How does homeschooling work? I have been homeschooling since 2008, so I can tell you both the simple, short version as well as the longer, more descriptive one.
I want to start off by pointing out that each homeschool situation will be as unique as the family and individuals homeschooling. You, as the parent, will be the most qualified person to know how homeschool works for you. With this in mind- here is my quick answer to your question, “How homeschooling works?”
Find out the legal requirements for your state and follow through with them. (Here in Arizona we simply send a birth certificate and notarized affidavit form to our county school superintendent.) If you are a US citizen you can check out our states’ homeschool requirements page to find out what you need to do. You can get all the legal stuff at the Home School Legal Defense Association.
Find, create or buy a curriculum.
Teach and learn with your child.
Now let’s get more personal. Why are you planning on homeschooling? What is driving you to make such a dedicated lifestyle choice? Whatever your answer is...you will need to keep that reason the focus during your homeschool journey. There will be ups, downs, smiles and frowns. Simply put- homeschooling is like parenting on steroids. Your parenting muscles are going to get huge!
As you embark on this homeschool journey you will be extremely empowered as you start to create your family’s lifestyle, schedule, and future together. You will meet many like-minded families and learn a lot of new skills. You will know your child very well and your relationship will most likely become very strong. There will be precious days when everything goes well and you make memories that will last a lifetime. There will also be a few really tough days too. There will be times when you are tired of parenting or teaching, because you don’t feel like you are good at either one of those things. So when someone asks me, “How does homeschool work?” I have a flood of thoughts that come to mind.
I have been homeschooling for over 8 years at the time of writing this, and I've had so many experiences. One I want to share is about my first son who we put into a Montessori School when he was in kindergarten. I was driving a half hour just to take him to school, so there and back added up to two hours of driving each day. I was doing that with two younger children too. It felt like he was gone all day, and I missed him so much. To spend more time with my son, I decided that I would visit his school several times a week to volunteer and spend lunch and recess with my son. What I found was that my son really missed me too! I ate lunch with him and then we played on the playground at recess. We would play tag and other playground games. We had so much fun playing on the playground that all the children wanted to play with us. The more I drove to my son's school to spend time with him, the more it made sense to just keep him home. I started to think how those hours of driving could be spent learning and playing with my son.
I had always thought of homeschooling, but I was a little nervous to start. We kept my son in kindergarten at the Montessori school for the rest of the year. Once the summer came, I decided to ‘try homeschooling’ by giving it a trial run in the summer. Once I felt confident that I could teach my son, I decided that I really did want to homeschool. I didn't have any close friends who homeschooled. My mom had homeschooled my youngest brother, and my aunt had homeschooled her children. So I had a little bit of support from the beginning. Next, I looked for local homeschool groups on the internet, and we started attending regular park days and activities with them. I also found out that there were two families at my church who home-schooled. Slowly, I was building a new network of homeschool friends and resources. Then I started looking at Montessori-inspired homeschool curriculum. I found a few books at the library and got started teaching reading and math. We also had a big map and a very nice kid’s American history book. We would do fun art projects here and there. I also found out about Handwriting Without Tears and started using their workbooks. I started asking other homeschoolers what they used for certain subjects, and so my teaching resources and knowledge started growing. I also made sure I filled out a homeschool affidavit for my state and sent it to our county superintendent.
The first year I had a lot of challenges, because I had two younger, active boys and I was pregnant with my 4th boy. I was still excited about homeschooling, so I kept with it. I learned that homeschooling works a little differently than public or charter school. Instead of an 8:00 to 3:00 schedule it was more like this: teach a little, care for my other children, teach a little more, care for my children, then teach a little more, and then we were done with school for the day. We didn’t have a set start and quitting time. We had charts of the different school work and learning we would accomplish each day or week, and we did it. We found that we could finish our school work in approximately two hours (spread throughout the day.)
We would have days when my baby was extremely fussy and we needed to do a little more work on another day. We found that homeschooling is very flexible. We could plan vacations and breaks when it was right for our family. We also found that my husband and parents also liked to help sometimes.
I really enjoyed homeschooling and all of the new friends I was making, but after a few years I really started to get burned out with four active boys so close together in age. They were fighting a lot and getting into everything constantly. I needed a little extra help. I couldn't do 24/7 homeschooling for my young kids. My husband was working very long hours, and I was exhausted. I found a nice homeschool enrichment center where my kids could go once a week and I could have a little rest. This helped rejuvenate me and I was able to parent more effectively. If you aren’t lucky enough to have a homeschool enrichment center in your area, you could swap babysitting with another mama or hire a babysitter. Now that my boys are grown and can care for themselves I get natural breaks throughout the day. Burnout is a lot easier to prevent now that they are older!
Something I've learned that is extremely helpful in homeschool is learning all about personality styles and learning styles. When you learn all about each other- you can learn how to live and work with each other in harmony. You can respect each other for who you are and accept yourself as well. We talk a lot about personality in our home and a bit here on our blog.
Another really helpful part of homeschooling is creating a learning environment. Have books, craft supplies, puzzles, projects, interesting movies, games, and toys around the home. Make sure your kids are helping with as many household duties as possible. Have regular fun activities on your calendar that you and your kids can look forward to. We do a family night once a week with a gospel lesson, game, and a treat. We also have movie night with popcorn. The boys have scouts and regular play time with neighbors. Sometimes we have weekly book, Lego, or cooking clubs as well.
So if someone were to ask me, “How does homeschooling work?” I would definitely say, “It works the way you design it!” Each child and parent is going to be different, so homeschooling works a little bit differently for each family.
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