Whether you have decided to homeschool from the get-go or are removing your children from school, this decision is one of the biggest, most important resolutions you will ever make. The notion of being responsible for your child’s education can seem daunting and stressful, but so exciting.
Once the choice has been made, the first thing most new homeschoolers think is, “Where do I go from here?” The answer to that question may look different depending upon what your pre-homeschooling situation looks like.
Transitioning from School to Home
I want you to picture in your mind what a typical day of conventional school consists of. Children seated at their desks, raising their hands to answer questions or ask to use the restroom. Piles of worksheets being handed out to students for homework after listening to a 45 minute lecture based out of a textbook lesson plan. The signal of the bell letting the students know that it is time to move on, regardless of how involved they were with that particular project.
Now, I want you to take that vision and throw it out the window. Learning does not have to look like that. In fact, if you are removing your child from the school system for academic reasons, chances are much learning hasn’t occurred at all.
Parents who decide early on that this is the route they want to take have an advantage over parents who have not only gone through the system themselves, but have also dealt with their own children taking this path. The setup and structure of the classroom becomes comfortable to most people- even sacred. They refuse to believe that learning can happen any other way, so doing something different and off the beaten path seems difficult to get a hold of.
If you are withdrawing your children from a school setting, the most important thing to do right now is to take a deep breath and tell your child that, for the time being, you’re just going to let them enjoy not being in school. You’re not going to pull out any textbooks or assign reports; they should just take this time to do what they’ve always wanted to but have never had time for. This is called deschooling.
Deschooling is best described as taking some time- whether it is a few days, weeks, or even months- to treat every day like a weekend. Typically, it is recommended to take one month for every year your child spent in school to simply get used to enjoying life without the stress of a schooling situation.
Granted, this may seem like an awful lot of time to be doing “nothing,” especially if your child has already spent a substantial period of time in school, but there are two very important things to remember:
1. Ultimately, the amount of time spent deschooling is at your discretion.
2. What looks like “nothing” to you is usually more than it appears to be.
The entire concept of deschooling is contrary to what most of us have been brought up to believe about education, but that is exactly why it is crucial for both the parents and the children to be given this time to reflect upon where they’ve been and where they’re going.
If taking several months off of anything that looks like academics to you makes you uncomfortable, then take that into consideration, but at least give it a try. It is so important to take that time to step back and watch your child. What is your child doing? What are her interests? Does she like to read? Do crafts? Write stories? What your child spends her time on during this period will give you clues as to how to best facilitate learning that will be meaningful to her.
The deschooling season is also a wonderful way to let yourself relax for a time, as you are treating every day like Saturday, and watch your child blossom as she’s given the opportunity to pursue her own interests. You just may quickly find that the definition of what constitutes learning may be changing before your very eyes.
As with homeschooling in general, this stage will likely look different for each child. Some children may spend a lot of time reading. Others may want to play outside all the time. Still others may occupy themselves with Legos, crafts, baking, or any number of other projects. Do not be a bit surprised if your child wants to sit and watch TV or be on the computer all day. Do not do what I and many other parents before me have done and assign certain activities as having more value than others. If your child is doing it, it has value to him. And again, these are going to be your clues as to how to best help your child once this period of deschooling is over.
Take this opportunity to spend some time reading some homeschooling books which discuss homeschooling methods, learning styles, and practical tips.
There is no formula for how to begin to formally homeschool once you feel the time has come to transition from deschooling. A phrase that will become redundant but still holds true is that no two families will do things exactly the same. Some families decide that they are happy with a more holistic approach to education, so there won’t be much of a difference between deschooling and homeschooling, if any difference at all. Other families will still feel more comfortable using a textbook approach, which many homeschooling families do successfully. No matter what path you’ve decided to take, however, there are some valuable strategies that will help you to make the smoothest transformation into a home learning atmosphere.
6 Things You Need to Know about Transitioning to Homeschooling
1. Begin slowly. There is no reason to jump right in with eight separate subjects. Take your time and introduce a couple at a time. This is a great way to get a feel for how your child is going to fare with your potential plan.
2. Remember when I said to push those thoughts of how conventional school looks out the window? Keep them there. If your child likes visiting the library, use that to your advantage. You will save loads of money on curriculum. Do they enjoy being outside? Nature is better than any science book. Let them be a part of your everyday life. Take them to the bank and the grocery store with you. Show them how to cook and do the laundry. Give them the opportunity to help with home and car repairs. These are all necessary things which are invaluable for children to be exposed to.
3. Let them have a say as to how and what they will be learning. As well as you may know your children, they know themselves that much more.
4. If things don’t go smoothly, relax. This is normal. Perhaps you jumped in too quickly. Perhaps your child’s learning style doesn’t fit with your chosen curriculum. Perhaps you just need to add some variety to your day. The great thing about homeschooling is that if things aren’t going well, you can drop everything and change it, if need be. You are not beholden to finish any curriculum in its entirety.
5. Have some sort of routine, but do not become a slave to it. Nothing is worse than getting stressed out because you started at 9:10, instead of 9:00 sharp. Don’t worry. There will be no bells ringing or tardy slips. You have all day to accomplish things (or to even choose not to).
6. If something comes up that gets in the way of what you had planned, let it go. I assure you that your children will learn whether they are doing what was written in your lesson book or whether they are accompanying you to the vet or someone’s home.
Keep in mind that these tips are beneficial for every homeschooling family, from those just beginning their journey to the most seasoned veterans. We all need to be reminded of these things from time to time.
Deciding to pull your children out of school can be a scary thing. All I ask is for you to remember this advice and apply it as best you can. Homeschooling is so rewarding and so valuable in this day and age, and your children sure are worth giving it a shot, aren’t they?