Pulling Kid/s Out of Conventional School?

A few years after my first child was born and I had second child on the way, I already knew I was going to homeschool my children.  With my oldest entering university this fall, I can look back and count it our advantage that my children were purely schooled at home. An advantage, at least, when it comes to being able to homeschool from end to finish with less challenges.

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Enjoying the empty playground while all the school kids are in the building

I’ve seen homeschooled children try conventional school, decide to switch back, waver, and thereafter have had to struggle with “the grass is greener on the other side” syndrome. There will be perks to homeschooling and there will be fun experiences in real school (especially for the only child or siblings with greater age gaps).  It’s only human to struggle. When doubts set in, it won’t be as easy.

As a parent with children who have never actually gone to conventional school, I can only share thoughts from that point of view. My blog posts are set in that sort of context; that I homeschooled my children officially from preschool and we just kept on. It’s all we know.  We have nothing to compare it with.

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I cannot confirm from experience what kind of results transitioning children from conventional school to homeschooling would have. And I’m certain it will differ depending on the age of the child. I can, however, share some of the issues that one might have to watch out for from the point of view of a person who actually didn’t homeschool and attended a brick and mortar school all her life and is now daily witness to children who are the opposite. What are some concrete steps one can take in order to avoid the natural response of resistance to the kind of change involved in the switch?

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CONSIDER THE PAST

The reasons why you are pulling your child out of conventional school should be clear to you.  Keeping these in mind will help motivate you when you undergo challenges in your homeschool (and you will!).  You also have to realise that the transition doesn’t occur just by recreating the classroom in your home. Teachers in school have a job of managing a whole classroom of students and at the same time be able to impart some knowledge to them or train them towards a skill.  They also have the job of being able to create a way to evaluate the learning that is progressing in each child.  This method of measuring learning must be easy enough to implement since there will be a number of individual students to evaluate.

On the other hand, parents who homeschool aren’t too concerned about creating a standard to evaluate learning that is going on in the home.  The results of one’s teaching is seen almost automatically.  You can tell when they understand and are “getting it” and you can tell when they are not.  The evaluation is almost instantaneous and can be remedied right then and there. It happens daily and is ongoing.  Just like when you were first helping your child to take his first steps. You knew the day after what he was capable of from witnessing yesterday.

Thus, you must give your child time to get used to the idea that learning does not have to occur in such a cycle as being fed information then undergoing testing/evaluation to the point that the main motivation for “learning” is to do well on tests and get good grades (end of story). On your part, don’t feel overwhelmed that you have to structure your days and plan it like teachers have to in classrooms. Learning in the context of homeschooling happens in a more natural, informal, and intimate context.  It is so connected to daily life it becomes part of life.

Children who are transitioning from conventional school should be given some time to love to learn.

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IMG_0387LOOK A LITTLE FORWARD

Likewise, your decision to homeschool was a result of considering your options, weighing the pros and cons, and counting the cost.  Having a clear picture of this process in your mind (write it out if you have to!) will give you the commitment to see your decision through. Homeschooling is not a fad or the “in” thing to do; it is a commitment that entails a huge responsibility.  And as with every choice we make, it will have its consequences.

As you consider the whys and wherefores, you must also consider your goals.  Considering how long you plan to homeschool and at what stage you intend to send back the kids to school would have a bearing on how you will carry out your homeschooling plans.  When I decided that I would attempt to homeschool my first two children (who were close in age) through high school, I made sure that my plans included looking up college admissions requirements for homeschoolers.

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TAKE TIME TO GET TO KNOW YOUR CHILD

My children get about 9-10 hours of sleep a day.  I recall I may have slept about the same number of hours as a youngster but that meant sleeping really early to wake up for school bus pick-up at 6:30am (since we lived quite a distance).  If your child has been attending a brick and mortar school these past few years, he’s been spending about another third of the day or more (depending on where you are in the globe) in school or school-related activities.  When he comes home, there is homework to do.

Think about the time that is left in the day for you to spend unhurried, quality time getting to know your child who spends that amount of time on rest/sleep and school. Not much, huh?

When you embark on this journey called homeschooling, you will have time to eat three meals a day with your child.  Even if you had chores/a home to manage and/or a home-based business or had other younger children to look after, there will be that opportunity to be together and do things together, creating many, many opportunities to learn together.

Establish the dynamics in your relationship so that you can set your new role.  It will take some adjusting for both of you but taking the time to do this now will help avoid relational problems in the future.  You have to ensure that your child sees you as his loving authority who will only work towards his good.

Learn to enjoy each other and enjoy homeschooling.

A short field trip to downtown and to try public transport for the first time

A short field trip to downtown and to try public transport for the first time

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Our school lunch break out of doors when weather permits

TAKE YOUR TIME

No need to rush and buy the most popular curricula for each subject.  Assuming your child is somewhere in the elementary grades, I would suggest keeping him up to speed with his math and language arts (phonics/spelling, grammar) skills. Then, spend the rest of the time either sharpening reading skills (through easy readers and beginning chapter books), assigning things to read, and reading aloud depending on the level of your child.

The public library, our second home

The public library, our second home

If you happen to live where there are public libraries, then start there.  Search for a good homeschooling resource (reference book or websites) or a free homeschool catalog online and use these as a place to refer to book lists as well as research more about homeschooling. You can borrow books for science, history, literature, worldview, poetry, art and music appreciation, arts and crafts or art skills.

If public libraries are not available to you, there are also used books stores or they may be sites you have access to where homeschoolers sell used resources.  If you have a little money available (perhaps budget you would have otherwise spent on tuition?), I would suggest getting packaged curricula that contains books to read (not workbooks or textbooks).

Sonlight Curriculum is one of my favourites.  I credit my children’s love for reading to the Sonlight cores we’ve done.  The founders of Sonlight began the company specifically for missionaries abroad who are homeschooling and have no access to public libraries.  Coincidentally, Sonlight celebrates their 25th anniversary this year and are giving free cores as grand prizes. The draw is on June 26th so if you are interested, you can use the link below this post to register.

Whether you have a library or looking to wisely purchase some key resources, here are some links to sites and resources I have used throughout our homeschooling years:

There is no one step-by-step formula to a homeschooling program. This is true even for my five children.  The beauty of homeschooling is we can design a program of studies depending on a child’s learning style and interest (and of course, mom’s learning and teaching style and availability).  At the same time, this can be a challenge since we cannot just apply a method of homeschooling one child to another.  That would be the way in a conventional school.  That is why I made sure to warn readers of my blog in our home page that “…what may be working for us today may not work for us tomorrow. Most definitely, what works for us may not be the solution in your family.”

In choosing math and language arts curricula and what level to acquire for your child, there are usually placement tests in the website of individual suppliers. Go to those to determine what level to assign to your child.  Read product descriptions or product reviews carefully so as to ensure you are getting a good picture of what you are planning to purchase and how it is used.  Will you be able to handle it?  Will your child?

As you begin your homeschool journey, begin slowly.  Again, less is more. Give yourself and your child time. It’s tempting to have all the fancy curricula and just have them sit there on your shelf for months.  In my years of homeschooling I’ve learned that the success in choosing curricula and resources is measured not by which you have (the latest or most improved) or how much you have but how much of what you own you actually use to its fullest potential.  Sometimes, we use a homeschool program very superficially, we’re not really getting the value that the authors/publishers have put into it.

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Walking back the 14 blocks home from the library

So, when you acquire curricula and they are sitting on your shelf ready for use, research about them. Understand the philosophy behind them. Find websites/groups that discuss how to implement them. Listen to other homeschoolers’ experiences about them.  This will equip you to begin using them.

Then, test them on your children and keep at them. Bring the knowledge you have into your lessons and improvise if you have to but try to use your curricula instead of tiring yourself reinventing the wheel. Don’t switch and look for something better at the first sight of difficulties. Don’t doubt your ability to homeschool. Remember those reasons why you pulled out your child from conventional school?  And those reasons you decided on homeschooling as an alternative?  Ask yourself whether those reasons are worth the attempt to learn how to homeschool your particular child. Homeschooling is not just children learning; it’s mom learning alongside them and that includes learning how your schooling at home will take shape.

Mom-to-Mom Curriculum Giveaway – See more at: http://25.sonlight.com/my-account/#sthash.jbuLBTZp.dpuf

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