Choosing a path for your child’s education can feel daunting. Whether your children are very young and you’re making this decision for the first time, or things have come up along the way that have you thinking about other options- I’m here to offer some guidance to those considering homeschooling.
Where To Start In Your Thinking
First, keep an open mind. There are as many ways to homeschool as there are unique families. Some choose it for a season, and others as a lifestyle. Some choose it for one child and not another. You might be thinking, “There’s no way we can do this because both parents are working/I never liked school myself/we can’t afford curriculum/we’re not religious/my kids need someone else to teach them/my child has a disability/I have a disability”, or lots of other reasons. While I can’t say which of those things (or a combination) is a dealbreaker for you, I can say with confidence that whatever you’re facing – another homeschool family has faced the same obstacle and found a way to work with it or around it. Don’t shut the idea down just yet.
You also may be picturing setting up a dedicated school room in your home with desks and cubbies and bins of materials and a big whiteboard and maps on the wall and kids working from 8 AM to 2 PM, Monday through Friday. There’s nothing wrong with that, and some families find happiness and contentment with that setup, but it’s also only one way. If that picture makes you shudder or feels unattainable, don’t lose heart. Your homeschool might look like books and toys strewn about, projects taking over the kitchen table, video games, crafts, cooking, late-night discussions, star gazing, and piles of laundry that are tackled while you watch a movie together. Maybe, it doesn’t even revolve around your home. There are carschoolers, RV schoolers, and worldschoolers too! These families thrive on going places, exploring different cultures and climates, and meeting new people along the way. Your homeschool might focus on homesteading, gaming, classical music training, modeling and acting, or sports involvement. Take some time to learn about different homeschool styles and see which ones interest you. You can find blogs, YouTube channels, podcasts, Facebook groups, and in-person communities that align with those styles to learn more about them. Finding experienced homeschoolers who match your style can be extremely helpful in your journey.
Taking The Next Step
Once you’ve decided to commit to homeschool (it doesn’t have to be forever) you’ll need to decide when to make that move. If your children have never been enrolled in public or private school and you live in Alabama, you don’t have to do anything official for the state. You do not have to join a cover school, you do not have to let anyone know that you are homeschooling. The state has no jurisdiction over homeschool, so you are free to carry on as you have been. If your child has been enrolled in public or private school and you decide to homeschool, you will need to sign a withdrawal form from their school office. You can do this any day that the school office is open. Sometimes schools are misinformed about the law and think you have to provide them with the name of the school they are transferring to. You are within your rights to simply answer “Homeschool”, or “we’re not sure yet”, or you can make up a school name if you’d like.
This may seem anti-climatic after deciding to homeschool, as you may be very eager to get started. But this is really the most important step, especially if you plan to homeschool for the foreseeable future. At this point, you need to begin deschooling. This is the process by which you let go of traditional school expectations, timelines, and strategies. Homeschooling is not about recreating school at home. Even if your child is young enough to not have started school yet, you as the parent need to deschool before beginning. Most homeschoolers embrace deschooling regardless of their homeschool philosophy. It gives you a chance to unlearn what you know about education and relearn a new path. It is recommended to expect to deschool for every month that you were in traditional school. For a child or teen, the deschooling period can look like: summer break, a lazy weekend, boredom, spending a lot of time watching TV or playing video games, or sleeping. For adults it may look like: deep-dive into learning about homeschool, spending more time playing and talking with your child, or exploring your own interests. Don’t rush this phase. It’s crucial in allowing your child’s natural curiosity to be renewed, and for you as the parent to relax and begin to see learning happening all around you. Transitioning into homeschooling will be much smoother if you allow for this break. You don’t need to avoid learning altogether (it’s not truly possible), but do avoid pushing schooly things even if they seem like fun to you. In this interim, simply observe your child as their interests come to the surface and their natural curiosity returns.
Find Your People
Since homeschoolers are diverse, not everyone that you meet who identifies as a homeschooler will be someone that you automatically connect with. That’s okay. For one thing, it’s okay to spend time with people who think differently than we do. They may have different religious or philosophical beliefs, or they may have completely different interests from your family. You can still benefit from these types of relationships. However, you will also want to find some like-minded homeschool friends, whether locally or online, where you can turn for advice and encouragement in your homeschooling journey.
What If It Doesn’t Work Out?
Homeschooling isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay. If at some point you decide to stop homeschooling, they can return to public or private school. Public schools do not have to accept your homeschool transcript or grades. They may require your student to take a placement test, particularly for higher grades. If you are thinking of homeschooling for a short season and then returning to public school, you may consider an online public school option instead of traditional homeschooling. This is not homeschooling though, and you will need to follow their requirements for all classes, assignments, and testing, including attendance.
The thing I enjoy most about homeschooling is the freedom. Freedom over our schedule, over what we choose to learn, over the relationships we choose to cultivate. If your homeschool makes you feel chained, you’re doing something wrong. Take a step back, decide what needs to change, have courage to make the change, and move forward. Embrace the freedom of homeschooling and go and explore the world!