Some people begin planning their child’s homeschool experience while the kid is in utero. That’s great. While it’s nice having a plan in place, homeschooling isn’t the life-plan for many modern parents. If you are thinking about homeschooling and are on the fence, consider the following:
What Are Your Reasons?
There are many reasons for homeschooling. Think about and evaluate YOUR reasons. Are you homeschooling because you are hoping to give your child and family an incredible experience? Are you attempting to provide a solution to a temporary problem? Make sure you know your reasons and make sure those reasons are valid. I’ve seen parents turn their kids’ educational lives upside down because of a simple miscommunication with their child’s teacher. Homeschooling can be an extremely positive experience, but it can be negative if done for the wrong reasons.
Do You Have the Time?
Homeschooling is not something you can squeeze in on the weekends or after work. If you work from home, don’t assume that it will be easy to homeschool (“I’ll just do my work while they are doing theirs!”). Homeschooling is a full-time gig. Even when your child isn’t receiving direct instruction from you, there’s time required to plan, gather materials, and assess student learning. The biggest reason I’ve seen homeschoolers fail is that they weren’t dedicating enough time to homeschooling.
Do You Have the Skills?
This is a tricky one. Some educators question whether or not parents have the skills to homeschool. After all, educators were required to go to school for years, pass certain tests, and attend professional development meetings, in order to be considered “qualified.” Teachers question whether parent are really qualified to teach all subject areas. While these are valid concerns, the number one skill required to homeschool is a willingness to learn. If a parent is willing to learn content and teaching strategies, they have the skills necessary to homeschool. It may not happen overnight. It takes time to become a strong homeschooler.
Learning how to be resourceful is another key to homeschooling. It’s very possible that certain subject areas will be beyond the reach of a parent. In these cases, homeschool parents must be willing to learn the subject matter, hire a tutor, or join a co-op with a knowledgeable co-teacher.
One problem that I’ve observed that is very hard to overcome is parents who do not speak English fluently. It is extremely difficult for parents who do not speak English to give their child the English support and modeling needed. An ELD parent must be both dedicated and resourceful to make homeschooling work.
What is Your Relationship Like With Your Child Now?
One factor that many parents don’t consider when deciding to homeschool is how it will change their relationship with their child. If your child has attended “regular” school and then becomes homeschooled, there may be growing pains as you move from mom (or dad) to teacher-mom (or teacher-dad). If you have a hard time disciplining your child now, imagine how it will be to ask them to stay on task and complete school work. It’s hard. Really hard. Some families even have their children call them by different names during school hours, to distinguish between “school” and “non-school” times.
A big problem that I’ve seen with new homeschoolers is that the child stops performing – they simply refuse to do work for their parent-teacher. This is a very common hurdle to overcome. If you already have a strong relationship with your child and he/she is compliant, you will most likely have a smoother transition. Either way, set the expectations up before you begin homeschooling. Talk to your child about how you will treat each other and what you expect of him/her before you begin your homeschool journey.
Do You Enjoy Learning?
If you do not consider yourself to be a life-long learner, it is going to be extremely difficult to “fake it” and expect this trait in your child/ren. If you do not like to read, you are going to have a hard time convincing your child that they should love it. Homeschool parents need to be models for their children to look up to. They need to have that love of learning and share that love with their child.
Taking on a role of homeschool parent means that you will be learning – a lot. Your child needs to watch that process and observe how you handle it when you are struggling to learn something new. If you hated school growing up, that’s okay – you will be highly motivated to have your child have a better experience than you had. Just make sure that you like to learn. Teaching is learning.
Do I Have a Plan if Homeschooling Doesn’t Work?
Homeschooling isn’t for everyone. If you have never homeschooled and are thinking about taking the leap, consider what you will do if homeschooling does not work for you or your child. Is there a school your child will be able to get into quickly if you need to stop homeschooling? I have seen children lose weeks and months of schooling while their parents tried to navigate issues involving inter-district transfers, transportation, and other logistical matters. Your child’s education is on the line – don’t take your decision to begin or end homeschooling lightly.
Homeschooling is an amazing experience that can work well for many people. It isn’t for everyone, however, and that’s okay. Be sure to carefully consider all of these factors before jumping in.