talk to that child about what you can do to make it better. I found that that child (Jack) really just wanted to be involved with other kids, he didn’t miss the actual schooling. When I assured him that our school year activities just hadn’t started up yet, that helped a lot.
You Will Have a Transitional Time
Even if you jump right into homeschooling, this is a transitional time for everyone.
If your children are old enough, you can also explain to them that this new journey is beginning with a lot of transitions. Everyone will need to be patient (with themselves and with others), and everyone is going to need to show a lot of compassion.
You May Want to Change Your Curriculum
Without having the experience of how your children learn (at least not in the way you will come to understand it) or what your preferences are, you may find that you invest money into a curriculum that doesn’t work for you.
I bought an all-inclusive curriculum and couldn’t stand it. I wish I would have been more understanding with myself that it was okay to switch. Instead, we trudged through it for months before I finally gave up with it. It made those first few months longer than they should have been.
You Should Have Something in Place for Downtime
If you don’t, it might just happen that one day early on, you will get so stressed that as soon as your husband walks in the door, you will stomp out saying that you’re done with this. You may take a long walk around your neighborhood, only to come home to find your children in tears and your husband saying that the kids have agreed to go back to school, if Mom really wants them to do so.
You might feel like a big jerk. You know, theoretically, if all that happened to you.
Plan with your spouse how you will get some downtime. In particular, you will need this while you transition to this new lifestyle.
Find a Support System of Other Homeschoolers
This made all the difference to us, and it still does. My kids have friends that are in public school, private school, and that are homeschooled. While they like them all, they take comfort in knowing other kids that understand what it’s like to be homeschooled.
As a Mom, I definitely take comfort in having friends that homeschool their children. They understand the joys, the challenges, and the general mentality in ways that people who haven’t homeschooled their kids don’t understand. My homeschooling friends have been a lifeline.
Research Homeschooling Methods Ahead of Time
I just jumped right in with it, but I wish I had taken the time to read about various homeschooling methods. For me, I went with a school-at-home approach because that’s all I knew. If I had read more, I might have tried something new.
Be Gentle with Yourself
Be gentle with yourself – you’ll need it.