Has this question been on your mind? Are you toying with the idea of homeschooling your child but unsure if you should or can? If so, more than ever, you are not alone. Across the United States, parents are trying to decide how to raise their children in a way that is congruent with their beliefs and finding that this may not include sending their kids to school. As parents weigh their options, homeschooling is becoming increasingly more appealing, although perhaps no less daunting. At Be Well Clinic, we are huge proponents of homeschooling, as both Amy and I (Hollie) were homeschooled and have lived (thrived) to tell the tale. As many schools are pushing mandates, curriculum or practices with which parents do not agree, we are being asked by many parents, “What am I supposed to do, homeschool!?” To this question I would respond with a resounding “yes.” I realize that for many, this option is being suddenly thrust upon them rather than being plan A. This causes it to be a decision riddled with panic and uncertainty. There are many resources online both for parents weighing their options and for those who have already decided to make the switch to homeschooling. I’d like to respond to the questions I hear most often, and provide a few resources to show you that homeschooling is not only doable, but it can be the best decision you ever make.
What will my child think?
Children are made to intrinsically trust their parents. It is part of the design of a mother carrying a child for 9 months, and providing the baby’s nutrition, comfort and mobility for oh-so-many months after he is born. It is why babies cry – they trust that their parents will come to their aid. Babies who cannot trust someone to comfort them when they cry, lose their urge to cry. When children are being taught truths by their parents at home, but then hear entirely different “truths” at school, they no longer know whom they can trust – their parents or the teachers who have been put in authority over them. Naturally this brings about confusion, this confusion can turn into anxiety and a lack of trust in their parents’ ideals, morals, and beliefs. Homeschooling allows you to hold on to this trust-bond with your children. Of course it is easier to maintain trust the earlier you start. However, if you are taking your child out of school, you can start reestablishing trust with your child by discussing with her your reasoning for homeschooling, regardless of age, and respecting and trusting her enough to understand at least the basics of your whys. Show your children through your words and actions that this decision is your way of fulfilling your duty as a parent to raise them, protect them, and teach them the best way you know how. Relinquished trust can be very difficult to reestablish, but a consistent, maintained and nurtured trust will stay for a lifetime.
Will my child actually learn? I’m not a teacher!
You do not need to be a teacher, just a loving parent! Children rise to expectations. If a child is expected to remain status quo, learning at the same rate as her peers, she will. On the other hand, when parents expect appropriately more from their children, whether in the realm of helping with housework, self control, scholastic learning, imagination, eating well, etc, they rise to the occasion. Homeschooling is not only about science, history, math and English. It is about developing a child to be well-rounded, mature, capable, smart and a critical thinker. It is about helping your child know his convictions and standing his ground. Certainly it includes academic education, but it is about so much more (for statistics on academic performance of homeschooled students, see https://www.nheri.org/research-facts-on-homeschooling/). There are curriculums, co-ops, organizations that provide education for homeschooled kids in just about any subject you can imagine. However, research has shown that academic learning depends a great deal on the development of a child’s senses (vision, hearing, touch, taste, smell) and on the developmental level of his central nervous system (CNS), which allows him to reason, deduce and conclude. Typically, these senses and CNS connections are developed enough to start formally learning around age 8-10 (some researchers recommend delaying formal learning until age 11-12!). This is where you come in. Until that time, the best ways for a parent to nurture their child are to incorporate them into normal daily life – housework, reading together, being in nature, learning about their passions, engaging the senses and showing them love – in essence, providing a good home. This was true when published by psychiatrist researchers back in the 1960s and 1970s and I have no reason to see humankind as having outgrown these requirements today. Most importantly, let your children know and feel that you enjoy them, that spending time with them is fun and precious to you, and that they make you happy. Simply put, research has shown for more than 50 years that providing a child with a good home will help them achieve academic success more than starting them in a school setting at a young age. “Warmth, responsiveness, and consistency are far more important to the young child’s learning than is the parent’s level of education” (Moore 33).
We tried homeschooling during quarantine and it was awful. Why would I do that again?
Many people got a very odd, very skewed view of “homeschooling” during the 2020-2021 forced “quarantine.” This type of learning at home involved hours upon hours of sitting at a computer screen, trying to learn while family members around them were in the throes of confusion, fear, job loss, and attempting to tread water while everything around them was changing. This. Was. Not. Homeschooling. This was chaos. Some families choose for their children to learn through video/distance learning involving computer screens. If you choose this method, it can be catered to your child’s needs. You can choose how much time they spend at the computer. You can choose what classes they take in this way, which classes they attend in person or what they do simply with you. Remember the paragraph above in which I discussed a nurturing home, full of warmth and consistency? If you were one of the millions of families that experienced the chaotic 2020-2021 school year, you can redeem the “homeschool” experience by giving you and your children grace and space to reimagine a different kind of classroom. As a homeschooling family you can learn outdoors, in museums, farms, libraries, offices, co-ops, home, colleges, trains, studios – literally anywhere. You do not have to (nor should you) mimic a classroom environment. Kids were not made to sit still for 8 hours at a time. Let your kids run, play, take breaks, be wild and be free. You will find that while homeschooling, your children can learn all their lessons in an environment more suited to their needs and not the needs of a teacher who is tasked with managing 30+ kids at once. You can create any environment you want for your home school. Let it reflect your family (with all of your imperfections and messes) and let it be fun!
How can I make such a big decision? It feels reactionary right now.
I agree with this. It is a big decision, and it seems so urgent right now. Ideally, we all would have noticed the writing on the wall a long time ago. However, many parents feel blindsided with having to make a last minute decision. My encouragement is: there is nothing wrong with changing your mind. Even if you have enrolled your children in school, it is fully within your right to withdraw them. If at some point it seems as though putting your child back in school is the best decision, you may do so even during the middle of the school year. I love this quote from a homeschool mother back several decades ago when my own mother started as a homeschool parent. “We are accountable for our kids, so we decided to retain the authority that goes along with this responsibility.” Adjusting plans is often frowned upon. I ask you to see it differently. You are accountable for your children. Sometimes what is right for them during one phase of life is not right for them in the next. You pay taxes (presumably), you are the parent. You have the right to decide if/when school is right or wrong for your child. It is ok to be reactionary when you are confronted with something that you see to be threatening your child. Be wise, but be bold. Your children need you.
Where do I find local support?
Homeschool groups are prolific, widespread and love helping others get involved! Look up your local group through an online keyword search, use https://hslda.org/content/orgs/ for official organizations, or even look on social media for meetups in your area such as Wild and Free (a homeschool organization that supports learning through “adventure, freedom and wonder” according to their website). Find how to connect with the groups and reach out. Homeschooling with other families is, in my opinion, the best way to do it. Moms and dads need the encouragement and social support just as much as kids do! Start strong by finding your people – those who are on this homeschool journey with you. There is no need for isolation either for children or parents. As a homeschooled child, I had friends in the town, friends at church, but my deepest and most lasting relationships were with other kids in our homeschool organization, and I know my parents would say the same about their homeschool connections (in fact, this week my parents got together with some of the friends they made in the homeschool group over 30 years ago)!
What legalities do I need to consider?
Every state has its own requirements for regulating home education. Some have little-to-no requirements, while others are quite strict. See what your state requires here https://hslda.org/legal. And don’t worry – even if your state appears to have many regulations, there are people who have gone before you and people doing it now who would love to coach you through. Public schools lose federal funding (through tax-payer dollars and “relief” packages) when families choose to homeschool their children. Because of this, states frequently make it seem like you need to jump through hoops to be able to homeschool legally. Local homeschool organizations can help you make sense of everything and show you how doable it is. Don’t be intimidated by the legal jargon!
Side note regarding federal funding: this is one way to speak with your dollars. School boards might not want to hear what you have to say about what you do or don’t agree with. However, when people start homeschooling and they start losing many thousands of dollars in federal funding, they will listen. Money talks. Use this powerful voice to drive change in public school policy.
I understand that for many families homeschooling is not an option for one reason or another. Some families have even found schools that align with their beliefs and to which they are proud to send their children. Homeschooling is not the only way. However, if you are concerned about your children’s health and wellness, and about what your children are learning in school, either from their peers or their educators, know that you have a choice. If you are considering or embarking on homeschooling, you are one of thousands of families making this same decision right now. Should you choose to homeschool, your kids will be joining millions of other children across the United States who are educated in this way. You will be joining thousands of other parents who decided that homeschooling was the best choice (for the time being) for their child(ren). You are in good company – you certainly do not need to feel alone. If you need help getting plugged in, let us know. At Be Well Clinic we are not a homeschool organization, but we believe in the value of homeschooling enough that we’d love to help connect you with someone who can walk you through the first steps.
Regardless of whether your children are in public school, private school or educated at home, do all you can to build a trusting relationship with your children. Know that teachers are the fill-ins for parents, not the other way around. A school should complement the family. Teach your children truth yourselves, without expecting the school to do so (regardless of the type of school). Speak with your money. Raise kids who are bold, confident, well-educated and know that their parents made hard decisions for their best interest because of love.
https://chec.org/ (for Colorado readers)
Home Grown Kids by Raymond and Dorothy Moore
“Piagetian and Psychometric Conceptions of Intelligence” Harvard Educational Review 39