In our current environment I have heard many families begin to question whether they should make the leap from distance learning to homeschooling for awhile. You may be thinking, “what’s the difference??? We’re learning from home now!” The fact is homeschoolers are also struggling right now as we try to adjust to this entirely new home-confined lifestyle. But there’s one thing we have that most distance learners don’t and that thing is the reason why distance learning is worlds away from a true homeschooling experience.
That thing? Control.
In distance learning the family is implementing a curriculum and schedule that is set-out by the teachers and/or school department. In homeschooling the family is deciding on curriculum and schedule for themselves. You are the authority and you are the one in charge. You decide what works, what doesn’t, and how to make your family life your best life.
Isn’t that a lot of responsibility?
Yes. But the good news is there is lots of assistance out there and something for everyone. Every child learns differently and flourishes under different circumstances. You get to figure out how your child learns best and implement that. Have one who is a zombie before 11am but wide-awake at 11pm? They can do school work on their own schedule; there’s no rule that says school work has to happen between 8:00 and 3:00. Have one who needs to move constantly? They can practice math facts on the trampoline or read while walking around the house. One who needs a consistent routine to feel secure? You can make sure that happens. One who needs variety in their schedule or they are bored to tears? Also, completely doable.
The homeschooling laws in Rhode Island are minimal. There is a list of subjects you are required to teach and a number of days your children need to be “educated.” You get to decide what is a school day and what is not. For some families, every day is school day because they are “never not learning.” For others it’s the days when math gets done or when some other subset of subjects are accomplished. It’s your choice.
What are the benefits of choosing to homeschool now?
The one lament I’ve heard the most over the past few weeks is the lack of certainty. None of us know what the next few days, weeks, or months are going to look like. Is school going to be back in session? Is it going to be the same schedule we had before or are there going to be alternate days? Are kids going to have to wear masks? Even if school does go back as regularly scheduled, what if there’s a second coronavirus wave and we’re right back to distance learning? So. Much. Uncertainty.
In choosing to homeschool you are taking control. You are deciding what your life and your family’s life is going to look like for the next little bit. Is it a permanent decision? No. Can you change your mind? Of course! But if you read this far, homeschooling might be the right thing for now.
Ok I’m In. Now What?
By choosing to homeschool now, you are not making a permanent decision. You may decide to just pull your child for the remainder of this year or for the first half or all of next year. That’s fine! There are many families, even in normal times, who jump in and out of homeschooling based on their current family situation and needs.
There are considerations you should make as move forward into short-term homeschooling:
- If you want your child to be able to jump back into a traditional school at grade level, you will want to ensure that you are adhering to the same general scope and sequence as the school system. This does not mean you have to use the same curriculum and/or resources; it just means if your child is going to need to know multiplication to move to 5th grade that you teach multiplication. There are lots of resources out there to provide you with what your child should learn in particular grades. One that is frequently recommended is the World Book Course of Study.
- How will you schedule homeschooling into your days? There is not a right time to learn. Learning can take place at traditional times or it can happen at night, in the car, on weekends, at Grandma’s house, whenever and wherever fits your lifestyle. There is flexibility for families with two working parents or single parent households. It will certainly look different and require more logistics than a schedule that incorporates traditional school because there is the need to consider child care but it can be, and is, accomplished by many.
- Take some time to consider what you would like to get out of this time. Is there something that your child has a passion for but has not had an opportunity to delve into? Are there things you would like to do as a family that you haven’t had the time for? Are there topics you’d like your child to learn about that they haven’t been exposed to so far? Now is the time to make a wish list! Besides having the control to decide what you’re learning, another benefit of homeschooling is that the actual time spent on formal learning (if you’re a family who does that) is much, much less than that spent in school. Teaching one at a time child is more efficient than teaching 20-30, plus there’s no line for bathroom breaks, handwashing, etc. So that leaves you with lots of free time for those extras – make the most of it!
- Step back and think about how your child learns best and how to make this experience the most beneficial for them. You have the flexibility to individualize their learning experience. So do some research on learning styles and try to determine your child’s and yours! Then try to match the curriculum or resources you use to their strengths.
- Finally, be compassionate with yourself. Many homeschoolers take years to figure out how to make it work best for their families. It’s a process that is continually changing because kids are continually changing. You know your child best and you are doing the best you can. There will be hard days but that’s true of anything. Trust in yourself.
More Assistance to Get You Started
There are many resources to help you get started on this new adventure. Locally, ENRICHri runs virtual Homeschool 101 sessions monthly via Zoom. You can find the current schedule of events here. We have also put together a list of homeschool resources which includes books, websites, podcasts, as well as a list of local and national homeschool groups which are a veritable wealth of support and information.