More and more these days, I see posts online by parents asking what to do when they pull their children from public school and start homeschooling—be it at the beginning of the school year or in the middle. I’ve read lots of responses to this question, from de-schooling to placement tests, and I have to say that I am not 100% on the side of either of those extremes. I actually fall somewhere in the middle.
While I am no expert, I am a former public school teacher and current homeschool teacher, and I do have a degree in counseling. So, taken with a grain of salt, I’d like to share my advice for those who might find themselves in this situation. I am splitting this up into two articles since it really encompasses two different things: preparing mentally and getting started. This article is on preparing mentally. To find out about getting started, you can read that post here.
First, and foremost, you need to know that the key to all of this is time, patience, and a willingness on the parent or parents’ part to follow through and keep moving.
Public school is like a child’s job: they spend anywhere from 7 to 9 hours a day schooling or doing things devoted totally to schooling (oftentimes not including homework). This transition for them—be it at the beginning of a school year or sometime during the school year—is going to be harder than you might think. It would be the equivalent of you losing full-time employment and having to start your own business—with only a blog article to tell you how to do it. You, the parent, are like that blog article since this is all new to you, too. It’s not an insult: every homeschool parent starts off as a blog article, even the ones who were homeschooled themselves. We all have a lot to learn and room to grow.
The problem is that you, as the parent, are going to have to show your child patience, understanding, and support as you, too, struggle to figure out what you’re doing. Be generous with your child and yourself. Know there will be ups and downs. And, most importantly, don’t give up or stop.
You need to start out doing some sort of school-based activity every day to help your child develop a bit of a routine to this new part of life. You don’t have to get up at 7 AM and do school until 2 PM. You don’t have to fit in every subject every day. And you certainly don’t have to start off pounding away at a curriculum, taking tests, writing research papers, or figuring out advanced mathematics.
Just get up every day and work together on some of the things you will find below. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it needs to be something to help your child transition from one type of schooling to another, especially since it has been my experience that most parents who are new to homeschooling opt for a more traditional method of schooling (such as picking out a curriculum and using it daily) that will also require a bit of a routine for your child. De-schooling with no attempt at a routine or simply taking a few weeks off could only make it harder to pick back up again once it is time to get back to work. Slow and steady work at this will pay off.
Knowing all this, the most important thing you need to do first is to take some time to try and just enjoy learning a little and to find out where your child is.
Not every child is in the same place, and the beauty of homeschooling is that you can meet each child where he or she is. As a former teacher, I know not all kids test well, and public school grades and standardized testing are definitely not always an indicator of a child’s ability. There is tremendous pressure in the public school setting, and this can affect everything from what subjects your child likes to how he or she performs on the tests that are given. One of the most joyous things about homeschooling is that you and your child will get to spend time together learning. Watching your child pick up things that he or she did not understand or enjoy before is one of the most amazing feelings in the universe. You’re about to get to do just that, so now is the time to get excited!
If you’d like to read more about how to get started, check out the second part of this article.