Today, Little Bear and I start our first official day of homeschool. Our path to homeschooling started waaay before the pandemic. As we’ve shared, Little Bear has Sensory Processing Disorder and some developmental delays, so I’ve been thinking about what his education would look like basically his whole life. I have nothing but love and respect for teachers working in public education. I truly think many of them are doing God’s work. But the education system is tremendously flawed, underfunded, neglected and it can be difficult for them to meet the needs of non traditional students with their limited resources. I always knew I wanted something different for Little Bear, I just wasn’t sure what.
Initially I leaned towards a Montessori school as my main option, then the pandemic hit and everything changed. I have a strong background in education. In college, I worked as an assistant coordinator for an after school program in the Oakland Unified School District. I’ve written curriculum, attended state sanctioned seminars, worked hands on teaching creative arts to children and providing academic support and tutoring. My time studying and working in the field of education has given me some strong opinions around education and child development. So, in my case, I always had this feeling inside that I had the tools to educate him myself, and give him the education I believed he needed rather than the tired model that leaves so many of us needing more.
But I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that I woke up stoked to basically become a teacher. That’s not my calling or passion, so while I knew the idea felt right, I was still very resistant to the idea of taking on the task of educating my child myself. In all honesty, my road to this point was kind of messy. But the mess helped me see the situation for what it was, and eventually I found my way through.
Here are the things I considered when weighing my options;
- Your mental health. Homeschooling is not easy, even when it’s easy. And if you know from jump, that this isn’t for you, it’s worth taking the time to process through any resistance you may be feeling about taking the plunge into full time homeschooling. Do you already feel overwhelmed and overworked? Does the idea of even getting started with homeschool stress you out and fry your brain? Do you know patience and helping others work through problems are difficult tasks for you? That’s ok, you’re human. But you do have the responsibility of setting the tone for your child. So take some time to get familiar and comfortable with your new role and the responsibilities that come along with it. Reach out to others for resources and support. You’re not the only person in this situation, and you’re not the only one who needs help. It’s going to be okay.
- Consider what is best for your child. How does your child learn best? What kind of activities or toys do they engage with most? How have they been handling virtual learning? For me these answers to these questions seemed a little counter intuitive. For some reason, I felt that my child had made more progress when he wasn’t participating in virtual learning sessions than when he was. This was a key realization for me, because it helped me to understand that the virtual model didn’t work for my child, which is actually pretty normal.
- Your strengths and weaknesses. No one is good at everything, so have an honest conversation with yourself and take stock of your most valuable skills, and how they will help you in homeschooling. Then, write a list of the areas you struggle in, or would like to improve, and write down how these negatives will also effect your homeschool process.
Decide your educational core values.
What is the point of education, for you? What kind of environment do you want your child to learn in? What are the concepts that you want to make sure they can grasp to function at their highest level? What was good or bad about your own educational experience and how did it shape you later in life. Answering these questions will help you determine your answer to the next point of consideration.
- What is realistic for your lifestyle. there are a lot of factors that go into homeschooling that you might not necessarily think about right away: your budget for supplies and resources, if you have the space in your home to dedicate to education and your ability to modify your space if necessary, how much time you can dedicate to planning and prep and how often you’ll do it.
- What kind of educational method is right for your child. there are many alternatives to the traditional public education model we’re familiar with. The Montessori education model has been around for over 100 years and has seen ups and downs in it’s popularity with American parents. There are others too: Waldorf, Harkness, Reggio Emilia, each with a unique set of principles, they believe foster the ideal learning environment for kids. We’ll talk more about different educational styles and how their benefits in the next few weeks.
The good news is, homeschooling is extremely flexible and can be structured in whatever way works best for you and your family. There are a variety of robust tools and resources available to make homeschooling fun, interesting and engaging for you and your child.