Deciding how to educate your child is an intensely personal and sometimes intimidating decision process. All too often, people are happy to offer their opinions on whatever choice you are considering, clouding your ability to think about this rationally. If you have no prior experience with home schooling, hearing other people talk about the imagined drawbacks, or the “weird” homeschooled child they knew growing up might be enough to dissuade you from giving it a try. Something to remember here though, is that you were considering this in the first place for a reason. At the end of the day, what is more important: being a strong, educational advocate for your child, or getting your friends and neighbors off your case?
If you are considering homeschooling, do yourself the favor of at least researching it as best you can, before making this decision. The education of your child is too important to allow for emotional, or knee-jerk decision making. Taking some time to really sit down and consider the basics of homeschooling can help you decide if this will be a proper fit for your family. In the end, you may realize that homeschooling is not the best choice, due to a number of factors you might not have considered yet. Then again, there may be benefits to homeschooling that you also had not considered, and want to explore further. Let’s take a look at some of the aspects of this plan that you may want to think about, before deciding either way.
Outline What Made You Consider This in The First Place
For many families, it is just assumed that their child will progress through the ranks of the local preschool, the local public or private elementary school, and the local high school. Certainly, no parent assumes this will go off completely without a hitch, but for the most part, they do not foresee any huge problems with this plan. It will be a good track for their children to follow.
Maybe your children won’t do well in that plan, however. There are many reasons a parent might have pinpointed the potential need for homeschooling. For starters, just an overall “readiness” for school might not be present in your child. This could come in the form of anything from ongoing potty training issues, to abnormal sleep patterns, to frequent, recurring illness, to differences in maturity levels between your child, and the others in their age group.
Another reason for considering homeschooling as an option might be that you just don’t live in the best area for public schools. We all know how that goes. If we could all afford to live in the highest performing, safest school districts, we would. Sometimes the school district you moved into five or ten years ago has declined steadily, and moving out of your home is not an option right now. Not only that, but with the economy being the way it is, you may find yourself either priced out of private schools, or watching the parochial schools around you close, merge and disappear.
Lastly, you may simply have a fundamental difference of opinion over how the state would choose to educate your child, versus the way you would. You may find certain aspects of public schooling objectionable, and that is your right. If you would prefer to not expose your child to certain situations, a means of sidestepping that would be homeschooling.
Be Realistic About the Time and Effort Homeschooling Will Require
When you choose to homeschool your child, you have essentially just been hired as a teacher. Now, it is true that you will not have as many students as the average teacher, and that you will have considerably more flexibility in terms of time and goals, but this is a career you are taking on nonetheless.
As a mom with children enrolled in a local preschool, I do admit that the time they spend in school allows me to be much more productive. If there is housework, writing or shopping to be done, I do rely on their “out of the house” time to get that done in a focused way. This is something you may be sacrificing entirely if you choose to homeschool. This also may not be a problem for you. If you are a whiz at multitasking, or feel that having your children follow you around the house is an important aspect of their learning, then this would not be much of a compromise for you at all.
You will also want to be very honest about how good your time management is. When you send your child off to school, one of the benefits of that environment is that it is structured. Most (but not all) children do crave and thrive on structure. Do you feel that you could stick to a routine? Do you feel comfortable planning ahead in such a way that there are no gaps, or starts and stops? Can you keep up their education while you are sick? During tax season? What is your contingency plan if something were to unexpectedly keep you from homeschooling for an extended time? There are many resources available to help you plan out, cope with and work around your everyday schedules. If you feel you can do this, then homeschooling may be right for your family.
Allow Yourself to Change Your Mind
A lot of families approach the decision to homeschool as an “all or nothing” prospect. Either you send the child to public school for kindergarten through 12th grade, or you homeschool them until they are 18.
This will require a little research on your part, but most local laws allow for children to switch from homeschooling to public school (and back) with relative ease. If, after a rough year of kindergarten, you are feeling like you might want to try something new, do it! You are not “stuck” with your decision, by any means. Likewise, if your 8 year old has done great at home, but now seems ready for a public school environment, it is okay to make that transition too. It’s okay to be flexible.