Every Fall, I see a large uptick of women asking about the homeschooling option. Whether due to their child being bullied, being unhappy with the quality of the education, or lifestyle considerations, many moms take a look at the homeschooling option at the start of the school year.
We homeschooled from the start, then we placed the kids into a church school for two years before pulling them back out to homeschool again. So we have had the experience of going from a classroom environment to the home.
We are currently homeschooling and our kids are entered into 7th and 9th grades this Fall. Higher grades do take more time and work than younger grades, however it still doesn’t take the same amount of time that your children would spend in a classroom each day if they were enrolled in a school.
When you decide you want to homeschool, here are five things you need to know to get started.
Know Your State Laws
Homeschooling is legal in every state in the US, but each state has different laws. In order to homeschool legally, you must know the laws of your state. Some states require you to register with the state, some need a copy of your high school diploma and for you to keep attendance, and some states have no need to notify the state or perform any particular type of record keeping.
Some states require a professional teacher to be involved with your homeschooling on some level, and other states require an umbrella school to track or direct your child’s learning. In some states, this is as small as a professional teacher looking at samples of work and end-of-year test scores to give suggestions, and in other states this requires much more in-depth and hands-on work by that teacher or by you.
The Home School Legal Defense Association has a list of laws by state so you can look up the laws of your state and begin the process of submitting for legal permission.
I live in North Carolina. We live in a moderately regulated state. We have to notify the state and send in copies of our high school diplomas to get a school ID number which you keep on file- this letter then qualifies you for teacher discounts at just about every store that offers them. Then you keep attendance, keep a copy of your child’s immunization record or exemption on hand, and you do yearly End of Grade testing of your choice and keep those results on hand. North Carolina does not require you to submit any of this information to the state, they just ask you to keep it on file.
I personally do like doing end of year testing. That way, I can see if they are struggling in a particular area, giving us the opportunity to fix that issue over the summer. If anyone accuses me of educational neglect, I can pull out their tests along with my records to show how they are doing academically.
In states where you have to be registered in order to homeschool, the school your child is enrolled in will require either the ID number assigned to your school or a copy of the letter in order to remove your child from the rolls.
When you first pull your children out of school, they have a particular idea in their head about what school is going to look like at home- just like in their classroom, but alone and with their mom as the teacher. And there’s a particular attitude that goes along with that. 😉
Very often, boring lessons at school or a teacher’s attitude or impatience convince a child that either certain subjects or learning all-together isn’t enjoyable or something they want to pursue. In my case, I had two Straight-A students who absolutely hated history, science, handwriting and literature because of how their school taught the subjects. One child had dealt with a teacher who bullied them. They were good, compliant kids who wanted to succeed, but a bad teacher or a bad method spoiled it for them, and often resulted in tears at home.
As a result, my kids had lost their love of learning- really, it had been sucked out of them thanks to the school environment they were in. At one point, we endured two weeks of daily tears in the car on the way home from one or the other child in the last month of school.
If your kids feel that way, they need to find a love of learning again. The best thing you can do is to give them the time and the space in which to do that. This period of time is called decompression.
You will be decompressed and ready to get moving before they will. You will have to be patient, because you will hit a point where you are frustrated that they aren’t excited about learning again as quickly as you think they should be.
Mama, let them lead. This is the stage that tends to make a break whether or not a child can regain a love of learning. Rushing this stage can be very detrimental. If you want your child to enjoy learning instead of just getting through it so they can move on to what they do enjoy, you’re going to have to camp here. And possibly bang your head on the wall here. If your child had their love of learning verbally beaten out of them by an authority figure, you’re not going to just set up camp here, you’re going to build a house and stay a while.
How do you weather this stage? Lots of trips to the library for them to pick out their own books to find what interests them, the park to play without your suggestions on what and how, playdates with friends with supervision but without adults controlling the flow or the content, hands-on learning on what they ask to learn, playing outside, and I’ll even dare to say it, TV, video games and Netflix. Let them watch some stuff they enjoy, but also let them pick educational Netflix shows that they’re interested in.
The way I approached this, was to ask them, “Is there anything particular you want to learn about today?” It took about a month for one child to suggest a topic- deep sea creatures. We dove into youtube and within ten minutes, he was done. A few days later, he asked about a particular deep sea creature, and I sat down beside him on the computer and showed him how to Google it (we have filters for safe googling), and helped him navigate around the results without trying to control the direction. That occupied him for about an hour.
The next week he found a book at the library on the Egyptian pyramids and he started asking questions. Instead of answering those questions, I showed him how to find the resources to answer those questions for himself. He brought home about a dozen books that day and I didn’t hear from him for hours.
I put Bob Ross onto the Netflix queue and I had two kids glued to the screen, asking if they could learn to do that, too. One hour and $100 bucks poorer after a trip to Cheap Joe’s Art Supplies, they were painting along. Boss Ross gave me many hours of soothing quiet while they painted. We put two big shower curtains on the floor in front of the TV and designated painting clothes. I even spent some evenings painting with them.
Eventually, I earned their trust that I wasn’t going to force them into long, boring and incredibly dull activities or lectures in which they had zero interest in doing. A child who is compliant to avoid discipline isn’t truly engaged with learning unless they WANT to learn about the subject. As soon as the test is passed, the information is forgotten. Decompression time allows them to find the want.
After several months of only having formal math and grammar curriculum, allowing them to choose their own literature from a list of books, with only self-directed history, science, music, art and pleasure reading and no formal handwriting practice, my kids finally began enjoying learning again. We went from ‘My favorite subject is lunch and PE’ to them being willing to learn about these subjects and enjoying them, even learning about them in their spare time.
The Entertainment Question
Because TV/internet time always enters the question on dealing with decompression if your home has a TV or a computer, I will share how we handled it in our home.
We created a Netflix account that we called ‘school’ and I loaded it with educational shows that were appropriate for them. Nat Geo, Discovery Channel, Science Channel, History Channel, PBS and more. I also included fun things like MacGyver, Iron Chef and Monster Fish that had educational components, real world skills or would spur the imagination. MacGyver has totally inspired my son to tinker and learn how things work and try to find alternate uses for items.
Movies and shows that showed moral lessons were also included, even with difficult subject matter such as racism and sexism. To Kill a Mockingbird, Selma, and similar movies (with previewing and light editing by me) were used to help them understand culture and current events in historical context.
The original Iron Chef from Japan, found on YouTube, spurs creativity in the kitchen combined with being willing to try new foods for my kids, and an outlook on how culture and geography shape food preferences and taste. Other Food Network shows have convinced my kids to develop a love of cooking and presentation.
When they wanted to watch TV, they had to pick a program off of that list. This was a good compromise because it gave them brain breaks, but it allowed me to feel like something was being accomplished. We finally settled into watching a program while eating lunch together each day. Then we moved into one educational program a day and one to two hours of entertainment time, which included TV, video games, Minecraft, social media, youtube and pleasure surfing, as long as all school and chores were completed.
Filtering software has been a must- I will discuss that in a future post. We also created a family rule of no cell phones or computers in the bedroom or bathroom. All Youtubing must be done on the TV in the living room (so adults could watch for content even though our filtering software does control our TV) and all computer usage occurs only in the living and dining rooms. These rules allowed them to have the down time and entertainment they wanted, but allowed the adults to monitor what was going on, on top of the filtering software.
If they were sick and parked on the couch, they had to watch one educational program for every fun program that they watched.
Because 99% of my son’s online time, including watching YouTube videos, is Minecraft related, we haven’t encountered any problems other than being unahppy with some of the ads that YouTube chooses to show for horror movies- a genre we choose to avoid completely in our home. For my daughter, she prefers to spend time on social media, so we keep tabs on her account and regularly read her messages. She knows we do this, and often discusses what she is seeing on her social media with us as a result.
Next week, we will discuss three more steps you should take before you start homeschooling. I hope you’ll join us!
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