You’ve got it, don’t you? The list of things you need for homeschooling.
If you’re a veteran homeschooler, the list for this year probably looks something like this: new pencils, the next Math book in the series, more bookshelves, bins for each child’s work, glue sticks…the list could go on and on. If you’re someone considering homeschooling, the list is probably full of things you think you need: a boxed curriculum that contains materials for every subject, desks for each child, a bell signaling the end of each period…
OK, maybe not that, exactly. But the truth is, whether an old-timer or newbie homeschooler, August and September often bring with them a host of “needs” each parent perceives are necessary for home education to be successful. There is plenty of pressure to acquire Everything Important (surely that is a capital-worthy, official concept, right?) to ensure the year’s academic success – if you get this or do this or try this, your homeschool will go well!
Sure, there are basic necessities for getting the job done. But many of the perceived “needs” for an effective homeschool really aren’t. That’s right. You can educate your children at home with much less than most people think. So in this two-part series, let’s look at a new back-to-school list: the list of what homeschoolers don’t need!
What You Need to Know to Start Homeschooling
1) Lots of money
Contrary to popular belief, homeschoolers are not all families of well-to-do professionals who make $100,000 a year. In fact, a good majority cannot make it on solely one income. Homeschoolers learn to be creative, and to find ways to cut costs and make money for their families that enable them to educate their children without both parents simultaneously working away from the home full-time. Cleaning houses as a family one day a week, doing away with television and cable, holding photography sessions in the evenings for clients, downsizing homes, and teaching piano lessons are all examples of things homeschoolers do to “make it work”.
When the emphasis becomes family education over the “American dream”, homeschooling options previously unconsidered become possibilities. From couponing to online work to home-based businesses, homeschoolers have learned that ingenuity and commitment far supersede money when it comes to the ability to educate children. We may not live on the “nice” side of town, and our kids might be in bunk beds rather than have their own rooms, but they are getting an individualized education from the people who love them most.
2) Lots of nice clothes
You know the arduous back-to-school clothes shopping process? Yeah, homeschoolers don’t have that.
Why? Because we get to do school in our pajamas. Every day. That’s right…no school uniforms, no hundreds of dollars spent on school-worthy outfits or the coolest new trend. PJs are our friend, and although we’ve got to have a few decent outfits for outings and church, really we spend most of our lives in our skivvies or our play clothes. Relaxed, unpretentious, cheap, and comfy. It’s marvelous, and a homeschooling perk not to be overlooked. If you doubt me, just go ask some of your working-outside-the-home and sending-off-to-school friends around 6 a.m. when they’re getting themselves, and their kids, dressed for the day.
3) Lots of education
You do not need a college degree to be an effective homeschooler! The truth is that no matter how well-educated a person is, she has gaps in her learning. I was valedictorian of my (public school) high school, have completed a master’s degree, and didn’t find out until this year, when teaching my daughter her multiplication tables, that in the 9’s times table, the digits of the answer add up to make 9.
I have survived into adulthood without this knowledge.
Even worse – the large majority of the world history that I know I learned by teaching it to my children. What is most important to be an effective homeschooler is not a high level of knowledge, but a high level of commitment. The amazing thing about homeschooling is that you get to learn as you teach! If you are committed to doing the best for your children, you will be able to find the means to help them learn effectively, even if it is in an area that is not your strength. It is easy to find resources that spell out exactly what you need to teach so that even if you do not understand a concept well, you can still help your child understand (and learn, yourself, as you do so). In addition, there are plenty of other options for subjects in which you are weak, such as co-ops, tutors, community college courses, and online classes.
You don’t have to be an expert. You don’t have to have lots of degrees. You just have to be dedicated to doing the best you possibly can for your children.
4) Lots of time
Homeschooling doesn’t take all day, every day. Remember, we’re skipping the sitting in the lunch room wait for the buses to all arrive, and we’re missing out on the hallway walks between classes, and we’re bypassing the dead time for students who have finished the assignment but have to wait until everyone is done before the teacher can continue on to something else. Homeschooling can be really, really efficient. One-on-one, without the distractions of 25 other students, and with the individualized attention of the teacher, kids are able to get more done in less time. Plus, they don’t have to be bogged down with going at the pace set by others – they go as quickly as their own abilities allow them. No busywork to keep pupils occupied. No homework on a concept that has already been grasped. No extra problems when the subject has been mastered.
All of this means that the academic work of homeschooling doesn’t have to be (and usually isn’t) a 7 a.m.-4 p.m. proposition. Flexibility, individualization, and personal attention mean that home education can be done in whatever time you have, and that you can get more done in less time. Whether it is done in a couple of intense hours of academics, or relaxed periods of academics sprinkled throughout the day and week – the important factor is not as much how much time you have, as it is using the time you have well.