Originally Sent: 7/16/2015
July 16, 2015
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So You’re Switching to Homeschooling … Now What?
Maybe you haven’t always homeschooled. You may be starting a few years in, or—if you’re reading the archived version—even mid-year. Can you really switch to homeschooling mid-stream? What does homeschooling look like? Where do you begin? What should you expect? How can you ease the transition for all of you?
We started homeschooling when several of my children had already been in a conventional school for several years, and we homeschooled many of our foster children on a few days’ notice, mid-year. I remember feeling a bit “in over my head” in those early days, so here are a few tips to help you dive in and stay afloat.
Know the Law in Your State
According to HSLDA Staff Attorney Tj Schmidt:
“Because each state is different, become familiar with your state’s legal requirements to teach your children at home. If you’re required to notify either local or state officials of your decision, HSLDA has forms which a parent can use to satisfy all of those requirements. One of the most important things to do is ensure that your child is officially withdrawn from the public school system, so you don’t receive a truancy notice from local school officials when the child doesn’t show up at school; some states begin these proceedings when a child has only three unexcused absences. HSLDA can walk members through these individual situations and help make a smooth transition from public school to home.”
(Not a member? This is a great time to join.)
Get a Vision for Your Homeschool
When we start out, we only know to re-create what we experienced—which, for most of us, was a conventional school setting. But home education is more than just school at home—it’s a lifestyle choice, a relationship of mentoring and discipling our children—a lifestyle of learning. The academics are just one part of this.
What does God want your children to learn? Well, 2 Peter 1:5 instructs us to “Add to your faith, virtue; to virtue, knowledge …” In order to add to faith, one must begin with faith—so faith is foundational. To that, we add virtue—what most of us might call character. To that, we add knowledge—so academics are important, but not at the expense of faith and character.
While academic excellence is a worthy goal, the higher aim in homeschooling is home discipleship, as Mary Rice Somerville, mother of attorney (and Harvard grad) Scott Somerville emphasized: “I’m not raising my sons to get into Harvard. I’m raising them to get into Heaven."
Start with a Plan—Even If It is Very Basic
Regardless of your children’s ages or your homeschooling “style,” it’s important to have a plan—determine what you want to accomplish by year’s end, and then select materials or activities to help meet those goals.
From the practical perspective, think of homeschooling as a journey, and your curriculum—your course of study—is the road map, or the directions. If I called you and asked for directions, you’d probably ask me two things: Where are you? And: Where are you going? Well, it’s the same with homeschooling!
Will you be more comfortable with a package of materials all coordinated from one publisher, or do you prefer to pick and choose your materials? Think of it as the combo platter vs. the a la carte menu, or cake mix vs. scratch recipe. Our Choosing Curriculum section can guide you through some options, and HSLDA’s education consultants are available to members for guidance.
Speaking of routines—about the house: You may have read that “cleaning the house while your children are still home is like brushing your teeth while you’re still eating Oreos.” So consider a plan for home management training. (You may want to bookmark our Organization tab!)
Making the Transition
Some children coming out of a conventional school may feel more secure in the familiar, structured class setting—especially at first, after some de-compression time—so you can do “the desk thing,” or you can relax a bit and sit at the kitchen table or the coffee table or the living room sofa.
For preschool to early primary students, the major focus is on lots of physical and creative play, experiences, and discovery learning—think of these as “hooks” on which to hang their future learning. Remember, what looks like play to us is work to them!
As our children get older, our expectations increase with their maturity. We want to continue to nurture academic excellence (along with faith and character) to encourage self-motivated learners.
Be prepared to hear, “That’s not how my teacher did it!” and be patient with your child; remember that this is new for him, too.
The transition is not only academic, but also emotional and spiritual. His familiar routine, his security, has changed. He may miss his friends, or activities, or even his teachers. On the social front, local support groups are a big help, but don’t get overwhelmed with extracurricular activities.
Invest some time to become reacquainted with your child. Some children need as much as a month per year of conventional school to de-compress. While the temptation is to delve instantly and heavily into academics—especially if one of your goals is to catch up a child who has lagged a bit scholastically—pay attention to his passions, gifts, interests, areas of strength and areas of need.
Have a plan but hold it loosely and make adjustments along the way.
Life Will Still Be Messy Sometimes
Home education is not a cure-all or instant fix. In fact, it will most likely bring out some character or relational issues that have been hiding in the busy-ness, and now you’ll be faced with them on a daily basis. Your family is a work in progress! Life is messy sometimes. Homeschooling is messy sometimes. But it’s worth it.
By the way, not all kids are thrilled to be homeschooled. One of our girls, at age 14, became unhappy with our decision. She went on and graduated as a homeschooler, sent us a thank-you note for sticking with it, and now writes curriculum and homeschool blogs, and she homeschools their little ones.
What would she say was the greatest benefit? That her heart was drawn to God and to her family. “Homeschooling wasn’t always what I wanted, but it was what I needed, And I’m so thankful for parents who knew the difference.” (Read the rest of the story here.)
I asked her what advice she would give to new homeschooling parents:
“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” (Galatians 6:9)
Blessings in your new year,
• • •
“Commit your way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.” (Psalm 37:5 KJV)
• A Day in Our Homeschool: Read the accounts of more than 100 homeschool families—ideas and inspiration (and encouragement that you are not alone)
• “Dad to Dad”: Messages to homeschool dads from homeschool dads!
• Toddlers to Tweens e-newsletter archives
Check our website for more resources for homeschooling toddlers to tweens!
August 8 symposium: Basics & Beyond for Homeschooling Toddlers to Tweens Register now !
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