Wednesday, April 21, 2010

YOU Can Homeschool

When I tell people that we homeschool one of the most common responses I hear is "I'd love to home school, but I can't because ___________". I understand the hesitancy, but let me assure you, if you want to homeschool it can be done! One of the most wonderful things about homeschool is that it is flexible enough to meet the specific needs of your family, no matter what your situation. You are in complete control and you can design it exactly the way it needs to be for your family.

Here are the situations I hear the most, and some possible solutions to them. Hopefully, some of you who are interested in home schooling can begin to see how it might work for your family on a practical level.

I would love to homeschool, but I can't because.....

...both my husband and I work/I am a single parent.
Great news-unlike public school, homeschool does not have to take place at any specific time or place. You can homeschool at night, on weekends, or at a fluctuating time of the day if you work a flex schedule. You can homeschool in your home, you can give your children work to complete at grandma/the baby sitter's house, you can even take your kids with you to work (if that's an option) and work with them there. The schedule and place is entirely up to you!

Of course , with two working parents or a single parent, child care may be an issue. If your kids aren't in school and they are too young to stay home alone, you are going to have to find a way to have your children supervised while you are at work. If you're married, an excellent solution is to see if you and your spouse can work opposite schedules. Hubby and I do this because we have no willing friends/family. This summer I am going to school during the day and he is working graveyards-and our kids are still homeschooling!

Another great option, if it's available to you, is friends and family. If you know someone who is retired or who stays home with their children, they are great people to ask, but other friends or family might help as well.

If you're not married and/or your relatives and friends are of no help, see if you can find a homeschooling group in your community-there has been more than one in every place I've ever lived, including my current town which only has a population of around 5,000 people in town. Homeschoolers are very supportive of each other and if you become involved in the group not only could you find someone who is willing to have your child(ren) at home with them during the day in a homeschooling environment, but you will have an excellent resource for play/project groups!

If you can't find any friends, family, or other homeschoolers, I highly recommend looking around at churches. Many of them have child care co-ops, which means you will have to volunteer a certain number of times based on your availability, but your children will be watched for free. Even if they do not have a co-op I have never known a church to charge too much for child care.

...I have a special needs child.
Homeschooling is great for special needs children. As of 1999 there were almost 70,000 special needs children who were being home schooled-and there is a reason-at home you can spend focused, individualized time with curriculum you determine is exactly perfect for your child's specific needs. Special needs children often blossom at home under the loving, specialized care of their parents.

The challenge of homeschooling special needs children will come in the form of finding specialized care if it is necessary (speech or physical therapists, for example). You can always hire a private care provider who-depending on the need-may be covered by insurance. Alternately, if your child needs a specific type of therapist that is provided by the school district, just go ahead and talk to them. They are required by law to provide every special needs child in their school district with care and therapists at your request if there is a medical need-and that includes homeschoolers! Many (but not all) districts will even send speech/physical/occupational therapists to your home!

...I am not religious.
When people think of homeschooling in America, they often associate it with religious preferences (usually conservative Christians)-but there are homeschoolers of every kind! As homeschool becomes more and more popular, more and more people do it including people of all faiths, and those of no particular faith (atheists/agnostics).

There are as many ways and reasons to homeschool as there are homeschooling families. For example, while my husband and I are Christian, we homeschool primarily for political reasons-and because of those political philosophies we unschool and do not follow any curriculum-Christian or otherwise. Unschooling works with all value/belief systems, as your child is exposed to what occurs in your everyday life-if faith/religion is in your household it will happen in your child's learning...if not, then your children will not receive religious instruction.

If you want to use curriculum, but don't want to have faith based instruction, you can check out Calvert Homeschool-who I have heard has challenging work for kids and is very easy for parents to use. There are also agnostic parents who use the Sonlight Curriculum because they find the literature-rich curriculum easy to adapt to their personal views. Secular homeschoolers exist-and you could be one of them.

...I don't have enough education.
This is probably the most common thing that I hear. People tend to believe (based on what they see in public schools) that in order to teach children you need a degree of some kind but that is absolutely false. All you need is a passion for learning and love for your kids.

So what do you do when you're homeschooling and you run into something that you don't know? Learn right along with your kids! There is no greater lesson than to teach your children how to learn and to have a life long love of learning-and when children watch their parents learn, they become even more motivated to grow. If you feel like a subject is entirely above your head and you need help too, there are plenty of resources available. You can trade information with other homeschooling parents (I'll teach you and your child to sew if you teach my child and I about chemistry), you can hire a tutor, or (if your child is over 12 for non-credit courses and 16 for credit courses) you can enroll both you and them in a community college class.

A homeschooling parent is not expected to know everything any more than any other adult is-we all have subjects that are not our best-but if you are motivated and willing to learn you CAN homeschool your children without a college degree.

...I'm not patient enough.
Easily my second most heard "I wish I could but...", patience is one of those things that people think they either have or they don't-but that couldn't be farther from the truth. While some people are more naturally patient than others, anyone who has ever had a toddler can tell you that supreme patience is not something that it born into you, but rather learned over the years. My steps for putting enough patience in your life to homeschool is really only two steps:

Step one: Find out what you are most impatient with, and find a learning style/curriculum that minimizes that aspect of homeschooling. Most impatient with having to answer a zillion questions? Unschooling would only aggravate you, but online and/or distance learning (which is taught by instructors over the internet) might be right up your alley! Don't have enough patience to sit inside all day? A text-book approach to learning might make you batty, but a project/theme based curriculum would give you the opportunity to get out in the world and do things (parks, museums, nature walks, field trips) related to your subject. Study different homeschooling methods until you find one (or a combination of several!) that works to your strengths.

Step two: Work on your patience level. It's not an overnight thing-acquiring patience requires patience-but if you put your mind to it you can do it. My favorite patience practices are counting to ten and Mommy Time Outs. When the kids are really pushing my buttons, I will take a deep breath, count to ten, and blow it out slowly. This gives me an extra moment to think before I say something I don't mean to the kidlets. If they are REALLY REALLY pushing it, I put myself in Mommy Time Out. I put the little ones in their chairs and I tell the oldest that I am in Mommy Time Out. Then I give myself anywhere between five and 10 minutes to lie quietly, check my email, read an article-whatever. I don't talk to the kids, and if they talk to me I just tell them that I am in time out and I can't talk until I'm done. When I am cooled off, everything returns to normal-I'm not mad anymore, I didn't freak out on the kids, and we're able to just move on.

Just like most good things in life, homeschooling isn't always easy (marriage and child birth come to mind). Some days the kids act like hooligans and you run out of time before any real schooling gets done. Some times you will run into subjects you don't know anything about (like learning Mandarin!). Occasionally it will prove a very inconvenient life style. In the end though, the benefits vastly outweigh the work involved so if you want to homeschool I say GO FOR IT! Don't let circumstances stop you! And if you need any help finding resources-for babysitting, curriculum, homeschool laws in your state, whatever-leave a comment or drop me an email at and I would love to help you out!

Happy homeschooling!


The Empress said...

Hey! I didn't know you were a fellow homeschooler.

I love it. It's awesome. Wouldn't trade it for the world. It's not always perfect, but the perks are out of this world.

Very nice persuasion!!!

Topsy said...

Great post! Thanks for helping people understand that secular homeschoolers DO exist. We are a growing and thriving population, even!!

Melissa aka Equidae said...

I am very interested in homeschooling (though hubby isnt) but I still have to in Malta (europe) I have never heard of anyone who homeschools and I dont think its possible....but still can you suggest me some good reads on the different homeschooling methods or give me some help?