It’s the time of year when a lot of parents are making the big, stressed out, Should-I-homeschool decision. Since I was in this very position 14 years ago, I’d like to offer up some things to consider when making your final decision.
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1. Your child’s mental health and stress level.
We had seen some huge signs of stress over the school years. A few of the less-horrifying that I can think of included stomach aches every morning, chewing his shirt sleeves to ribbons, chewing his collar to ribbons when we put him in short sleeves instead, crying at the thought of any upcoming event at school, even ones that he was excited about, huge stress-releasing destructive tantrums after school every day, and an inability to eat more than a few bites even when starving. You alone know what shows up as stress in your child – it can be as simple as pinging around the room unable to focus or stop themselves, tapping and clicking, or other milder things that we might pass off as quirks. Take these very, very seriously.
2. Your own mental health and stress level.
If starting to homeschool would put you and your family into an untenable financial situation, or you are in the depths of a black depression yourself, this may not be the time to pull your child out of school. If it’s more a “how on earth can I have him home all day every day without going insane”, then let me reassure you that it’s actually pretty fantastic most days after the first few months of working out the kinks, and you see the rewards almost right away.
3. Your gut feeling.
I knew, KNEW, that something was really wrong, but I didn’t know that homeschooling was legal here until my son was 12. Just as you know when the cough or fever is not a normal one but can’t explain how, you know in your heart when you need to get them out of school and into homeschooling. Don’t second-guess yourself or let all the fears about homeschooling stand in your way.
4. What do you need to do to make this happen?
What’s required in terms of jumping through hoops varies drastically. Do your research. Look at www.hslda.org (USA) or www.hslda.ca (Canada) and find out exactly what you’re going to need to do, so that you can have it all taken care of as smoothly and efficiently as possible. You don’t want to be spending all your time hunting down obscure documents while trying to adjust to this change in lifestyle, so plan to spend about a week beforehand getting all the paperwork in order and mailed/faxed/emailed to the right parties.
5. What do you need to start out with?
We all go nuts our first year buying curriculum enough for a Duggar-sized family! When you start seeing what’s out there, it’s really hard not to, especially if (ahem…..don’t know anyone like that here, of course) you happen to be a curriculum junkie. To get things started, consider where your child is struggling and maybe plan to focus just a little harder on them. This does not, I repeat not, mean that you need to recreate the school environment at home. It may be as simple as Googling some fun ways to help strengthen their math facts (Times Tales anyone?) or spelling (see our review of All About Spelling & All About Reading for ideas).
Then for everything else, consider an all-in-one site like SchoolhouseTeachers.com (see my review earlier this year), which has lessons on every subject as well as electives for $10ish per month no matter how many children you’re homeschooling. It’ll give you and your child a chance to relax because they’ll have great learning activities from some of the biggest names in homeschooling, and you can just log in every day and choose your activities. It’s a great way to try before you buy something huge and regrettable.
Then you can just choose how you plan to keep records (they do offer a printable checklist, but you may need more for your particular state or province and remember to keep track as you go along. You can find some great freebies to print out at DonnaYoung’s site, or you may want to use online tracking such as Scholaric. Pick one you like to start out with, don’t get too elaborate about the number of things to fill out, and relax. You can always change it later.
If, while considering the move to homeschooling, you have more questions, you can always reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’d be happy to answer them or act as a sounding board. I also offer more in-depth homeschooling consultations for $25, where we can talk about your concerns and your child’s learning style and then I can point you towards some curricula or styles that will be a better fit. Either way, I’m here for you!