Before diving into the questions and suggestions below, let me preface this by saying that in a future post I will provide you with all of the helpful links for solutions to problems, educational resources and helpful hints so that you don’t feel like you have to do all of the research for places to go for help and assistance in your homeschooling needs. As you read through the questions below, be brutally honest with yourself and even write down a list of the pros and cons of homeschooling you can foresee with each issue discussed. Until I have a resource list of trusted places to call or write into with questions and concerns, please feel free to reach out and email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask away or suggest a future topic you would like to see covered here.
1. Why do I feel like I can provide a better learning environment for my child than he/she has at traditional school?
Does your child learn better in a one-on-one environment? Do you feel like you understand the needs of your child that their traditional schooling seems to be ignoring? If you feel like you understand what makes your child tick and know all of the tricks to help them focus and grasp concepts better, you will be successful. If you can provide them with additional learning experiences they cannot fully receive at school, like intensive music and art lessons and/or the environment for them to create and learn to design and test out scientific experiments, then often the tailored experience is extremely beneficial.
2. Is my child out-learning his/her peers in traditional school, therefore meaning I can help him/her learn at their accelerated pace?
If your child is extremely gifted and learning at a pace well above their peers and there are not available options for the school to keep up and move him/her along at their faster pace, then teaching them at home and being able to keep them challenged and accelerating, then by all means, homeschooling is the way to go!
3. What is my patience level? Seriously, this is important!
What is your personality type? Are you someone with an infinite amount of patience and understanding? Great! You are a great candidate to provide a positive and stable learning environment. My mother was a perfectionist, a harsh disciplinarian, and short on patience, understanding and kindness. She never could admit she was in way over her head and instead took her frustrations out on us and used school as a device to manipulate and cause self-doubt, fear and self-loathing within her children. If you feel like you have a short fuse or that you constantly butt heads with your little one over all manner of things, this is NOT the ideal learning situation for your child.
4. How many children do you intend to homeschool?
Most of the other mom bloggers out there who are talking about the homeschooling process say that it is more than doable to simultaneously teach multiple grade levels, but I do not agree with this in the slightest. Each child will have a different method of learning and differing needs, which is difficult enough for a teacher in a traditional setting who is teaching one grade level to a classroom of children at the (relatively) same learning level or grade in school. In all actuality, trying to juggle more than two grade levels at the same time is really not that simple and takes a very specific and special type of teacher/parent to deliver this to the fullest extent. It is also a common mother’s misconception that they can simply leave the child to learn independently after assigning a reading or learning assignment.
I remember having such a short attention span, that I would sit there at the table for long periods of time just staring at the page and not even registering what the lesson was. I needed direction, nearly constant guidance, and most importantly, structure and more engagement and hands on activities to aid in the learning process. Not all children are accelerated learners who can operate independently with occasional checking in. As a child gets older and closer to middle or high school age, the ability to show self-discipline and independent learning will be more feasible, but most kids just want to play, get out of school, and given a choice will most likely not remain focused. As adults, we understand the importance of education and can discipline ourselves to study or learn about new concepts, but a child needs guidance, structure and more tailored environments to teach them while they are still developing.
5. Is this for me or for the child?
Is this something that strikes you as fun or a nice way to not have to work a regular job? This is an actual, full-time job. Seriously, this is not for everyone. Are you making the decision for your child’s benefit or for your own? Is this solely based around offering your child the best environment to learn and excel? Or is it based off of your religious views and your way of controlling your child’s worldly exposure? Homeschooling should be a decision that is made purely and unselfishly for the good of the child and his or her learning needs. Do not forget who this is for. Let me give you a clue, this is NOT for you, or for whatever deity you worship. It is a true sacrifice of love on your part, so don’t lose focus of the important factors at play here.
6. Are you willing to be around your child/children all day every day with no real breaks?
Being a working parent already has its difficulties and strains on your daily life with demands that include school activities, sports, and social engagements. If you decide to homeschool, you are not going to eliminate these extra strains on your time. You cannot drop out of social life, or activities outside of school all together. These are still vital to participate in and ALL of your time will be spent investing in your child. Without being dramatic, it is important to remind you that being a homeschooling parent will only add more responsibility and not necessarily free up your time, but instead consume almost every moment of every day. If that sounds like your calling, more power to you and good luck!
7. Do you know where to find resources that will make you feel more supported with your endeavor?
Do your research before making the switch to schooling at home. There are so many resources out there and groups to join for support and advice. You cannot be an island, for your sanity and for the sake of your children. You need to be okay with asking questions, changing your strategies, finding tutors, and most importantly, create a network of homeschool families that you gather with regularly for discussion, social opportunities, and for the opportunity to do group sports or field trips. In a future post I will provide a good jumping off point for where you can go to find support in your own communities.
8. What is your relationship like with your child?
If you have a loving relationship with your child and there is mutual respect, calm discourse, and healthy ways of dealing with conflict, then you will thrive in this environment. If your child has behavioral issues that cause him/her to not listen to you or act out further, this will NOT be a conducive environment for your child. The goal is to not only to learn, but to have a healthy enjoyment of learning, and a closer bond with each other. It will become a miserable place for both you and the child if you are not prepared to deal with obstinance, arguing, and general push back that is not always an issue with other leadership figures outside of the home.
If the child acts out at school and talks back to authority figures, chances are this will only be exacerbated in the home environment. The home will not only become a place where learning is seen as a stressful endeavor filled with strife, but it will also further unravel your relationship with the child as not just teacher, but as a trusted parent and the home will become a place that holds a lot of resentment for both child and parent. When even the home space feels hostile and unfriendly, your child will find it stifling, and want to get out and away as often and as soon as possible.
9. How will you handle unforeseen conflicts that could jeopardize the learning process?
If you come up against a strong-willed child and you are not making progress, what is your plan? Are you dedicated to finding the solutions? Do you know when to admit temporary defeat and get help and support from counselors or a trusted figure? By trusted figure, I do not mean your minister or religious leader, I mean a professional therapist, or licensed family counselor. There will be moments of intense strain and you may get emotional, but ask yourself if you are making things better or worse with your mode of handling conflicts. Are you willing to ask for help for yourself and finding ways to improve the way you are handling the tough moments? I am here to ask you the difficult questions and give you insights from a perspective of the student, whereas all of the resources out there seem relatively out of touch with the perspective of those who don’t get much say in the matter.
10. Do you have what it takes?
After going through all of these points, do you feel like you are still the Super-Parent who can do it all? Congratulations! You still have lots to learn, but if you are positive, energetic and unfailingly patient, you will be set up for success as long as you are willing to put in the learning and research you need to master before attempting your own homeschool.