Sunday, July 26, 2020

Is Homeschool the Right Choice in 2020?

There hasn't been much to be grateful for over the past few months, but one thing that I am happy about is that I don't have to spend the summer agonizing over what to do for the school year. 

Even though we didn't make the choice to homeschool in a pandemic, where safety was the paramount concern, we were forced into the choice a little earlier than anticipated. We'd been talking about it since Madison was born, but I wasn't totally convinced and I wanted to spend more time researching curriculum, groups, and everything else. But then things changed.

We started homeschooling a year earlier than our earliest plans, in the fall of 2014. Madison should have been entering PK4. We knew that homeschool was a possibility - even a probability at that point - for kindergarten in 2015, but I wanted her to have the preschool experience first. Circumstances changed, her preschool permanently closed that spring, and I couldn't find another program that was a) affordable, b) play based, and c) with openings for four year olds. 

We learned all this in March. By mid April, we stopped looking for new schools and started looking for homeschool curriculum. I had almost five months to plan for September, but I still felt rushed. Once we started, I felt a few months feeling overwhelmed, just like I had when I started my first public school teaching job, but I found the groove, learned how to adjust when necessary, and we haven't regretted our decision since.

Most parents who make the choice to homeschool do so deliberately. Sometimes they want more freedom, or a personalized education. Sometimes they feel like the curriculum in school is failing their child in some way. Some parents don't like their district. Some parents just love the idea. Some do it for religious reasons. Some are reacting to a bad experience, like bullying. There are many good reasons to homeschool, along with a few that I don't agree with, but generally speaking, the parents have made the choice, and usually after plenty of discussion and weighing of options. They've looked at curriculum and co-ops.

Does homeschool make sense for 2020?

2020 is an odd year, because some parents are feeling forced into a choice. They're choosing to homeschool because the other options feel worse, not because homeschooling feels right. And when you go into it with that mindset, it can become a more daunting experience with lots of hurdles. Some of those hurdles may be:

I'm not qualified to be in charge of their education.
I was a public school teacher, so plenty of people assume I must be qualified. I can tell you right now that it didn't do much to help me teach my own kids, with the possible exception that I know public school teachers doubt themselves too when kids struggle. You don't need a degree. Elementary teachers aren't experts in everything, they're just invested in helping kids learn and are willing to do the research to figure out how to make that happen. A lot of the time I'm learning/relearning right along with the girls. Any parent can find a good curriculum and your kids WILL learn.

Distance Learning/Homework is a TOTAL fail. They didn't and won't learn from me.
Listen, my homeschooled kids aren't magical beings and I'm not a magical mom. My kids don't listen to me when I tell them to clean their rooms and they become magically hearing impaired when I announce bedtime. But somehow, we get our schoolwork done. 

First, the sudden abrupt shift to distance learning that happened this March was NOT homeschooling and is NOT a good indicator of how your kids would handle actual homeschooling. They were ripped from routine without a chance to say a real goodbye. Teachers and administrators were scrambling. Everyone felt unsettled. If you feel like your kids didn't learn anything this spring, you aren't alone. Our brains were otherwise occupied this spring.

And if homework is a nightly struggle, homeschool can change that. Yes, they're doing more "work" at "home", but this "homework" isn't on TOP of a full school day. You get to work with them when they're fresh. And when they're done, they're done. 

They need to be with their friends.
Yup. They do. My homeschooled kids do too. They miss our full calendar. Remember, very few homeschoolers do so in a bubble. They have meet ups and co-ops and classes. My kids have been homeschooled for years, so theoretically the shut down in March shouldn't have impacted them. School was the same, right? NO. It was just as hard on them. 

Even if your kids return to public school, the interactions won't be the same. Staying six feet apart is tough, and school will be an adjustment this year, no matter which option your choose. Homeschoolers may have the advantage in this area, as they can do smaller meet ups outdoors.

They'll end up behind.
Behind who? Behind how? The world is upside down right now. If you have a kid in elementary school, they will be ok. Even if you have a few months where you think they didn't learn anything. They did, I promise. It's in there. You may find that your kid who was "behind" in traditional or distance learning will thrive in homeschooling, simply because they don't feel behind. Homeschooled kids are usually right on par with their peers, if not ahead.

I work, and I can't teach from 9-3 every day.
In this case, homeschooling might be a great choice! Homeschooling is flexible. You can get as creative as you like. Unlike many of the distance learning options, you aren't bound to the 9-3 schedule. Adam and I both work from home, and we've found that we can both make it work if necessary. If we had to go into work, we'd have to find childcare, but we could still make the school piece work. It's certainly easier if you have a dedicated parent who isn't trying to juggle, but most parents who work and homeschool can find a solution for their own situations.

Is homeschool the right choice in 2020?
The million dollar question. 

Maybe? Probably?

If you know you're being dragged into the homeschool choice kicking and screaming, and every day you'll approach it with doom, then maybe not. The one thing I'm confident in is that kids pick up on your attitude about it. 

But if you aren't comfortable having your kids in a school building, and you aren't confident in keeping up with the distance learning, homeschool CAN be the right choice for you in 2020, and maybe beyond!

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