by Amanda Witman, social media coordinator for Oak Meadow
Sending your child off to school is a big transition. Making the shift to homeschooling when your child has been in school is another big transition. It may take some time to feel settled on the homeschooling path. Here are some things to anticipate as you make your way.
This is a big adjustment for you and your child. It may be a relief; it may be a challenge; it may be both. Give yourselves and the rest of the family plenty of time to adjust. Be patient and gentle. Expect to fine-tune your plan throughout the year as you get to know your child's learning style and your homeschooling style and how they fit together. Involve your child in decisions when possible, so that he or she feels invested in the outcome.
Do not doubt your qualifications. You do not have to be trained as a teacher to be a successful homeschooling parent! Parents of diverse educational backgrounds successfully homeschool. Let go of the myth that you need to be an expert at everything to be able to facilitate your child’s learning. Seek others to help your child in the subjects you feel less confident in. Use curriculum written specifically for homeschoolers that includes strong resource materials for parents. Consider teaming up with other homeschooling families to team-teach certain subjects. We hear from parents who tell us how much they enjoy learning new things along with their child. You can do this!
You will most likely need to file an intent to homeschool with local, state, or provincial educational authorities. Depending on where you live, you may need to cooperate with periodic evaluations or have your educational plan pre-approved. In the U.S., every state has their own requirements; some are more complex than others. In some cases, the timing of your submission is critical. You may find it simplest to register with a distance learning school to fulfill state requirements.
Your child may grieve. He or she will be experiencing the loss of something central and familiar, even if the school experience was complicated and the reasons for beginning homeschooling were clear. Recognize that grief is not necessarily an indication that homeschooling is not working. Let your child tell you about what he or she misses most about school and work together to find new ways to meet those needs.
You and your child will likely spend more time together than before. If you have gotten used to having time to yourself while your child is at school, you may find that homeschooling feels very different. Consider your own needs as well as your child’s, and plan for support that will enable you to get some time to yourself when you need it.
If you work from home or outside the home, your work situation may need to be adapted if school previously filled the role of daytime caregiver. Consider all the ways in which your child is capable of being independent along with the things for which he or she needs support. Know that with dedication and creativity, many other homeschooling parents have made working-and-homeschooling work for them, too.
If you have multiple children, the sibling dynamic may become more challenging, particularly if there are younger siblings at home who are used to having a temporary period of time when they lead the pack or enjoy being an "only." They may need extra support as they adjust to sharing your attention for more of the day. Or if some of your children remain in school while one or more begin homeschooling, they may need reassurance that each person in the family is getting their needs met in the best way possible, even if the solutions look different.
You may find yourself in the role of public relations manager. Friends, neighbors, and members of the school community will have questions about your decisions and your experiences. Face them with confidence and do not feel obligated to explain. Feel free to say, "We needed a change," or "We’re finding our way," and leave it at that.
You will need support. You may find that friends and family don’t understand your experience as a homeschooling parent - or your child’s experience as a homeschooler. Connect with others who can relate to your experience. Oak Meadow’s Facebook page and our other social media channels are a good place to start. There may be a homeschooling group already going strong in your area, but if not, don’t be afraid to reach out and start one so that you can get to know some like-minded families.
Your child’s social sphere will change. Social needs can vary greatly from person to person. What is your child’s social personality? How much and what kind of social interaction does he or she need? It may take some time for this to become clear, and it may happen by trial and error. Don’t worry about socialization! Do your best to connect with local homeschoolers during the school day or with old school friends after school is out.
Your family's rhythms will change. Your wake-up time may no longer be dictated by the school bus schedule. You will have a chance to figure out when in the day your child is most receptive for learning and when they need unstructured time. Embrace the opportunity to revisit and revise your family's routines and rhythms as you adjust to homeschooling.
Most importantly, trust yourself. Remember that you are the most qualified expert on your child. You will not be able to figure everything out before you start, and that is fine. In fact, it's normal. Keep your expectations flexible. Be willing to shift gears if the first things you try are not quite right. You will make it through this transition. You are in good company, and one day you may be able to reassure another family who is beginning the process of transitioning from school to homeschool!
Amanda Witman is Oak Meadow's social media coordinator as well as a musician, gardener, lifelong learner, and homeschooling mother of four. Oak Meadow provides flexible, creative homeschooling curriculum for grades K-12.