I homeschooled my kids for twelve years. For the past seven years, my other kids have attended public school. And now, here I am, mulling over what to do because of this pandemic. And, honestly, we’re leaning towards bringing the kids home and either doing the online virtual school or homeschooling them.
Which has led me to a series of things to consider. So many questions, honestly. As I mulled them over on a walk with my husband he told me, “You know, you are probably not the only one trying to figure this all out. Maybe you should consider writing what we’ve been discussing. I’m guessing someone probably needs it. You have a perspective that would help.”
And one last thing – there are many who don’t get to choose simply due to finances, work, etc…. our job is to not judge…our job is to support each other. No matter the choice.
So here goes. My thoughts.
- There is NO PERFECT option. At least right now. This pandemic has ripped out the foundation of our normal and there is no one size fits all perfect solution. And chances are when you make a decision you’ll question the decision and wonder if it is right. That’s okay. That’s normal. That means you love. But here’s the deal: we are strong and our kids are strong and we will adapt. Even if it wasn’t the right decision, it is still a decision. And that matters.
- Be kind. Just like there is no perfect decision for you there is no perfect decision for your friends and your kids’ friends and pretty much everyone. It’s easy to get a bit cranky and lose the perspective of kindness. Please remember that kindness matters greatly. Love your friends, respect their decision and create unity, not division.
- Understand your timeline. This is important. Let me tell you again, this is highly important. Why? It actually adjusts how you teach and what the best option for you might be. Here in Tennessee if you opt to homeschool your kids there is a high chance they will be tested before you re-enter the school district. One of the things we talked about was that if we planned on them going back to public school that we print out the scope and sequence of what they need to learn so that they stay on target. That is a different strategy then deciding to homeschool for a long haul because then the re-entry test isn’t as pressing each year.
- Read. Learn. Every single state has different requirements for homeschooling. Every single state has varying guidelines as well. Connect with local groups (just be kind, mine gets so divisive at times) and be willing to learn. Don’t let others’ decisions threaten your decision. Instead, think of it as a time to learn.
- Virtual Schooling isn’t the same as homeschooling. Just like the timeline is different, online public school means that you are still required to report your progress, your attendance and your work to a teacher who reports it to the state. Depending on the state you live in you might also have to do the standardized tests. Now, this isn’t necessarily a negative thing. If you’re looking at doing this for a year many of the online public schools have the state credentials to help your child move back into the grade they would when they would re-enroll at the brick and mortar school.
- Virtual Schooling within your school district is also different. Where I live there isn’t as much knowledge about what virtual schooling with my school district would look like which makes me a bit more hesitant to jump on that option. And in all fairness, to my amazing school district, they are doing the best they can, trying to create something that never really existed before without understanding the numbers. For our high schoolers, there isn’t the opportunity to take AP or Honor’s Classes. Also, many school districts are offering All Virtual or Follow the Traditional/Hybrid/Remote model. For some that might work. For us, we’re trying to decide if we go for more stability or deal with a school system that is constantly shifting.
- Homeschooling, in the traditional sense, offers the most flexibility for multiple grade levels. For instance, you could teach the same History lesson but tier the level of work. It also allows for your family to take time off, to not report at mandatory times and to not have to be on the computer for synchronous learning times. It also requires money. Yes, you could do it for free, but in the twelve years that I homeschooled I never found that option really to work. We were chatting and realized we would probably spend between $200-500 on math materials alone. So keep that in mind. It also requires a high level of discipline – to stay on target, to keep up with things and so forth. But if you have many to teach (As I will because we have a blended family) then traditional homeschooling, even with the re-entry test, might be the route we take.
- Homeschooling and Virtual Schooling changes the parent relationship. There’s just no way around this. Yes, it strengthens it and provides times to really get to know your kids. But it also stretches it and tests it. No longer are you just the parent, but now you are also the teacher and in my experience that is where the butting of heads can happen. Just give everyone grace, truly.
- Talk with your kids. For months we’ve been telling them to social distance, to be careful, about masks and so forth. At one point we realized, “Have we ever asked them what they are comfortable with?” Now granted, the final decision is ours, but it was good to hear them express their thoughts and concerns. Some of the kids were nervous about getting sick or what would happen. Some missed friends. But that dialogue is crucial. Presenting the options and sharing with them what their life would look like is an essential step.
- Friends and socialization looks different. I think, honestly, that’s one of the hardest parts for me in all of this. My kids have great friends at school. They love being around them. They want to hang out. But, time, for a bit, has changed. And that is what we talk about as a family. It IS NOT FOREVER. Sometimes you have to do the hard things so that the good things return. So for now, I’m grateful for interactions they have with each other, online and at times when they can distance, while being safe. We get to create this space for them.
- Kids are resilient. My oldest two graduated as homeschool students. My other kids entered the public school system. My third daughter graduated high school and did great. All of the kids made the transition from home to school fairly well. Where there were holes (because there were – and in my case I didn’t plan the timeline for re-entry) they were quickly filled. Kids learn. Kids adapt. There will always be places you wished you had done differently. But I encourage you to constantly strive to see the good, to see the benefits before spending time focusing on the holes.
- People care. In all ways. I’m going to confess that when I was a homeschooler years and years ago that I was afraid of the public school system. I’m not even sure how that happened, honestly. But I was greatly humbled when my kids went to school. Everyone there invested in them, cared about them and they learned so much. Right now, no matter what you decide, it is so important to realize that teachers and administrators and everyone really do care. They are invested in our kids, that next generation. So going back to point two – just be kind. No one will get it right, but if we remember that we’re trying, then perhaps we’ll get through this time a bit kinder, a bit softer and with more compassion and empathy than ever before.
I know normal is so different right now. I also understand wishing it could go back to years when the most challenging thing was that the start time to school was different. But, my friend, normal has a way of returning. It will ebb and flow and we will push and try but then, one day, there it will be. Normal.
This is the time when you get to explore, get to be brave, get to write the new normal.
You can do hard things.
You will get through, you will make a decision and one day you will look back and think, “Remember when?”
who is, just so you know, still mulling it all over.