Are you trying to decide if you should continue enrolling your children in public school or if you should start homeschooling?
Choosing between public school, virtual/online school, and homeschool can feel like a big decision during times of normalcy, but carries additional stressors for the 2020-21 school year.
I'm sharing the things we considered when deciding to withdraw our kids from public school to homeschool.
If you are feeling anxious and unsure about the upcoming school year, I hope reading my decision making process helps you – no matter which option you end up choosing.
Why We Switched to Homeschooling
Before I dive into how we went about this decision, I want to clarify a few things. First, we absolutely loved our neighborhood school and the amazing staff that work there.
Second, there was a lot of thought put into our decision and we recognize the privilege we have in this situation. Third, we are not judging other families. None of this is easy and we are all trying to do the best we can with the options we have available.
I briefly considered homeschooling when my oldest was born, but that was more in a super optimistic-new-mom kind of way. I attended public school and knew very little about homeschooling though.
I didn't entertain the idea of homeschooling for long. My daughter is such an extrovert (I'm an introvert). At three years old, she started asking about going to school, so I enrolled her in preschool.
From then on out, there was no question that my kids would attend school. She seemed to thrive there.
So what changed?
The simple answer is the pandemic. The more complex answer is all the things we discovered and were forced to consider for our family.
Distance Learning did not work for us
I feel like I need to repeat that again. Distance learning did not work for us. I realize what happened in the spring was a reaction to a public health crisis. Our district made the decision to close schools before it was ordered by our governor.
My kids love our school and we've always thought highly of our school district. Unfortunately, we had little control over the schedule and work requirements during distance learning.
There was no time to plan. Everything happened so fast. I know it was not easy for teachers and they did their best to pivot to distance learning. I do not blame the teachers.
I also know that what we experienced in the spring is not the same as how virtual schools typically operate and I know it was nothing like homeschooling.
At first, the kids were excited to do schoolwork and have a couple video calls with their teacher and classmates. The Chromebooks on loan from the district added to that excitement.
My youngest has a hard enough time sitting still in regular school, so distance learning required me to be at his side until it was done. It was extremely difficult for me to work. I usually do that while they are gone.
There were daily tears over some of the assignments, but I didn't have the control to adjust most of them. Sometimes I just told him to skip it because the stress the work caused was not worth it.
My oldest was able to work independently most of the time, but even she was over it after a few weeks.
My husband and I decided it is more manageable to be completely in charge of the course content and schedule through homeschooling rather than trying to enforce distance learning again.
My kids' educational needs
We already do a lot of learning activities at home and I know how to use their interests to make learning fun. I just don't usually think of it as “doing school.”
Even though my kids enjoyed attending school, we've become more aware of our children's' unique educational needs.
For example, we know one child's math abilities have been above grade level. They fly through the assigned work because it is too easy and they are not being challenged enough.
On the other hand, we know our other child has been consistent with math standards for their grade level, but they are starting to struggle. That child feels like they are being pushed into harder lessons before feeling confident with the previous lesson.
I also started to worry about how the changes for in person school would impact my kids. My youngest literally cannot sit still. He's used to teachers allowing him to walk and wiggle around during class (because he's still listening) and hugs when he's upset.
Also, he usually needs something to chew on as well (such as a chew tube) or it'll be his clothes and mask.
We discussed how much easier it is to customize the kids' education to their needs and skills. Plus, we can manage the other things safely at home.
Providing a stable learning environment
As last school year ended, we looked forward to fall with hope that they'd return to school. I even ordered extra masks for them in preparation. At that time, our state's trajectory was improving; however, that didn't last long.
We discussed what a virtual learning option from home might look like. Would it be the same as last spring? Better? Worse?
Whether our school district starts with in person or virtual classes, we think there is a chance school may need to close again at some point during the year. We also considered how the kids would feel if one of their classmates or teachers became ill. Or they needed to quarantine from potential exposure.
Knowing that distance learning was not a good fit for us, we concluded our homeschool routine would be more stable and predictable.
The School District's Plan
As I previously mentioned, we adore our school and staff. Unfortunately, I have been disappointed in our school district's planning for reopening school.
I kept looking forward to distance learning to end in June and thought I'd feel a sense of relief.
I did, but it only lasted for a couple days. It didn't take long before my anxiety cranked up wondering what the heck was going on for fall.
I did not feel comfortable with their proposed plan for many reasons, including no virtual option being offered. While considering the impact and risk for my kids, I also have to take into consideration that I am high risk.
My thoughts were consumed by this decision. I knew homeschooling was an option, but initially it wasn't my top choice. I kept thinking I needed to wait and see the district's final plan.
Well, the plans continue to make me uncomfortable and they won't be finalized until mid-August. (We start after Labor Day, but our school re-enrollment and fees are due prior to the board meeting in August.)
I hope they listen to the parents and teachers and come up with safe plans. After lots of discussion and quiet contemplation, we decided that none of the possible school proposals would work for us. Instead of waiting and stressing out, we made the decision.
Could I Handle Homeschooling?
This was probably the million dollar question. Half-jokingly, I question my sanity, but I truly have come into this decision with excitement for the school year.
While my mind ran through all the possible options of what back to school could look like, I started researching.
- I looked up my state's homeschool laws.
- I read about different styles of homeschooling.
- I reached out to my experienced homeschool friends.
I thought about all of the ways the kids are already naturally learning at home.
- We play lots of board games
- They learn coding with our Bitsbox subscription
- They read a lot
- We watch educational movies and shows
- They are learning life skills every day
Weighing the options, going over the pros and cons, considering how it will affect my work hours, and acknowledging that we have the privilege to do it.
This decision happened over the course of many, many conversations.
Once my husband and I decided homeschooling would be the best fit for our family right now, we talked to the kids. They are very excited, especially since they get to pick some of the topics we will learn about.
I'm a bit excited about planning too!
We'll see how this year goes and then evaluate whether or not we'll continue homeschooling the following school year as well.
If you are on the fence about whether or not to try homeschooling this year, I hope reading through my thought process helps you.