This post is contributed by Oak Meadow, the sponsor of our Living Education series.
Sometimes the hardest part of getting started with homeschooling is believing that you can do it. I'm here to tell you that yes, you can homeschool!
There are many reasons that lead families to consider homeschooling. Often it comes up when a child's school is not a good match for their needs. Sometimes it's driven by a parent's desire to guide their child's learning in the context of their own values. Sometimes children need a more flexible schedule in order to pursue athletic or artistic training, and sometimes parents simply can’t imagine missing out on the excitement of educational discovery.
How do you know for sure if homeschooling is the right fit for you and your child? The decision to homeschool is a big one, and it is normal to have feelings of uncertainty before taking such a big leap.
Always remember that you are the #1 expert on your child. This means you have insights that classroom teachers do not have. You know your child’s learning style and can give him or her more targeted attention and personal support than even the best classroom teacher ever could, even if you have other responsibilities or children at home. Your intuition and your knowledge of your child are two of your most powerful assets as a homeschooling parent. None of us have all of the answers up front, but you can trust your heart to be a reliable tool for figuring it out as you go.
Parents with a wide range of educational levels and experiences can successfully homeschool. You do not have to be an experienced teacher to be able to homeschool your child! You also do not have to have an advanced education of any kind. One of the joys of homeschooling is learning new things alongside your child. Some common questions about homeschooling are addressed on the Oak Meadow website and here in this blog.
If you find the word "teacher" feels uncomfortable, try thinking of yourself as your child’s educational facilitator. You don't have to teach everything yourself; you can draw from many resources and engage other adults to help your child learn. There are many ways to support your child's learning experience without doing it all yourself. Local enrichment classes, homeschool co-ops, library programs, wilderness days, volunteer positions, distance-learning programs, tutoring, hobby clubs, one-on-one mentoring…the possibilities are many. Be creative in your approach, and trust in your ability to coordinate the pieces that make up the whole.
A new adventure can feel easier when others who have gone before can share what they have learned. There are successful homeschoolers all over the country and all over the world. Many of them have organized groups that meet on a regular basis so that parents can swap ideas and children can connect with their peers. It really helps to know you’re not alone in this experience.
If you’re lucky, there’s a homeschool group already going strong in your area. If not, it might seem at first that there are no local homeschoolers to be found. But don’t let that stop you from continuing to look! Ask at the public library, local co-ops, learning centers (history, environmental, museums, whatever you have nearby). Put up posters; start a playgroup or learning group. You might need to stretch your definition of “local.” You might even choose to seek community online. Check out Oak Meadow’s Get Connected page for more information about online resources.
Homeschooling can be as flexible or as structured as you need or want it to be. Some homeschooling parents work part-time or full-time and focus on supporting their child’s learning when they’re not at work. Others craft a patchwork schedule that allows them to be present as their children learn. Some engage the help of caregivers as part of their family's homeschooling team.
Some families have demanding travel or training schedules, so they fit homeschooling in around those activities. Other families function best with a non-negotiable daily/weekly/monthly routine at home. All families are unique in their needs and solutions. There are a no "right" answers. It's up to you to find and follow the rhythm that works for your family.
In the U.S., each state has a different take on what homeschoolers must do to stay in compliance with education laws. These requirements may seem overwhelming, but families have succeeded in homeschooling in every state and in numerous other countries. Start by contacting the Superintendent of Schools in your town or the Department of Education in your state or locality to find out what is expected. Remember that some of the people you speak with may not have experience with homeschooling and might have misconceptions about the state’s role in home learning, so be patient and persistent. TheHomeSchoolMom's local homeschool support pages have excellent information and resources, including legal information, support groups and state organizations, and local classes and events.
Homeschooling is a big adventure, and most of us have no previous experience with anything like it. If you’re not sure where to start or how to proceed, there are many resources and curriculum packages available to take the guesswork out of it. Oak Meadow curriculum is designed to make it easy for parents and students to make sure they are not missing anything along the way. If you have questions, Oak Meadow’s educational counselors are happy to help.
Often when I tell people that my children are homeschooled, they say something like, "I could never homeschool my children." Perhaps they don’t need or want to homeschool, and that's just fine. It's not right for every family. But if you want to homeschool, you can!
Amanda Witman is a homeschooling mother of four, musician, urban homesteader, enthusiastic lifelong learner, and Oak Meadow’s new Social Media Coordinator.
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