Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Homeschool 101: Priorities

One of the biggest myths about homeschooling I see over and over again is that people think somehow homeschooling will be easier. People seem to think that if you pull your child out of public school, magically all the issues you have with your baby and school will disappear.  There is this image out there of smiling children reading stories or building models or writing papers (with beautiful penmanship and perfect spelling), while mom is doing housework or leaning over said child to point at something in their book, also smiling (with perfect hair and makeup!).  It goes with the images of parenting that some people have before they have their first child -- that they will never say xyz or give their child certain things, because those are marks of "bad" or "lazy" parents.  And those of us with a child roll our eyes because we know that children will do the most unexpected things and when you're sleep-deprived and desperate, you'll do lots of things you said you'd never do.

Homeschooling solves a lot of problems. Homeschooling also presents you with a different set of problems. Homeschooling is not "easier" than public school. It's just different. It's still work. I may not have to pack lunches, search for hidden notes, remember school fees, sell the fundraisers, drive to parent-teacher interviews/school plays/field trips, walk to and from school/bus stop twice a day, or the host of other annoyances that are part of having children in school. I still have to make lunch, I still have to buy school supplies, I still have to drive to field trips and extracurriculars -- and I only wish for fundraisers!! 

The reason you are homeschooling is important to think about though. There are good reasons and there are bad reasons. If you are choosing to homeschool for a poor reason, you will probably end up with more frustrations and may give up very quickly. Homeschooling isn't just an educational choice. It's a lifestyle choice. If you aren't prepared to make those adjustments, you will quickly find that you simply traded one set of issues for another. 

So why are you looking at homeschooling? Common reasons include issues with the school, political reasons, religious reasons, academic reasons and health reasons. The underlying desire must be the same, no matter what the trigger is -- you must WANT to homeschool. But the reasons you have for homeschooling may help determine your philosophy, which will then help you pick a method, determine curriculum and plan out your homeschool schedule. 

Issues with the school may be social: dealing with bullies on the playground (or in the classroom, from the teacher!) or difficulties with getting special needs met and accommodated. Here, when a parent chooses to keep their children home, deschooling becomes essential. The damage done from a toxic environment needs healing. See this post and this post for more info on how to deschool. During that deschooling time is when you'll figure out your philosophy, methods and probably be able to pick a curriculum (or not, as the case may be), and plan out your homeschool schedule. 

Political issues are the trending concerns with public school. Currently they are issues with "common-core" or state standards, sex-ed and an anti-religion/anti-parental-rights slant. If these are your concerns, when you pull your kids out, again deschooling is a necessity. You and your children will both need time to reconnect (especially if they have been exposed to extreme anti-parental bias). Do not stint on the time to deschool. I promise you, when you resume more formal academics, if you do, you'll find your children have not actually missed any learning time, and may actually have gained ground on their peers, if you are comparing. Take the time to learn about your children's learning style, and research the various philosophies and methods carefully to pick the best fit for your family's lifestyle. 

Religious and academic reasons to homeschool are easier ones to find methods and philosophies to fit, but are harder ones to sift through to find the true "why" for your homeschool. When these reasons color the choice to homeschool, envisioning a homeschool life often gets stuck in the methods and curriculum, instead of a true vision. The key here is to figure out the result you want, and work backwards. Why is a rigorous academic standard so important? What do you hope to achieve by making sure all areas of education are studied from your faith worldview and values? Picture your children as adults and work backwards to determine your real reason for homeschooling. What is the most important thing? 

Some people homeschool for health or career reasons. Perhaps your child has a severe allergy or disorder that makes public school dangerous to their health. Or maybe they are an actor, and travel a lot for their talent and career, and you homeschool them so they can keep up with their studies as well as their passions. Here, you still need to have an end goal in mind, but your choices in methods and curriculum will be determined by your family's lifestyle much more than other reasons. 

Whatever your initial reason for choosing to homeschool, you must determine why. Why you homeschool determines your priorities - family, academia, travel, health, faith, etc. -- and that will determine your philosophy and method. In turn, those will narrow down your curricula choices and from there, your plan of action and schedule.  It all starts with knowing why you are homeschooling. It's like a business choosing a mission statement. All the values of the organization, the culture of the organization, their focus and priority, will be determined by the mission statement, and brought in line with it. If an organization's mission statement is about profit and shareholders, than customer service isn't necessarily going to be the highest priority.  In homeschooling, if the main reason is about rigorous academic standards, than you'll probably not be all that concerned about enrolling your children in swim class or soccer.  Having your why pinned down will help you decide if that situation is ok with you and your family. 

If you need help figuring out what your homeschool "why" is, click here for a free printable worksheet.  Just remember there is no right or wrong reason to homeschool, there is just *your* reason.  Some reasons will help you stay the course better than others, but it's still your choice. Ultimately, homeschooling is a decision best made for each individual family, without comparing to another's family. You're the parent - and the teacher - you get to decide! That's one of the best parts about homeschooling. 

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