March 12, 2020

Coronavirus Led Me to Homeschooling; Now What?

On March 11, 2020, coronavirus panic in the U.S. ramped up significantly - and just a day later, it was in full overdrive. As I write on the evening of March 12, there's no telling how long the hysteria will last or what its long-term ramifications will be. But what is undeniable is that - warranted or not - people are being forced to change many aspects of their normal lifestyles.

Among parents with school-aged children, no small number is dealing with the indefinite closure of their kids' schools. And "social distancing" recommendations - again, whether warranted or not - mean those children (and their parents) must remain largely at home. Some closed schools are activating online learning platforms, ostensibly requiring (though probably without long-term enforcement capabilities) that students log on and complete schoolwork virtually. However, not all schools have such capabilities - and many students do not have access to compatible devices in their homes even if schools attempt to mandate "attendance."

In response to this situation, it's entirely possible that a noticeably large number of parents may opt to entirely abandon institutional schools - public and private - and turn, instead, to home-based education, particularly private, independent homeschooling. At the risk of sounding like an "ambulance chaser," I must admit - as a sold-out homeschooler - that I see a possible increase in homeschooling families as a very positive side effect of an admittedly stressful, unfortunate turn of events. After all, parents choosing to take direct, personal responsibility for their kids' education is always a good thing, even if the impetus for doing so is something we wish would not have happened. And I hope that many parents who currently intend to homeschool only until this crisis abates will realize the beauty and benefits of home learning and continue long after school doors reopen.

I am ready to help any in my sphere of influence as they get going; contact me HERE if interested. And I call on other homeschoolers to likewise come alongside any "newbies" they might meet, in person or online.

If you are a coronavirus-driven homeschooler, let me first acknowledge that I know you're probably scared as all get-out. You may have been mulling over homeschooling before or it may never have crossed your mind. But now here you are. Your kids are home and you feel compelled to "do something" educational with them, hoping to avoid "screwing them up" in the process.

First, let me assure you that you will not hurt them. Any parent who chooses to become intentional about facilitating his or her kids' learning is perfectly equipped to do well for one simple but very powerful, double-pronged reason: you know your kids better than anyone else on the planet (yes, you do!), and you love them more than any other person ever will. That knowledge and love will motivate you to do your homework as you jump into homeschooling. And, spurred on by love, you will discover your kids' learning strengths and weaknesses, find good resources, and put in the necessary time and effort. Your homeschool "qualification" is your child's birth certificate!

Assuming you believe me, I know you're still wondering about the nuts and bolts of getting started. In fact, shelves and shelves of books have been written on the question of "how to homeschool." But you don't have time to find and read them; your kids are home now, and you've decided to jump on the homeschool bandwagon, ready or not. So let me offer a just a few "ground zero" tips to consider right now:

  1. Understand your state's homeschool law. I sincerely hope that no bureaucrats will come after well-meaning parents who decide to homeschool on the COVID-19 fly and inadvertently forget to cross some legal t or dot an i - but we can't count on them to exhibit grace and compassion even in crisis. So you need to follow your state's homeschool law from the beginning. If you do an internet search for your state's law, you'll find myriad sources - but some are more reliable than others, and it's impossible to tell at first glance which are reputable. So I recommend reaching out to an experienced homeschooler in your area - look for local homeschool groups on Facebook - to get you headed in the right direction. If you're in Wisconsin, ask me; I've even detailed various elements of the Wisconsin homeschool law HERE;
  2. I recommend that new homeschoolers take a period of time to "deschool," which I believe is critically important. However, deschooling often involves getting out and about in the community - to rebuild family relationships, give children (and parents!) time to decompress from school-style thinking, and enable a parent to begin seeing his/her kids as learners - and, sadly, the virus scare may preclude much of that for a time. But don't be discouraged. Partake in the wonderful, valuable deschooling activities that are currently possible, and save outside-the-home things for later. Deschooling activities are all educational - they can be easily categorized into school-style "subject areas" if you feel so compelled - so don't feel one ounce of guilt for spending time on them;
  3. When you feel ready to find curricula, realize that there's a plethora of options available to you - in all subject areas, for all learning styles, for kids of all ages, from multiple religious/worldview perspectives, at a wide variety of price points. If you're really interested in seeing all the possibilities, take a look at The Homeschool Resource Roadmap charts HERE ...or - if you want to avoid all connection to the common core standards - HERE. You'll be amazed - and perhaps overwhelmed - by all the options from which you have to choose...but if you're game for digging into the links, you can find something to meet the needs of each of your children;
  4. I don't pretend to know what resources are best for every child - remember that you alone are the expert on your kids - but I know that the prospect of pouring over the long Roadmap lists - or even my shorter lists of personal recommendations - can be very daunting for new homeschoolers (and for many veterans as well). So I'd like to suggest just a few (reasonably-priced, easy-to-use) basic options to consider trying for the next few months as you get your feet wet. Though you may not end up using these for the long term (homeschoolers often switch around several times in their first few years as they hone in on their kids' real needs and usually end up becoming "eclectic" - i.e., picking and choosing from different companies for different "subject areas" - along the way), all are solid and thorough such that you can feel secure in giving them a shot:

    Christian Light Education
    Fun-Schooling (The Thinking Tree)
    - Gather Round Homeschool
    Homeschool Share
    Master Books
    Monarch (Alpha-Omega Publications)
    Queen Homeschool Supplies
    - Robinson Self-Teaching Curriculum, The
    - Under the Home
    - Weaver (Alpha-Omega Publications)

Above all else, give yourself - and your children - grace. As with any new endeavor, beginning to homeschool means that you will face an inevitable learning curve and experience some bumps and obstacles along the way. Depending on your situation, the journey may be pretty rough at times. But the rewards - personal autonomy for yourself and your kids, freedom from the stress that accompanies institutional school schedules, deepened family relationships, the sense of accomplishment that comes from knowing you've taken direct responsibility for your kids' academic learning - make the difficulties worth it in the end. The coronavirus situation is certainly not something to celebrate...but we can and should acknowledge and embrace good things (like more families choosing to homeschool) that sprout from it.

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