"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we have nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."
~ From A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Isn't that the most magnificent first sentence of a book! While Dickens was referring to two cities, Paris and London, during the French Revolution, it turns out this sentence can be applied to many time periods and circumstances. I happen to think it's a good summation of where we are in 2020.
The pandemic has caused fear, heartbreak, anxiety and uncertainty for all, truly. However, for many, it is much worse, with food, shelter and employment insecurities, safety concerns, and firsthand loss. For others, it has become a time of working from home, spending more time at home with family playing games, watching movies, putting together puzzles, working on home improvements, reading lots of books, tending to the yard and garden, and generally enjoying the slowed and simplified life imposed by isolation and shut-downs. If you belong to this latter group, as I do, please know you are privileged, and count your blessings.
At this time, in the middle of summer, many parents are contemplating whether to send their kids back to public/private schools in the fall and what that will look like for their family. Some parents are not happy with distance learning, some are worried about in-person classrooms, others are wondering what it might be like to homeschool their kids for a year or more, after having them out of school distance learning for 3 months of the last school year.
1. Where do I start?
2. What do I have to teach?
3. Where do you get your curriculum/What do you recommend?
4. How much time does it take each day?
So, I decided I would answer these questions and share with you my opinion on the matter. It's important to note that I did say MY OPINION. You can take it or leave it. After five years homeschooling my kids after four years of public and private schools, I think I have a perspective that could be helpful to those weighing this decision.
- Where do I start?
It's quite easy to officially begin. You simply fill out the very short Intention to Homeschool form and send it to your school district's Superintendent. However, it is the planning and mental commitment that will take more time and energy. If you are in a state other than Minnesota, please start by looking up your state's homeschooling requirements.
First of all, you must consider what your goals are for your family. Homeschool, especially if it will be done for just one "pandemic" year can be a replica of what your child would receive from public school, a mix and match of basic curriculum, including math, reading, grammar/spelling and whatever else you choose to study, a very relaxed reading, play, home skills based education, tailored to your kids' ages and interests, an online school that is very hands-off for the parents or something entirely different. The point is it is up to you and your kids what and how and when you study.
Each family has a different set of reasons for deciding to homeschool. I do realize that this year is different though and many who would normally have never considered it are pondering it now.
I started homeschooling my two boys five years ago because my kids are dyslexic and were not getting what they needed from their public school and the amazing private school was too expensive for our kids to continue there. It worked out well for us, and now my dyslexic kids love reading and both read well above their grade levels and have for several years now. We continue to homeschool because we came to love the flexibility it gave us to travel, go on lots of hands-on field trips and choose how and what we study. I want my kids to really love learning. Honestly, there are days that we all question why we are doing this and there are subjects (math) that we all hate, but most days we love our set up.
I I suggest you sit down and outline what you and your kids hope to gain through this unusual, but really could be awesome, opportunity to educate and spend a lot of quality time together.
I will say that if your kid is in high school, and you truly mean to homeschool for only this coming year, I recommend calling the guidance counselor at their school and talking to them about what your kid should study for this year. This way your child can seamlessly go back to public/private school. How and where and when your kid studies the recommended or necessary classes is still up to you. Just create a transcript for your child and keep track of what they are studying.
2. What do I have to teach?
Minnesota law is not specific to how, when, why, or to what extent you teach subjects. It simply says that homeschool education must cover reading, writing, literature, fine arts, math, science, history, geography, health and physical education. Many homeschooling families could easily say these topics are covered on a daily basis.
We start with the basics each year: math and grammar/spelling/reading. I have switched curriculums several times over the years and usually use several materials at once. Then, we discuss what we want to focus on for history, science & literature. I don't buy curriculum for these subjects. I buy books and do research for online activities, lessons, documentaries, field trips, online classes, etc. I toss in typing, art (studying artists, visiting museums, making our own art, etc), PE (any physical activities we choose: nature walks, skiing, snowshoeing, archery, shooting hoops in the driveway, dancing, etc.) and some extracurricular activities (which are limited this year, of course).
I'll answer the last two questions in Part 2 to be posted right after this one. I tend to get a little long winded.
Here are a couple of "pro" tips:
- I write out a lesson plan for the week on Sunday night. Really each week can be and often is a little different based on our schedule and what we are studying. I have picked up $3 lesson plan books at Target for the past several years, and they work just fine.
- Check out Homeschool Adventures website for all kinds of classes, activities, field trips. It is a wonderful resource for getting out and exploring and learning, even if much of it will be virtual this year.
- Ordway Education offers amazing programming for an equally amazing cost. Again, I'm not sure what that will look like this year with no programming until spring, but check out their website for past performances and educational material.
- Believe in yourself, learn as you go, trust your kids and your gut and if you are doing this for just one year, you will not ruin your kids' academic progress/future even if you do almost nothing….although I do not suggest you do nothing. I recommend that you embrace this opportunity to spend some amazing time learning with your kids.
Over and out…