The end of the last school year was wrought with chaos and uncertainty. Students were suddenly homebound and many parents scrambled to keep up with educational standards set by anyone else but them.
Most of us realize that teachers are angels on earth and should have statues erected in their likeness. But many of us also expected that the upcoming school year would see a return to some normalcy.
Yet here we are staring down another semester... and we have just as much chaos and indecisiveness as before. Back to school, virtual learning, hybrid models, delayed semesters, and homeschooling are all terms we hear being tossed around. Parents are facing the new challenge of determining which one is right for their family.
Discussing your family’s medical history with your healthcare provider may help you make an educated decision about the options in front of you. But if you find yourself straddling the fence between homeschooling or returning to school, there are a few pros and cons to consider.
Let’s start with the bad...
Making the decision to keep your child or children home is only the first step. But choosing to homeschool puts you in charge of their education and all the costs associated with that.
This could be as inexpensive as hitting up the back-to-school sales for only the essentials (and leaving the cases of antibacterial wipes for others) and signing up with a free online curriculum such as Easy Peasy.
It could also be as costly as ordering a brand new complete curriculum for each individual student. Most veteran homeschoolers fall somewhere in between.
It’s pretty obvious that homeschooling your children will take a good chunk of time. It might even require a parent or guardian to give up other endeavors to focus on the student’s education.
The good news is, it will rarely take up as much time as an entire traditional school day. (We will discuss that further in a moment.)
The point is, sacrificing time — or possibly a career — to educate at home is not an option open to everyone.
This one is a big deal. It is always the first thing non-homeschoolers bring up when veteran homeschoolers share their academic preferences. How will you socialize your children?
Ironically, recent events have opened up a ton of options for stay-at-home students to explore. Think of all the Zoom classes that suddenly became available to homebound students at the onset of the pandemic.
In addition, many recreational sports and extracurricular activities are available to homeschoolers. We’re seeing many such organizations adapting to current mandates and offering a wider variety of options.
Now for the good news...
Homeschooling does not have to look anything like a traditional school day. Learning can happen at a desk or a kitchen table — or on a blanket in the backyard. It can start at 8:00 AM sharp, after lunch, or in the evenings if your student prefers.
It doesn’t have to look like hour-long periods per subject or two-hour homework sessions squeezed in between dinner and bedtime. It can be accomplished in your comfiest pajamas or your favorite t-shirt and jeans.
Really, homeschooling can be whatever you need it to be. It is simply learning at home. Colorado law states that an average of four dedicated hours a day (and no less than 172 days of instruction) are all you need.
A huge motive in my family’s decision to homeschool was that we believed that our hyperactive son would not flourish in a traditional school setting. We have been very fortunate to be able to tailor his education to his needs.
The beautiful thing about homeschooling is that you don’t have to advance until a student is ready, and you don’t have to learn simply for an aptitude test. Building an academic foundation on a love for learning is a fantastic benefit of educating at home.
Many of you find yourself at this crossroads because the other options available to you don’t sound as appealing. Being tethered to multiple educators and held accountable to teaching standards that are not your own make the upcoming school year feel ominous.
Everyone is doing the best they can with the situation at hand. But for some families, it will not be enough. Homeschooling can offer you a bit more freedom as an educator, and many more options to meet the needs of your individual family.
If you decide that homeschooling is the right path for you, here is a quick overview of where to start.
Step 1: Brush up on the laws in your state. Colorado is pretty straight-forward. View our state’s home education regulations at www.cde.state.co.us/choice/homeschool.
Step 2: Notify the state of your intent to homeschool with a Letter/Notice of Intent. This can be mailed to any school district in the state, not just your home district. The Home Education Coordinator for Douglas County School District is:
Home Education Coordinator
312 Cantril Street
Castle Rock, CO 80104
Step 3: For students who were previously enrolled in a traditional school, it is always suggested to take a period to “deschool.” This can be as little or as long as you like, but most veteran homeschoolers suggest at least a month. It helps a student to decompress and helps everyone transition to a new normal.
Use this time to establish your own daily routine, organize a schedule, figure out a child’s learning style, and follow their lead before introducing a new curriculum.
Step 4: Settle on a curriculum. This is where it can all start to feel overwhelming. It doesn’t have to be. Start by figuring out your child’s learning style and then decide what fits your lifestyle.
Homeschooling can be as eclectic or traditional as you like. Completely online or varied workbooks. There are plenty of resources to get you started. And if all else fails, ask. Seek out your local homeschooling Facebook page (search "homeschool groups near me"). Most of us would be happy to offer advice or point you in the right direction.