I Never Thought I Would Be Homeschooling…

by Rich Jones

With the world in the unyielding grasp of the COVID-19 pandemic, much of our reality has been flipped on its head.  For parents, whether their children are enrolled at private or public school, traditional schooling may not be available right now, or for some time to come.  Homeschooling may be the only option you have left.  For a person who did not want to take this route by choice, the prospect of becoming your child’s teacher is overwhelming.

How do I provide my child with an education?  Are they going to repeat a grade?  What are my options?  How do I ensure my child is getting the best education available right now?  Easy peasy homeschooling requires a plan, out the box thinking, and research, as well as patience.  But don’t panic!   This is the age of technology.  There are resources available to get you through this academic school year, and ensure your children are ready for the future.

Homeschooling and Distance Learning Prior to COVID-19

Many schools are going digital at a faster pace than ever before, offering online education for students.  More resources are available to teachers, who are moving away from non-specific interim education, to course-credited training sessions.  Yet, you do not have to wait for your local school to catch up to the digital age.  There are distance learning options available to parents right now.

Learning in the modern age of technology has been gaining traction over the past few years.  There are a variety of reasons for parents to utilize this type of education.  Many accredited distance learning schools have already developed online platforms and learning programs.  These platforms are bringing teachers and students together virtually.  Technology is creating distance learning as an option for working parents.

E-mails, online message boards, and virtual classrooms make distance education easy.  Full-time online charter schools have many different options for you to explore.  Many offer K-12 homeschooling and other courses to supplement the current curriculum standards that exist.

Besides the standard academic online classes, many extracurricular activities are available to engage your child’s creative side.  These options include as many types of activities as you can imagine, from music and dance to cooking and everything in between.  For holistic development, you need to stimulate both sides of your child’s brain – left and right – and that means factual and logical thinking in addition to creativity and fun. 

Homeschooling Programs during COVID-19

Now, a lot of those decisions to engage in homeschooling or distance learning have been taken out of your hands.  However, there are definitely two ways to approach things.  You can enroll your child in a homeschooling program – the same kinds of programs that have existed before COVID-19.  Or, you can school them at home yourself.  Regardless of what your choices may be in the future in terms of physical campus, public or private school, or an online learning option, this is the reality we all face at the moment. 

Change is difficult, for sure, and if you have no prior experience with homeschooling your kids, it can be downright intimidating.  As you enter a new type of lifestyle – our new normal, for now – unforeseen obstacles will stand in your way.  They may frustrate you, but also present an opportunity for you to be creative and develop solutions to overcome these obstacles.  You need to create a new form of balance in your life.  These uncertain times will test your traditional beliefs.  Try to keep a positive attitude as you steer your ship through uncharted waters.

Also readBecome a Positive Parent – 5 Types of Parenting Styles

Tips for Adjusting to Homeschooling Programs

To help along the way, we’ve put together some key tips from experts that are designed to make things go more smoothly as your children transition to a homeschooling program.  These tips will help you (and your kids) adjust to this new way of life.

  • Familiarize your child with the different learning systems they may be required to use. 
  • Make sure they understand the schedule of their virtual classroom.
  • Compile a to-do list for the day.  There are applications (like Chorebot) that can help you manage to-do lists across many devices.
  • Check that your child has completed the work required of them, when appropriate and convenient for you.  Don’t hover or constantly be checking on them.
  • Make your child responsible for time management.  Allow them time to work through problems during the teacher’s online office hours.
  • Be available to connect.  Communication, cooperation, and support for both the teacher and student is critical.
  • There are videos available at any time of the day to help with explanations of most K-12 curriculum topics.  Teach your child research techniques to help them understand any topic that may challenge them.
  • Ask your homeschooling provider for any material or other work required for reintegration in the future.  You may ask them for any material to help your child complete the required credits or courses for their grade. 
  • Check for any funding your state offers to fund the online learning programs or homeschooling needs of children.
  • Legal requirements differ between states.  Before committing to any homeschooling or online program, confirm the accreditation.

Tools to Keep Your Kids Safe while Homeschooling Online

Any online program can potentially be dangerous, as it leaves your child exposed to potential dangers and risks typically associated with all online activity.  The good news is there are many apps available to help you keep your child safe.  These can include comprehensive parental control systems and filters, or more targeted, application-specific tools that are out there. 

Before making your selection, do research to select a product that suits you and your family’s needs.  Be sure to cross-check with anything the homeschooling program may recommend or require, as a lot of smaller, proprietary pieces of software are not always supported with some big-name safety tools.  With some applications, you can even access your child’s device remotely and in real-time.  These applications are available for iOS and Android devices, with some on Mac OSX and Windows PC as well. Applications differ with privacy levels and filtering options, so you can accommodate your preferences depending on your child’s age and maturity.

Some great tools to consider include Qustodio, Glubble, KidZui, KidLogger, Kaspersky Safe Kids, Norton Family Premier, McAfee Safe Family, Net Nanny, and Safe DNS.

Parent-Managed Homeschooling

The other major option which a lot of parents are being forced to embrace right now is parent-managed homeschooling.  This is essentially parent-run homeschooling, as opposed to enrolling kids in a certified homeschooling program.  It may include some structured classes through the child’s existing school, but a lot of districts and areas weren’t prepared or ready for that kind of system – especially in poorer or rural areas.  That leaves a lot of it up to parents.

Yet, up until now, stigma taints this option in most minds.  Once believed to belong to religious cults or hippie idealists, that is no longer the case.  Its popularity has grown in recent years, and COVID-19 has forced this reality on many parents.  Homeschooling is not without its critics and problems, even in the best of times.  However, there are many positive outcomes to gain from this type of education.  Giving parents and students options to suit lifestyle, learning styles, and budgets is a plus.  Standardized testing is not needed in this type of education, however, most colleges need all students to take either the SAT or ACT tests at the end of their education before admission.

Even during this crisis and unusual time, looking at some of the philosophies and considerations around homeschooling from more normal times can help provide parents with the framework they need to be successful.  Helping you and your kids to get through this with as positive an outcome as possible is our goal in presenting the following homeschooling information in this guide.

Types of Homeschooling Philosophies:

Homeschooling has attracted many ideas and approaches to education and the student.  Some ideas offer more freedom and others more structure.  All have a core belief of individual-based education.  The student and their needs are taken into account above all other considerations.  Generally speaking, the different philosophies of homeschooling are outlined below.

School-at-Home Method 

Companies offer a full curriculum including textbooks and scheduling.  Tests are setup at regular intervals to grade the student on the material covered in the course.  This provides independent records for your child but limits the freedom and creative aspect of this type of learning.  It gives parents peace of mind knowing what each student needs to learn to complete a grade.

Unschooling Method

Freedom and the interest of the student direct this method.  Parents create interesting and fun ways to cultivate the child’s interest.  This method focuses on the development of personal interests.  These interests are the foundation of the child’s future vocation, with the added benefit of developing critical thinking.  Disadvantages include the child being advanced in certain aspects but behind in other subjects, and making the transition back to traditional schooling difficult.

The Classical Homeschooling Method 

This model uses the principles of ‘Trivium’, a philosophy of education developed in the middle ages.  This method divides the education of a person into three stages: the grammar stage focusing on memorizing information and language; the logical stage focusing on forming conclusions, discussion, and debate; and the rhetoric stage focusing on learning the art of argument and persuasion. 

Unit Study Method

The teacher selects one theme for study.  This theme runs through all subjects including math, language, geography, and art.

The Charlotte Mason Homeschooling Method

This method is all about following the natural way children learn.  It encourages the student to love learning, reading, and books.  Engaging and intellectual books on many subjects are meant to surround the child.  This encourages them to learn throughout their lives.

Waldorf Homeschool Method

The Waldorf Homeschool Method incorporates the philosophy of mind, body, and soul.  A holistic approach is in the heart of this method of education.  It divides education into three phases.  The first phase uses playtime and hands-on learning.  Next, the second focuses on art and social development.  Finally, the third stage enhances morality and understanding.

Montessori Method

Perhaps one of the most well-known methods, the Montessori Method is all about the philosophy of learning at your own pace.  This includes creating a dedicated education room with different areas of learning.  The student enters the room and gravitates towards one learning area that attracts their interest.  This inspires learning.  Areas may include life skills, sensory development, math, language, culture, music and art.

Homeschooling families select their core principals and beliefs and match it to a specific homeschooling philosophy.  Others may try a mix and match approach to learning, selecting methods from each philosophy and area as they feel are appropriate.  Our recommendation, especially in this time, is to create your own homeschooling philosophy.  Change it as your family and child develop over time.  You may select a structured approach to math but a free approach to art and science, for instance.  Whatever makes the most sense for you and your child is often the best approach.

Also read The Role of Parents in Youth Sports: Be a Model Parent!

Pros and Cons of Homeschooling

Pros:

  • This approach to education gives the family more time to spend together.  This time develops loving bonds between parents and siblings.  Traditional schooling does not allow as much time for the family to spend together.
  • Homeschooling offers students with freedom – the freedom to study at their own pace, the freedom to push forward in subjects they excel at, but time to pause and rework over material that the student finds challenging.  It also fosters the freedom to study where and when it is optimal for the student and family.  This option accommodates the careers of the parents and sometimes the student.  Students have enough free time to develop in sport and creative talents from an early age. 
  • Homeschooling is an opportunity to be creative and interactive.  Giving your child the opportunity to take part in the development of their own education can be extremely beneficial.  In later years, developing a career-oriented curriculum, with time to gain experience and vocational training, can help them get ahead.  This allows the student to prepare for their chosen career in ways that are superior to more traditional forms of education.

Cons:

  • The student may have limited access to other people with different values and ideas, and social experiences of traditional schooling.  Emotional and socializing with different groups of people is limited to your imagination and the support of the homeschooling community in your area.
  • Social activities like prom and graduation are difficult to accommodate.  With creativity and the homeschooling community, you can limit these problems.
  • This approach has constraints on your finances and time, thus creating a different type of strain on the family.  There are many ways to reduce costs, such as looking for free or secondhand material.  Applying for funding from the state and other resources can help as well.  More research, however, means more time spent planning and searching for ideas to generate enough material within a budget that the local school would have given to you for free.
  • If local schools do not allow your child to partake in extracurricular activities, you will have to use your available budget and whatever the community around you has to offer. 
  • Not all colleges accept homeschool diplomas or certificates.  A portfolio of academic record is vital to prove education.  Standardized tests will prove your child’s level of education by an unbiased reliable source.  That can mean additional costs or efforts that would otherwise not be required with traditional schooling.

The above list of pros and cons is by no means exclusive.  You need to add family circumstances into any calculation for you to have the unique picture your family creates.  This picture will help you decide if this type of education is suitable for you and your children.  Each type of homeschooling style has a unique list of pros and cons as well.  You can maximize the educational impact of the course you select by focusing on its strengths.  Find out-of-the-box thinking solutions to overcome the negative outcomes.  Support groups have a vast amount of experience to help you overcome these problems and using one will make the transition easier on you and your family.

The Psychology of Learning

With the individual student at the heart of the homeschooling philosophy, you need to understand your child.  Using their unique learning personality and style to select a homeschooling program is critical to success.  No matter which type of learning you select, or if your child can return to traditional schooling at some point in the near future, the psychology of learning may help you and your child.  Understanding new ways of learning, you can develop individual study and learning habits.  There are various psychological theories, educational philosophies, and approaches to learning that may apply to your child, as detailed below.

Learning Personalities Define How a Person Interacts with the Learning Material

There are countless theories on personality types.  Many incorporate the same basic principles developed by the ancient Greeks.  The field of psychology debates the usefulness of these tests, splitting into two sides, one in favor and one against.  The advantages to help the student absorb the material are important, though, and worth understanding.  The modern-day versions of these learning personality types are: 

  • Entertainer, Promoter, Realist, Performer: Playful and fun-loving with a general positive outlook.  Defined by their love of people and materialism.  They have a constant need for change.  These people may incorporate the negative traits of being hyperactive and reckless.
  • Healer, Idealist, Dreamer, Harmonizer, Seeker: These people have a strong set of core values.  They want to create an ideal world and are the pursuers of purpose.  They focus on relationships and tend to be spontaneous.  There is a negative side of this dreamer, however – building a fantasy world and failing to act, and requiring deadlines to prevent procrastination.  They need creativity and flexibility.
  • The Field Marshal: This personality type is bold and direct, pursuing goals with logical persistence.  On the flip side, however, they are intimidating and offend others with their controlling personality.
  • Inspector, Investigator, Trustee, Realist: Their core strengths include honesty and reliability, but are prone to hiding their feelings.

These are the four basic personality types, but most people are a combination of at least two.  Online personality tests are available to establish your child’s personality type.  This information is useful to develop or select a learning style best suited for your child.

Learning Styles

Students have a sensory learning method, using a sense to absorb information.  You need to define your child’s category, to some extent, to help you develop a teaching style geared to accommodate them.  Briefly:

  • Visual students need to see the information.  Examples of this method of teaching include videos, flashcards, and images.
  • Auditory students need to hear the information through lectures and discussion.
  • Kinesthetic students need a tactile approach to learning.  Touching and feeling the material is important.  You may include activities such as role-playing and experiments.

You need to understand how your child absorbs information, but many learning methods suggest mixing all three to maximize the learning experience.

Standardized Testing

Standardized testing goes against many of the homeschooling philosophies.  Traditional schools have adopted test-driven education.  This approach to education is the fundamental reason many families have elected to homeschool.  Most sources agree homeschooled students should take either the SAT or the ACT, however.  This allows students to have a recognized standard to prove their educational merit and competency, regardless of whether the student is or is not able or intending to attend college.

Students need to receive high scores in standardized testing, whichever they may end up taking, and whether or not they are homeschooled or traditionally schooled.  To develop competent testing skills takes practice.  A good way to prepare your child for these tests is to conduct annual testing.  Other benefits supporting this approach include:

  • Your child will develop a stress management response to these situations.
  • Regular testing will mark achievements for external validation.
  • Assist colleges to understand the education your child received later in life.
  • These tests exercise memory and recall.
  • Increase written communication and logical thoughts by reproducing answers as requested.
  • Improves your child’s test results when they are ready to take the SAT and the ACT tests.

Check with your local school, as they may include your child in the tests they offer their own students.  Some courses include recognized tests and other assessments. 

Deciding between the SAT and ACT

There are some things to consider before selecting which test your child takes, the SAT or the ACT.  The first is to research which test is your child’s selected or desired college requesting?  Which test will give your child the best possible outcome?  The SAT and the ACT both measure math, reading, and writing ability.  The ACT includes general knowledge and science.  The SAT includes basic knowledge and critical thinking.  Consult the college your child wishes to attend before deciding which to take. 

Preparation and Testing Considerations

Resources available for either test include prep courses and material available both online and in schools and other institutions.  Allocate time for your child to study and take practice tests.  Practice tests are important to your child.  Students need to familiarize themselves with the format and types of questions that will be asked.  This may also help push your child toward one test over the other.

While the essay section of the test is optional, it’s best to complete it.  Before deciding to skip it, you have to consider a few things.  Understand the reason your child is choosing not to complete it.  They may need confidence or practice to make them feel prepared.  This section of the test is an admission requirement for many colleges. 

Students with special needs may get extra consideration during testing.  These may include large-type and braille test books.  These accommodations are subject to the College Board’s approval.  Working with a councilor makes the application process easier and will ensure you give your child every advantage possible.  Once approved, the requested accommodation will appear on your child’s admission ticket.

Special Needs Children

Special needs students need time and expert teachers.  You have resources including funding and teaching programs available from the state.  This funding is available even if you are educating at home.  Many expert teachers and other required specialists will come to your home.  You need to understand your child’s needs and learning styles to select the best option available.  With homeschooling, your child will receive individual attention and a tailored approach to education.

Requirements and Accreditation of Homeschooling

Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states in the United States, and many other countries where homeschooling is gaining in popularity.  Each state has its own laws governing K-12 education and the requirements for student learning.  These requirements are subject to change, of course.  Review them at the beginning of the school year.  Adjust your homeschooling curriculum to accommodate different or new requirements.  You may want to consider the college requirements and the benefits of standardized testing and include this information in your curriculum.

In terms of college requirements, you need a full educational history for all students for college admission.  This may include a portfolio or a history notebook of your child’s education.  The benefits of keeping this documentation do not end there.  Your child can see their own growth in each subject.  The focus is moving away from being “good” or “bad” in any given subject, to focus on “this how much I have improved and grown through practice”.  This gives internal motivation and positive reinforcement lacking in other methods of assessment.

Step-by-Step Guide to Homeschooling

K-12 homeschooling is available, adaptable, and evolving.  You can make changes as your family and your child grow and develop into the adults they are becoming.  Here’s a helpful step-by-step guide to the basics of homeschooling:

Step 1:  Check legal requirements as per the state where the student will spend the most time learning.  It is legal to register in two separate states if the student or family has a transient lifestyle.

Step 2:  Assess your child’s needs.  You may include reviewing their personality, learning styles and preferences.

Step 3:  Decide on a goal and purpose for the school year.

Step 4:  Plan steps to help your child reach the state and personal goals as selected.

Step 5:  Search for possible funding options that may be available to you.

Step 6:  Plan your budget for the homeschooling curriculum.  You need to allow for field trips, sports, art classes, and other activities.  These play an important part to further enrich the learning experience.

Step 7:  Select a homeschooling curriculum suited to your goals and needs.

Congratulations, you’re now set to start homeschooling!

Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I take a personality test?

Personality testing is available from many sites, such as https://psychologia.co/16-personalities-test/.

What are the reasons parents choose to homeschool their children?

The reasons parents decide to homeschool are as varied as the parenting styles they adopt.  The educational world is evolving to include new ideas and approaches to education.  With the increase of digital and other resources, parents have more options.  Many studies support individual learning-based or learner-driven education.

What resources are available to me and my child?

It depends on where you live.  There are homeschool conventions available in most states.  These events will give you access to the latest programs and trends.  You have the opportunity to meet other homeschool families in your state.  If your state does not offer these conventions, don’t worry.  There is a large community of homeschool families.  Many have developed podcasts and support groups to give you a world of information.

How do I register my child for standardized testing?

You can register online for either test. 

SAT online registration: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat/register

ACT online registration: http://www.act.org/content/act/en/products-and-services/the-act/registration.html

These websites will give you the latest information available for the test.

What are the registration requirements for standardized testing?

Registration requirements for both the SAT and the ACT test are essentially the same.  They include:

  • A photo ID like a driver’s license is typically required to be presented at the test site on the test date as well.
  • You are required to complete a form using full legal names as appearing on your child’s photo ID document.
  • Upload a clear high-quality passport photo, where both eyes and face are visible, and includes the head and shoulders of the person.  You are not allowed to wear headcovers unless they are for religious purposes.
  • Homeschooled students will receive an admission ticket.
  • Your name and photo must match the name and photo on the ID you are planning to take with you on the day of testing.
  • For children with special needs, the admission ticket will display the approved accommodation(s).
  • On the test day, take with you the admission ticket, photo ID, a calculator, eraser, and number 2 pencil(s).

Conclusion

Homeschooling may not have been in your plans, and may not be something you seek to continue long-term.  But it is a reality right now for many parents.  Learning about how homeschooling works in normal times, the principles and philosophies of learning behind it, and the various benefits and drawbacks of homeschooling can help parents to better educate their child or children during this time.  It may even be a turning point, depending on how your children perform or prefer homeschooling, to consider it as a viable long-term alternative to traditional schooling.

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