In the wake of all that’s happened with the coronavirus over the past months, parents have found themselves forced to homeschool their children, much to their dismay and nervousness. I’ve had a few people message me asking what they should be doing for their children, so I thought I’d share some tips on how to homeschool in your state.
In this post I’ll be sharing information for those parents who just want to survive until their kids go back to school, as well as information for those parents who, in light of the latest news of schools opening up while coronavirus still lurks out there, might want to keep their children home for longer than summer, or even for the rest of their child’s educational career.
Please note that I in no way consider myself an expert, but rather an ex-homeschooling mom of 20 years under her belt.
I started homeschooling my three children starting when my eldest daughter was in first grade. She had been bullied, and we were concerned about our children being safe in school. Also, we were a young family trying to find our way in the area of child rearing in the 90s.
My youngest graduated from high school in 2015, which gave me the grand total of 20 years of homeschooling children from kindergarten all the way up through their senior year in high school. It’s my hope that I can help you have a little more peace of mind whether you are homeschooling for a short time, or longer.
Tip #1 – Determine how long do you want to homeschool your child or children
Are you interested in just getting your kids ready for when schools open again, or are you interested in homeschooling for longer?
Of course, you have probably already been homeschooling for a few months now, and perhaps this information comes late for you. Still, this may be a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants sort of experience for you, and if it is, let me bring you back down to earth.
I’m only homeschooling until the schools open back up
If you are planning to homeschool your children until schools open back up, my best suggestion is to teach math and English and grammar at the level they are at right now. The reason for this is because both math and English tend to build on each other, and you picking up where Mrs. Smith left off will help your child to make the transition back into school much easier for him or her.
Because you plan to homeschool only until the kids can get back into school, check first with your kids’ teachers to see what they are learning, and if they have materials that you can use to continue your child’s education.
If the school doesn’t have anything available for you to use, there are very inexpensive workbooks you can purchase at your local big box store that can keep your kids challenged and busy for the duration.
If you are completely lost in knowing where your child lands with what he or she is learning in math and english, you can always placement test them online. (I’ll talk about that in a bit. Hang tight.)
I’m planning to homeschool for at least next year, or longer
If you are planning to homeschool for longer, or for the duration of your child’s educational career, I would suggest placement testing and purchasing the curriculum at the grade level your child is working (even if it’s not the grade they are actually in).
I know that sounds counter-intuitive, but especially for math, english and reading, you will want to “fill the gaps” of what they don’t know, so that they can catch up later. Home learning can happen much faster than in a classroom with some aim and determination.
So how do I placement test my kids?
Since you probably don’t know this, I did a quick search to see what I could find that may help, and found an article on a website called Year Round Homeschooling that has a list of placement tests. Parents can administer the tests to their children, and use the results to figure out where your child lands in reading, math, and English. (The site probably covers more subjects than that, but these are the areas that are most important.)
Tip #2 – If you plan to homeschool longer, choose how you will homeschool
You have a choice here, and the choice you make will determine how much control you have over your child’s education, how much you are responsible for, how much this endeavor will cost your family, and much more.
Homeschooling privately is the most flexible option, but if you choose it, it means that you (as the parent) will be responsible for your child’s education, pretty much 100%. The onus is on you to choose curriculum, teach school for a certain number of days per year, teach most subject material (this can depend on age and maturity level though), make sure your children get proper socialization (teacher directed), and foot the bill for the whole endeavor.
The upside is that you can control what your children are learning, tailor your homeschooling to your child’s interests, and you have the freedom to teach your children religious studies as part of their curriculum.
If you choose a public option, you will have certain things pre-planned for you, Curriculum, length of school year, and cost are covered, but you cannot give your children school credit for religious studies. There will also be many other rules that you will need to follow that private homeschooling does not have.
The upside to this option is that much of the planning is already done for you. Children in the public school system also have access to many of the same advantages that children who go to a physical public school would have.
In the off chance that your child’s present public school has a homeschooling option, you may be able to take advantage of something like that.
Tip #3 – Find out your state’s homeschooling requirements
Some states, like Texas, Idaho, and Alaska have very loose rules and don’t require you to give notification to the state if you choose to homeschool while other states like New York, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts have very high regulation in place.
In California, where I live, all homeschooling parents must file an affidavit to notify the state of your intent to homeschool privately (meaning not as part of the public school system like charter or K12). There are also requirements for keeping attendance, immunization records, courses of study, and a few other things, but generally, it’s a pretty easy set of standards to meet.
Questions to answer if you choose to homeschool privately:
- do you need an affidavit? (to notify your state that you will be homeschooling your children)
- what do they require for private homeschoolers regarding subjects taught?
- is yearly testing required?
- can you teach your religious beliefs?
- is there anything else that your state requires that you need explanation for?
Tip #4 – Choose curriculum
What you choose for curriculum will largely depend on whether or not you plan to homeschool privately. Here are some things to think about:
- Do you want to make sure your children are prepared to re-enter the school system at some point, or in the event that you can’t homeschool anymore? If so, you may be interested in following your state’s scope and sequence for students (guidelines for what grades learn which topics in each subject)
- Are you interested in a non-conventional type of homeschooling like unschooling?
- Do you want your children to learn from an accredited (officially recognized or authorized) source? If so, you will need to research accredited schools, rather than accredited curriculum. Curriculum cannot be accredited, only schools can. ( Examples of accredited schools: K-12 Academy, an online public school; Alpha Omega Academy or Abeka Academy, both Christian-centric online schools)
Tip #5 – Don’t forget proper socialization
Back in the day when we were homeschooling, “socialization” was kind of a dirty word in the circles I ran in. I have come to believe that kids need to be around other kids, preferably in a peer group they can grow up with. Parents can’t be everything to their kids, and it’s been my experience that when we try, kids can end up resentful.
It is valuable to allow our kids to make mistakes—sometimes even those mistakes that hurt—so that they can learn how to deal with the feelings that go along with those experiences. One thing I noticed during our homeschooling career was that many parents were not allowing those things to happen for their children, and their children became stunted in some ways, mine included.
Of course, no parent will be perfect, and we certainly did achieve wonderful things through homeschooling, but if we had it to do over, I think we might make a few different decisions.
Okay—that’s just my opinion on that though and we all have them, amiright? If my opinion doesn’t serve you, don’t worry, I won’t be offended. Still, I want to share with you some ways that you can help your children get socialization in a way that feels safe for you and your family:
1. Homeschool support group.
You will want to think about what you need out of your homeschool group. Do want it to offer
- classes to take some of the load off of you, as well as give your kids the experience of learning with other children?
- support for you (or a group of shoulders to cry on)?
- field trips?
- playmates for your young children?
- activities for older children?
- a “floating” peer group that your children can grow up with?
All of those can be found inside of a homeschool group, but what is available in each group varies. Back when I ran a homeschool group, we offered support for moms, a K-12 peer group, monthly hot dog and marshmallow roasts, field trips, and some other things.
2. Extra curricular activities
There are so many options out there for extra curricular activities likely available through your home town:
- team sports
- martial arts
- art classes
- dance classes
- family hikes
- swimming lessons
- guitar lessons
The list is as large as what is offered near you!
I hope those 5 tips have helped you today. Homeschooling can be a daunting endeavor, but all in all it’s a rewarding activity that enables us to get to know our kids in ways that we may not have before—even if we are only doing it for a short time!