Yay! You’ve decided to homeschool!
You join a group to be a part of like-minded families. After feeling you out they mention that they don’t think you homeschool. What?!
Look. Active groups attract people who are interested in homeschooling. Some groups are participation based and some are information based. Local homeschool groups get hit up with a lot of (1) young parents trying to figure out what to do with their 3-6 year olds, (2) parents who claim to be homeschooling their 4-6 year old because of forced enrollment policy, (3) parents who want to homeschool but don’t want to actually do it. As a military family homeschooling overseas we get a fourth type of request; (4) parents who are forced into homeschooling because they are denied access to the public school facilities on the military post.
Most of these types of parents are either looking for fun or educational social meetups or for someone to teach their kids. So they start looking for homeschoolers. Because they do that stuff, so what is one more family along for the ride? Cool I get it. I wish communities and hometowns that claim to be family oriented would put together trips for families too.
The problem is homeschoolers are not prepared to help every person who is sitting on the fence with one foot in on both sides. Why? You have homeschoolers who avoid helping newbies because after investing a lot of time into showing them the ropes, they enroll their kids 6 months down the road.
Homeschooling is many things and it can be hard to explain what it is, but here are 3 things homeschooling is not.
There is No such thing as Part-time Homeschooling
I am going to hurt someone’s feelings for this. You will get the stink eye for claiming to be homeschooling part-time. Polite homeschoolers will simply ignore you.
Seriously. All the things you think qualifies you as a part-time homeschooler, are things we do as parenting. Yes. It is called being a parent. It is obvious to everyone else that you are sitting on the fence. For most Homeschoolers the problem comes when you disappear 6 months later. I thought we were friends? Where are you and why am I left telling the kids we can’t hangout anymore? This sucks on so many levels and the number one reason why we don’t rush to make best friends with people investigating homeschooling. We wait until you figure you really want to do this.
Let’s talk about homeschoolers taking a class or two at a public school. They are not homeschooling part-time. They are homeschooling while taking a course at the local high school or college.
If you replicate a classroom, class schedule, AND rely on a school or charter to educate your child. You are schooling-at-home. This is a gray area for homeschoolers and it comes down to whether or not you are able to engage with other homeschoolers on a regular basis.
If your kids are enrolled in public school and you homeschool them on the weekends, THIS IS NOT HOMESCHOOLING. Parents are known to provide extra help or do fun stuff with their kids all the time. Maybe not the parents on your block, but really it is quite a normal parent thing to do.
I don’t have issues with a family homeschooling everyone except for that one kids that wants to attend a public school full-time. There is nothing wrong with that. You talked to your kids and you are doing what’s best for your family. Skip the guilt trip, we are not worried about you.
Homeschooling is Not a Marathon
Let’s talk about the homeschoolers who only does one hour of stuff and feels guilty for it. There is a lot of guilt thrown at parents for not doing enough for or with their kids. Chill. Look those people who are harassing you and tell them to stop bullying you. Yes, family and friends are sometimes bullies and you need to call them out on it. They claim to do that from a place of love, but if they genuinely care they would support you. Are they interested in coming over and teaching your kid all the things they feel are missing? Sweet! Make them come over and demonstrate they know what they are talking about.
Look. Homeschooling doesn’t have an age, grade, or time requirement. There is no set time in the day to do it. There are no requirements to perform a certain way by a certain time. If you have a requirement by your state to record your homeschooling activities, take tests, or to use certain materials-these are state policies. Not homeschooling policies. Your homeschooling friends don’t need your score card.
Homeschooling is Not an Excuse
Over the years we have seen some tragic and horrible things happen under the banner of homeschooling. People who don’t enroll their kids and then neglect their children’s development. This is abuse. The homeschooling community will not save you. They can not advise you or support you. Homeschooling means we put our children’s needs first. A relaxed-laid back homeschool is not the same as parent who neglects and endangers their kids.
I have also seen homeschoolers get taken advantage of people who claim to be co-ops but are in fact private academies attempting to operate under the laws governing homeschool. Usually people who fall for this kind of hustle really wanted to send their kids to private school, but the cost deterred them. Or they don’t have confidence in their own abilities to homechool and allow someone else to convince them their kids are better off in a “co-op.” First off there are laws against this in most states.
Note: A true homeschool co-op has an active body of parents or students organizing the activities. It’s purpose is to share resources and split the cost of those resources. Co-ops tend to offer classes because you are already using these resources and everybody wants to save time. A co-op is not there to relieve you of providing an education.
If you do get involved with one, you should find the price of materials about the same is getting it on your own or cheaper. Sometimes a co-op is able to get a deal with a bulk-buy. A red flag should go up if the cost of classes start to resemble tuition. And if you are a co-op meeting on a military base, you need to sit down and really consider what you are doing. There are hoops you need to go through initially and on an annual basis. In addition, you should know a co-op on post cannot solicit or accept money.
Look. Not all co-ops are bad. We have had a couple of good experiences and a couple of bad ones. Sometimes they are a good place to meet other homeschooling families. But like public school, they are often filled with classes that don’t leave much time for socialization. The thing about co-ops is that everyone comes together, decides what they are going to do, agree to set of rules they feel is fair. Be careful of anyone setting the agenda and presenting co-op laws without your input.
Here is what I know. You can make group deals without being part of a co-op. You can find bargains for yourself. A lot of places are willing to work with you if you genuinely can explain why you need materials at a cheaper price. Not every homeschooler wants to do exactly what you want to do and in exactly the same way you want to do it.
Wait. You didn’t join the co-op for educational reasons? Cool. You don’t need to join a co-op to find friends. Look for opportunities to meet up with other homeschoolers on your own terms. Or if it doesn’t exist. Make one.
BUT, I still think we are homeschooling
If you still insist that you are homeschooling, then maybe you really are sitting on the fence. Maybe you are going through a transition phase. Quite a few parents have stood where you are at. Here are three books I recommend you read to help you make a better decision.
These are my top 3 recommendations for new Homeschoolers.
Usually you can find these in any library.
Free to Learn, Peter Gray
Home Grown, Ben Hewitt
How Children Learn, John Holt
If these don’t help you decide homeschooling is the best thing for your family, then maybe you should consider advocating for a better public school experience.. Or maybe simply recognize you are a cool parent that likes to do cool stuff with your kids.
You Don’t Have to Be A Homeschooler to be Friends with a Homeschooler
Hey. It is not okay to depend on your homeschooling friends to provide a curriculum for you.
When you say you are truly homeschooling, but turn around and ask what is homeschooling, we all take a couple of steps back. We have no clue why you want to homeschool or what you want to get out of it. When you ask for help but haven’t done any of thing to let us help you, it’s like telling us you are lost, without telling us what town you are in or any landmarks.
Plus, the moment we tell you “this is what you should do” we immediately feel like hypocrites. Especially because we have been around long enough to know every family is different… and we have no money invested in your game or outcome.
Your homeschooling friends want to hangout with you. They want to go on play dates with you. They are willing to go on trips with you. They probably are pretty cool with answering your questions about homeschooling.
What they don’t want to be is responsible for your lifestyle and curriculum choices.
Your questions are not the problem. Your expectations of the answers is.
Most homeschoolers stopped waiting for someone to give them all the answers.
We suggest you do the same. Make a rough plan that feels right to you. Than do it.
We trust you.
Isn’t it time you start trusting yourself?