“I think we should consider homeschooling.”
I can’t remember my exact reaction, but I think I laughed. Our oldest son was four years-old. I had never given any thought to any version of education for him other than public school. Private school costs were completely beyond our budget, and both my husband and I had both only attended public school. I was already overwhelmed with motherhood, and the idea of adding something this important was not going to happen. Besides, we were not that kind of family. I wasn’t going to put on a denim jumper and puffy-sleeved blouse without a fight.
I promised my husband I would think about it. As I started reading and doing some research, I found that homeschooling did not have to look the way I assumed. Most of my objections were easily overcome.
We didn’t have a large school room area, but neither did many families. Even some who did, admitted that they did a lot of learning outside or at the kitchen table. We had an extremely limited budget for teaching materials and books. There was an abundance of free resources all over the internet, tons of amazing books at the library, and an amazing used curriculum consignment shop in a woman’s home not far from us. There was also the realization that we could set our own schedule. If I had too much housework to do in the morning, we could do our schoolwork in the afternoon and evening after Dad came home.
And that denim jumper? Not necessary. Homeschooling was full of all kinds of families with different lifestyles and goals.
Now that we have a third grader, a Kindergartener, and one who will start next year, I cannot imagine schooling any other way. We’ve been able to learn so much as a family, been able to customize teaching to fit what they need, and I’ve had the joy and privilege to see each connection made in their growing brains when they figure out something new.
Also, while I don’t even know where to find those denim jumpers, I do now own a pretty great ankle length jean skirt and a laminator. So, to quote my favorite mid 2000s film: “I guess you can say it’s getting pretty serious.”
Since the pandemic, interest and curiosity in homeschooling has exploded. Though, in the world of home education experience, I’m basically a neophyte, I have been able to help more than one friend make the transition to figure out their style of home education, and the steps needed to get started.
If you are one of the many who are considering this, here are some things that I found most helpful:
Become familiar with the laws and requirements for homeschooling in your state or city.
The Homeschool Legal Defense Association has an easy-to-understand web resource for this. In Kentucky, families have a lot of freedom to design a school plan that works best for them. Kentucky Homeschool Laws (hslda.org)
Determine your family educational values and goals.
There are lots of labels for homeschool types that can be overwhelming. Unschooling? Waldorf? Charlotte Mason? And that isn’t even taking into consideration whether to teach yourself or use one of the many options taught by professionals online or from recordings. The easiest way to navigate this is to sit down as a family and talk about why you want to homeschool.
For our family, those reasons were easy. We wanted our children to develop a lifetime love of learning, to appreciate the beauty of God’s Creation, great art, and literature. We wanted our them to have enough free time to explore their interests. With this as a guide, my husband and I began to shape a homeschool curriculum plan somewhere between the philosophies of Classical and Charlotte Mason education.
This guide contains a pretty simple explanation of most mainstream homeschooling styles, along with some recommendations for further research if you find something that may be a good fit for your family: A Quickstart Guide To Homeschool Styles (+ How To Choose).
Just remember, you do not have to completely subscribe to one type of schooling. That’s the great thing about home education. You can piece together what works from several options. You are the parent, teacher, and school administrator.
Choose your curriculum.
There are tons of ways to gather resources for homeschooling. In Louisville, one of my favorites is the Louisville Free Public Library. I’ve been amazed at how many of the new books I saw on blogs or Instagram that I wanted to read with the kids were already at the library. I also cannot say enough good things about the guidance I’ve received from the librarians. During the pandemic closure, I would often submit requests for book bundles with very specific topics. Each time, it was like they had read my mind.
Find some friends.
When summer ends and our traditional schooling friends return to the classroom, it’s important for us to make sure we still have people who can come along with us on adventures. I’ve found social media to be really helpful for building our circle of homeschooling buddies. I recently found a Charlotte Mason group that meets for nature exploration pretty regularly. My kids have made friends, and I’ve enjoyed learning from the more experienced moms. We also have enjoyed an art club that meets every other Friday. A local artist and homeschooling dad hosts a gathering at his home. He has a project prepared, but sometimes the kids enjoy just coloring and playing. My six year-old loves telling people that he takes drawing lessons from “a REAL artist.” Both of these groups came up through my exploration the Kentucky Homeschooling Facebook page.
The homeschooling lifestyle is not one for everyone, but it can work for more families than one would think. If this hot mess of a mother with three wild children can enjoy Shakespeare with a four, six, and, eight year-old, just about anyone can. You just need to figure out whether that means it will work best to read Macbeth, watch it, or act scenes out with Spiderman action figures.