After much consideration, you’ve decided to begin homeschooling. Those of you who are transitioning from public school to homeschool are entering a unique season. Our family made this decision in 2010 as we began our homeschool journey. We’ve had incredible ups and downs in the four years we’ve been at home, and I am slowly wrapping my head around the many things I wish I had understood prior to bringing our boys home.
Every family will experience the transition differently.
You may be bringing your children home for different reasons than we did, but there are many things we’ll have in common. While I don’t have a formula for ensuring an easy and successful switch, I can share some of the hiccups we’ve moved through and some thoughts to consider that may make your transition more fun than challenging.
Our decision to switch from public school to homeschooling.
It was my oldest son’s 2nd grade year when we made the final decision to bring them home. We’d experienced highs and lows for the three years he attended our local public school. In kindergarten we were told that he was likely gifted, but that they could not offer him supplemental instruction until the 3rd grade. His 1st grade teacher was a great encouragement and tried hard to keep him engaged and challenged. His 2nd grade teacher saw him as a behavioral problem that needed solving. That same year our second son had entered kindergarten and what we experienced with him was very lukewarm. He was a cooperative student but wasn’t retaining anything. At the end of the school year he had not yet moved beyond using the pictures in books to attempt decoding. Our local school wasn’t the right setting for either of our boys, and we now had a daughter who was slated to start kindergarten the coming fall. After a springtime parent/teacher conference, my husband and I affirmed that it was time to bring them home and begin homeschooling.
The right time to make the switch is when the system is no longer working for you.
If I had it to do over again, I would not have waited for the end of the school year. We recognized fairly early into the year that our local school was not the right fit for our son, but we waited until the traditional break in academics to make the change. In hindsight, had we pulled the boys mid-year, we would have had more time for the informal de-schooling process that is absolutely necessary for the children and the parents. Our children needed to learn to complete academic work with younger siblings playing nearby. I needed time to encourage the relationships between my children, to turn their hearts towards each other.
Give yourself time.
Do not underestimate the change that will happen for both you and your children. Give yourselves grace! You will now have the roles of both mom and instructor. The little bit of ‘me time’ you may have had while your child was at school will now be gone, possibly taking with it the time that you pursued your hobbies and interests. Allowing for a little time to pass before jumping into formal academics will give you a chance to enjoy your time together. Informal instruction can happen through cooking, nature walks, and reading aloud while you get accustomed to spending more time together throughout the day.
Know that your teaching style and their learning styles may not match.
Before bringing the children home for schooling, I read any book I could get my hands on about the logistics of home instruction, how to choose curriculum, how to define learning styles and teaching styles. Unfortunately, I failed to see that what I had a passion for as an adult with years of schooling and real life experience behind me was quite different from the interests and learning styles of my children. The classical style appealed to my love of art and history, but for my children it was like torture when all they wanted to do was touch, explore, and experience. Once I realized that the ‘one-room schoolhouse’ was NOT a picture of my home, things began to get a little easier.
Have a plan but stay flexible.
I’m an artist by nature, and I move with the rhythm of current inspiration. As much as I love spontaneity, I need a clear plan in place before getting started. I’ve had a very difficult time adding in things through the year because we settle into a routine that we find hard to break from or make big changes to. While I’ll never do well with an hour-by-hour plan, having a monthly goal set and general schedule made allows freedom and flexibility for opportunities that arise through the year.
Know your support network.
There will come a time when you doubt the choice you made. It is normal. There are many times in the year when most homeschool moms watch that yellow bus pass by and daydream of sending the children off on it. You’re not alone, and you haven’t made a mistake. Call in your support and cheerleaders! Knowing you have willing friends and trusted confidants to share your heart with goes a long way in keeping you strong during the journey. One thing I remind myself of on those hard days is that we had clear reasons for bringing them home and we have to honestly ask ourselves if things would really be better if we returned them to the school system. Every time thus far, the answer has been a resounding, “No.”
Start with an end in mind.
While year-round schooling is quite popular in homeschooling circles, it is a big adjustment for children (and their parents) who are already used to a traditional school calendar. Communicate from the start how you will mark milestones of the days, the semester, and the year. Having a never-ending day (or year) isn’t good for your child or yourself! Your final schedule may change, but knowing when breaks are coming up helps to motivate you to complete tasks. If you wish to school year-round, keep your child aware of when there will be breaks. Everyone needs some down time, and my experience has been that the planned breaks are great recharge times, while breaks that happen out of desperation or nearing burn-out are much harder to return from.
It will be challenging, but it truly is rewarding. The first time you and your child work through a great challenge together, like reading the first chapter book, solving a long-division problem (without a calculator), or that moment of realization that something they hear spoken of by someone else was taught to them by you, will make your heart smile and make the toughest days even more worthwhile.