When I started homeschooling four years ago, I wasn’t homeschooling multiple children. I had one student and a toddler in tow. It wasn’t hard to get through our homeschool day. My biggest stresses usually came from the toddler when she was grumpy or getting into things. Since then, I have added two more students (and another toddler), and now things are definitely a little more challenging. Not only am I trying to keep the toddler out of trouble, but I am also trying to teach and/or manage over 20 homeschool courses. Next year I will add another student, and my head is already spinning.
I am always, yet never alone. That’s my life as a homeschool mom in this strange and troubling COVID-19 world. When my governor closed all essential businesses back in the middle of March, my world came to a screeching halt. No more in-person music lessons. No more dropping off my kids at my local gym’s childcare program so I could get my 30 minutes of exercise. We don’t have anymore church fellowships or ministry obligations or homeschool group get-togethers. My husband continued to go to work everyday just as he had before the pandemic, but I suddenly found myself basically confined to my home all day, every day. I was confronted with a deep homeschool loneliness.
Projects, activities, and labs all play an important role in homeschooling. Sometimes we use them to help us assess whether or not our child truly understands a concept. And sometimes we use them to build a deeper understanding about a concept. But homeschool projects can be challenging, because, in order to do them, we have to have the right materials. That means that we have to plan ahead to make sure that I have everything we need. And sometimes getting those materials can be difficult and expensive. If you are like me and have multiple school-aged children, you may be tempted to skip those projects all together. [Read more…] about Resources for Homeschool Projects
On March 16, 2020, both public and private schools in my state were suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. No longer would the yellow school buses rumble down my street. No longer would I have to dodge school car-lines on my way to an appointment. When my fifth-grade daughter heard the news, her reaction was jubilant: “Now every kid in the state is a homeschooler!” Not exactly. Every child in my state was now being schooled at home. But there are big differences between being schooled at home and being homeschooled. Many are calling the new situation “crisis schooling”—parents simply trying to continue their child’s education during a time of crisis. Most families probably have no long-term plans to continue educating their children this way.
But perhaps you know a family who is—or was—considering homeschooling their children and is now uncertain what homeschooling is all about. Now is the time to share the homeschooling vision with them. Here are some specific things that you may want them to know about the difference between homeschooling and crisis schooling.
Homeschool parents are in charge of their curriculum.
In a crisis schooling situation, the parents are not really in charge of their child’s education. The school is. The school decides what work students complete. It chooses the curriculum. The parents are facilitators.
If the child is enrolled in a public school (or any of the free online public school options), the situation is even worse. The government is in charge. And the curriculum it chooses is not “religiously neutral”—it is often at war with God’s law. This curriculum teaches the children of our nation that God is not Creator, that there is no absolute truth, and that there are no moral absolutes.
One of the great blessings of homeschooling is the fact that I, as the parent, get to be in charge. I get to choose my child’s curriculum. One of the main reasons that my husband and I have continued to use BJU Press Homeschool curriculum is that their curriculum aligns with our values. Every single textbook gives me the tools to shape my child’s worldview according to the Bible.
As a homeschool parent, I also have the freedom to make adjustments to my curriculum to meet the needs of my family and the learning needs of my individual children. We can go at our own pace. We can add or omit assignments. Homeschool parents are not the slaves of the curriculum we choose. We are the masters of it.
Homeschool parents are in charge of their schedule.
Not only do I get to be in charge of my curriculum, but I also get to be in charge of my schedule. Of course I have to meet the attendance requirements of my state, but no one dictates a start date or an end date for me. I can choose to follow a traditional school-year schedule or homeschool year-round. My children can do their lessons in the morning or wait until later in the day. I can even take a two-hour break for music lessons in the middle of the afternoon. The flexibility of homeschooling is wonderful.
Homeschool parents are in charge of their children’s socialization.
One of my crisis-schooling neighbors told me the other day that I was lucky that I was a homeschooler before the COVID-19 crisis. “Not much has changed for you,” he commented.
He was wrong. It’s not normal for me to go weeks on a single tank of gas. I, like most homeschoolers, am not an isolationist. I just like the freedom to choose the company my children keep. My children may not have been surrounded by other children on a school bus or in a classroom all day, but before the current crisis they had plenty of social interaction—with people of differing ages, races, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
Homeschooling provides wonderful opportunities for relationship-building. We have the time and the freedom to get involved with church ministries and community outreaches. We meet people with shared interests as we pursue our children’s gifts in music, art, sports, and other hobbies. Plus, the homeschooling community itself is a pretty close community. I would be lost without the support of my local homeschool friends.
Homeschooling to me means freedom—the freedom to parent and educate my children according to my values. It is a not a freedom that I take for granted, and I am thankful for those who have worked hard to win me this freedom. I fear that our freedom to homeschool may be challenged in the near future thanks to the confusion between crisis schooling and homeschooling. So be sure to share the vision of homeschooling with others. Help them understand what homeschooling is all about!
A couple of years ago, my husband and I decided to dramatically change our homeschooling routine. We moved from homeschooling using a traditional school year calendar to homeschooling year-round. I wrote about the reasons we chose to move to a year-round schedule in the post “3 Reasons to Homeschool Year Round.”
We have not regretted our choice to homeschool year-round, but the transition was a bit challenging. If you’re considering switching to year-round homeschooling, here are some tips to help you on your way.
Plan Your Calendar
Set Up a Routine
Homeschooling year-round will give you a lot of flexibility with your schedule, but you still need a plan. You still must meet your your required number of days or hours. I do recommend setting up a routine—it will help your child immensely to know what you expect on any given day. Some families choose to homeschool five days a week for a set number of weeks and then take a week or two off. My family has adopted a four-day-a-week schedule, and we try to take the same day off every week.
Plan Time Between School Years
It will also help your family if you plan a multi-week break between school years. I have found that I need time to mentally wrap up our school year, pack away any curriculum I hope to reuse in the future, and give myself a “breather” before starting all over again. I usually plan on a four to five week break between school years. Having that longer break also gives a “freshness” to the new school year that allows me to make changes to old routines more easily.
Communicate Your Homeschool Plan
If you are planning to homeschool year-round, you will want to communicate your plans to any homeschool umbrella organizations that you may be a part of. My family is a part of the Academy of Home Education (AHE), and every year we email AHE a copy of our planned yearly homeschool calendar which we usually create in Excel. Based on our calendar, AHE adjusts our reporting deadlines so that we don’t incur late fees.
Anticipate the Need for Adjustments
Adjust Your Curriculum
You will have to make some adjustments along the way. For example, the BJU Press spelling curriculum is set up for a five-day school week, which did not fit well with our four-day week. In order to avoid the possibility of having to take a spelling test after a three-day break from school, we decided that we needed to do spelling five days a week, even on our “day off.” It was an easy adjustment.
Adjust Your Grade Reporting
We also had to make some adjustments to our grading and reporting. Our quarters are usually 11 to 12 calendar weeks long, which at first glance, doesn’t fit very well with the nine-week grade reporting forms required by our homeschool organization. But this was an easy fix as well—we just ignored the calendar’s weekly divisions and counted every five days as a “week.”
Our family has really been blessed by year-round homeschooling, and I’m sure yours will be as well. I hope that some of these tips will make your transition easier. If you still need help, reach out to one of your local HomeWorks consultants—they are there for you!