Guide to Temporary Homeschooling
What is temporary homeschooling?
Are you overwhelmed with meetings, debates, and memos as your district tries to determine how to handle school this year? Public schools are sorting through local and national regulations, recommendations from public health officials, and the ever-shifting face of the COVID-19 crisis. Maybe you are ready to jump off the roller coaster and embark instead on the adventure of homeschooling, at least for a season. A U.S. News survey from May 26 suggests that at least 60% of parents will consider homeschooling in Fall 2020, and 30% indicated that they are very likely to choose to homeschool. Can you do it? Can your kids do it? You absolutely can.
For years, people have turned to temporary homeschooling for a wide variety of reasons. Sometimes the physical or mental health of the student is a concern, and parents choose a year of instruction at home. Parents may choose to homeschool to avoid a bad school situation, whether it affects only their child, or whether it impacts the whole school community, such as the disruptive effects of a widespread natural disaster or global pandemic. Sometimes a family wants extra time together to spend with a terminally ill family member. At other times, a parent's job situation necessitates frequent moves, and the family chooses the consistency of home instruction over the disruption of changing schools repeatedly.
Whatever your reason for choosing it, temporary homeschooling is a way to take more control over your child's academic instruction. You may homeschool for only a semester or a year, or you may find you want to continue for longer. Either way, you can reduce anxiety for you and your child by taking the guesswork out of the fall back-to-school season and beginning to plan your foray into homeschool. Don't worry if you've never had formal teacher training - you can still facilitate your child's learning at home. Read on for suggestions on best practices to help you set up a temporary homeschooling situation that works for your family.
Can I pull my child out of school to homeschool?
You have the right to homeschool your child. Since school attendance is a regulated activity, keep in mind that you will be held responsible for your child's learning. Regulations vary by state, and each state offers guidelines regarding specific procedures for withdrawing your child from the public school as well as requirements for curriculum and assessment.
The first resource to consult is your state's Department of Education, which will have details on their homeschooling regulations. You may also be able to get information directly from your local school district. Online resources can give you further insight into state-specific homeschooling laws. Finally, look for local parent organizations. Seasoned homeschoolers are generally happy to welcome you into the homeschooling community and to connect you with vital information. If you're not sure where to find local homeschoolers, ask at the public library or other community gathering places.
If you intend to limit your homeschooling season, touch base with your local school district. Learn what kinds of records will be required to re-enroll your child in the appropriate grade at a later date.
Spring 2020 also found stress on the rise and grades on the decline for many students who were unexpectedly forced into distance learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Homeschooling may reduce stress by offering you flexible timing and the ability to choose between a variety of ways to cover the necessary content and meet the academic learning objectives that are appropriate for your child.
How do I get started with homeschooling my child?
Now that you've decided to embark on the homeschooling journey, how do you get started?
- Know your state's requirements. Every state is different. Make sure you meet any parent qualifications held by your state (education level, etc.). Find out how much time you must put in and how it needs to be recorded and reported. Learn what curriculum is required for your child's age and grade-level, and what standardized assessments must be completed (if any).
- Determine your child's learning style and preferences. One of the best benefits of homeschooling is the ability to thoroughly individualize the learning process. Preferred learning styles, such as visual, verbal, kinesthetic, and auditory, vary from person to person. Additionally, your child might prefer different learning styles for different subjects. Talk to your child, review their past work, and get an idea of what might be best for them. In addition to learning preferences, look at your child's natural rhythms when creating your school schedule. Do they work best in the morning, or do they really need an extra hour of sleep? Remember that in homeschooling you have the option of choosing your own time schedule!
- Choose a curriculum that matches your child's needs. There are numerous resources available. You can find hundreds of formal options, both digital and paper-based, many with different emphases or focuses. You may choose project-based learning ideas, where you incorporate skill-specific learning objectives into the framework of student-driven projects. The more choices you can give your child, the more motivated they are likely to be. Study.com is a great resource for homeschool curriculum, with numerous middle and high school courses. You can find video lessons, audio lessons, written lesson transcripts, progress reports, quizzes, and tests for all age levels. You can also access hands-on activity ideas, in-depth project ideas, specific lesson plans, and topical and book-related discussion questions for different subject-matter and grade levels.
- Create a daily schedule. You will probably adjust this schedule in the first few weeks, but you need a framework to begin. Consider including a consistent waking and start time, movement and hydration breaks, and blocks of time for work in specific subjects. Remember that when you plan to teach through creative exploration and projects, you may need time for setup and cleanup as well. Additionally, it is important to have time for creative expression and independent reading. Keep in mind that a key benefit of homeschooling is flexibility. Don't get upset when your schedule is compromised, and don't be afraid to adapt it as you go along.
Can I homeschool for half a year? For one year?
It is certainly possible to homeschool for half of the year or a single year. Short-term homeschooling has a well-established precedent for many of the family, work, and health reasons mentioned above. If you intend to homeschool for a limited time, it is essential to be in contact with school administrators and teachers to clarify what your child will need to accomplish during the homeschooling period. Be proactive about communication with the school - request information you need as well as help with transitioning into and out of school. Your plans may be uncertain, but your job will be easier if you maintain clear lines of communication.
Be prepared for a transitional period as your child replaces school outside of the home with homeschool. This process can be referred to as deschooling. Be open with your child about your reasons for choosing to homeschool. Discuss what you each hope to get out of your time homeschooling - it may be academic, such as catching up with the class in math, reading a challenging and motivating novel, or completing a creative project-based unit; or it may be personal, such as increasing confidence and completing the school year without anxiety. Post your goals, and when a homeschool activity gets frustrating, stop to evaluate it in light of your overarching goals. Above all, be flexible and understanding with each other as you and your child both navigate the transition from school to homeschool.
If you need a temporary curriculum, check out Study.com's leveled homeschool courses tailored to each grade level. Related review lessons can help your child fill in any areas of background knowledge they are lacking, and more challenging courses can satisfy the advanced learner who wants more information.
What are best practices for temporary homeschooling?
When planning for your temporary homeschool, you will want to consider your schedule, environment, curriculum, and connections. Know what you and your child will be held accountable for as far as learning and testing, then create an environment that works for you and your family. It is encouraging to realize that in homeschool, you have the flexibility to experiment as you find out exactly how your homeschool will function best. The following tips give you a place to start.
General best practices for temporary homeschooling
- Establish structure. A typical school day is highly structured, and students who begin to homeschool can be thrown off by the sudden lack of structured schedule. Your day of homeschool doesn't need to mimic a classroom schedule, but predictable routines benefit all learners. Choose a start and end time, and establish times for movement, snack, and recreational breaks. Knowing an opportunity is coming to run in the yard, check text messages, or read a comic book will make those distractions easier to resist during schoolwork sessions. Remember your learning times may look much different from a formal classroom setup, which is one of the benefits of homeschool!
- Post learning objectives. You may use a wide variety of modalities to teach a topic or skill. Posted objectives for each week help everyone remember what learning should result from your lessons, projects, and activities. When your child knows the objective, they may have their own ideas of how to achieve it. This makes homeschool motivating. Remember, a good objective is specific and measurable. 'Kaitlin will add and subtract fractions with like denominators' and 'Kaitlin will write three grammatically correct persuasive paragraphs' are better objectives than 'Kaitlin will work with fractions' and 'Kaitlin will practice persuasive writing.' The objectives state clear outcomes but allow for different paths to reach those outcomes.
- Create a space for homeschool. Prepare yourself to fully engage in the school process. Minimize distractions during school hours. Set up a place in the home as a base for your homeschool, including table space, commonly used tools and resources, and good seating and lighting. Turn off the TV and radio and keep recreational activities somewhere else in the house.
- Maintain connections. You and your child both need to be connected to other people in similar situations. You may be able to find or start a homeschool co-op, where you can share ideas, outings, and group activities. Parents may also share personal expertise, such as a parent who is a chemist holding a tutoring session for the high school students in the co-op who are studying chemistry. Homeschool blogs are another great resource for ideas and support. Your homeschooling experience is guaranteed to have ups and downs, so find fellow homeschooling families to create a support network. When interacting with experience homeschool parents, keep in mind that they are experienced. The temptation to compare yourself may be strong - don't. Your homeschool won't look exactly like that of someone who has been doing it for years, nor does it need to. However, that veteran homeschooling parent can be a source of ideas and encouragement.
Advice for homeschooling younger children
Young children tend to be intensely curious and highly motivated to learn. Children enjoy learning through play, movement, music, and hands-on experimentation. Be on the lookout for ways to capture your child's questions and natural curiosity and direct them to learning needed skills and information. What does this mean for you as you plan their learning?
- Make a list of target skills and concepts. What academic skills does your child need to work on next? Be specific - such as adding and subtracting numbers from 1-20, rhyming words, discerning initial consonant sounds, identifying the elements of a habitat, or understanding the water cycle.
- Choose a highly motivating framework. What interests your child? A framework can be a thematic unit, such as dinosaurs; it can be calendar-related, like a holiday theme; or it can be personally motivating, expanding on favorite book or movie characters.
- Embed skills instruction into your chosen framework. For example, in a Valentine's Day theme, you can practice literacy skills with Valentine's day books, writing skills while making cards for people, math skills by measuring and counting hearts, etc. There are thousands of online resources available to help you start thinking through how you want to do this.
- Take natural opportunities to reinforce concepts. Join your child at play and add your target academic concepts to their games. The people in the dollhouse may be taking turns on the slide. Since your target concept is subtraction, you may point out that the green person got 12 turns but the red person only got 8 turns. How many more turns did the green person get? Opportunities like this are everywhere once you start looking for them. To really drive the concept home, sit down together after the game is done and use a whiteboard or paper to write out what you did.
- Designate specific time for explicit instruction. Children do need to be explicitly taught skills and concepts. Sit down together and teach a concept before reinforcing it in a variety of ways.
- Create a language-rich environment. Use kid-friendly podcasts, educational videos, concept-rich songs, and lots of books. Never be afraid that vocabulary is too difficult for a child. Invite them to ask. Make learning new words fun.
- Teach executive functioning skills. Young children need to 'learn how to learn' - this includes skills like organization, planning, prioritizing, task follow-through, self-evaluation, and self-monitoring. You may think of it in terms of taking responsibility and using common sense, or you may call it problem-solving. These skills are not naturally occurring - help your child learn executive functioning skills. Model the skills, give support, then fade your support. (I show you; I do it for you; I do it with you; I watch you do it; you do it on your own.)
Advice for homeschooling older children
Older students can benefit significantly from homeschooling. While you may worry about your child falling behind, research suggests that homeschoolers can do very well on standardized tests and beyond. The self-regulation skills and independent study habits that make a successful homeschool student are useful in the college setting. For high school students, there are even programs that allow them to earn college credit while completing homeschool courses. Considering the cost of a college education, beginning college with some credits is a wise investment of time and effort.
So how can you help your older child succeed at homeschool?
- Create a learning contract. A learning contract is a document that lays out a student's goals for a specified time period. The contract also identifies the student's responsibilities and the parent's role to support the student. The learning contract helps everyone follow through on what they need to do.
- Establish a schedule. Designate hours for school to begin and end. It's all right to be flexible, but having definitive working hours leaves students free to plan their extracurricular time, just like they will when they have a job.
- Arrange a distraction-free study zone. Since homeschool takes place where you live, there are multitudes of potential distractions. Encourage your child to minimize the distractions in their workspace.
- Remember to move. In school, students get some movement opportunities traveling between classes. At home, they probably won't be changing locations for work, so it is important to get up and move. Movement is imperative for a healthy body and a healthy brain.
- Consult online resources for ideas. You are reading this article, which means you are willing to look online for input. Remember, there is no need to reinvent the process of homeschooling - getting advice from others via online blogs and forums is usually a good use of your time.
- Consider taking a course for college credit. When choosing a course, be sure to take into consideration the process of college credit transfer. Consult the admissions department of your child's chosen college to learn if they accept transfer credits, as well as any stipulations such as passing grades, number of credits that can transfer, or expiration dates for transfer credits.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does transferring credit back to school happen once we return?
For a student returning to school after a period of homeschool, regulations regarding the transfer of credit can vary from place to place. It is vital that you establish contact with a point person at the school to help you work through the details of the process. You may work with an administrator or guidance counselor, or the district may have a homeschool coordinator.
Your school contact can help you to determine what curricular topics you need to cover, what records you need to keep, and how your child's knowledge will be assessed. Your district may require a portfolio of work, a standardized test, or another form of assessment with which your child can demonstrate their learning. When choosing your homeschool curriculum, find out what standards are being covered by the school district at their grade level and plan accordingly, especially if you intend to homeschool for only a year or partial year.
How many hours a day should you homeschool?
Homeschool laws vary by state, so it is important to consult the laws for your state. Not all states have a requirement for hours, but it is best to determine immediately if and how you will be held responsible for your schooling hours.
Practically speaking, the beauty of homeschool is the flexibility. As you embrace a variety of learning styles and learning techniques, you will likely find your timing varies. Some projects and lessons will take longer than others. With concentrated attention and support, your child will be able to pursue some topics more thoroughly than they would in a larger classroom, which may take more time. Conversely, if they understand a topic quickly, it is appropriate to move on. In addition, you may work on school longer on some days than others.
Will homeschooling set my kids behind?
Some people have the idea that homeschool is detrimental to children socially or academically. These homeschooling myths are popular, but unfounded. There is no need for homeschool to limit children's social or academic opportunities; in fact, research suggests that it often enhances them. Homeschoolers can be given excellent chances to learn and socialize. Every child is different, and so is every homeschool. If you choose to homeschool your children, you have the opportunity to shape their education and see them thrive.
How do I homeschool my special needs child?
Children with special needs often struggle in the school environment, needing extra support to make progress in the general education curriculum. Some parents choose to provide their child with individualized instruction at home, via homeschool. Homeschooling a child with special needs is an excellent way to be sure your child is receiving all the supports and accommodations that allow them to excel.
If your child has been receiving special education services at school and is switching to homeschool, you can use the information from your child's IEP (Individualized Education Program) as a jumping-off point. Consider the accommodations and modifications your child was receiving at school. Talk with your child's school team to learn the rationale behind each accommodation, then explore how you can work this into your homeschool program.
Connect with other homeschool parents to exchange ideas and encouragement. Look for lists of strategies that are specific to categories of need such as learning disabilities, autism, or ADHD. If you can, plug in to a community of parents whose children have needs similar to your child's needs. That way you can brainstorm and troubleshoot together. Connection will make your homeschool experience better.
What kind of homeschool curriculum should I use?
Every child and family are different, and families choose homeschooling for a variety of reasons. Appropriately, there are numerous options for homeschool curriculum. When choosing a curriculum, be sure to understand your state's regulations and requirements. Remember, curriculum is a tool, so choose the tool or tools that best suit your family's needs.
Curriculum options include:
- Classical: Classical homeschooling focuses on training children's minds through three developmental stages of learning - grammar, logic, and rhetoric. Classical homeschooling uses living books and experimentation rather than textbooks.
- Charlotte Mason: The Charlotte Mason Method revolves around the use of living books rather than formulated curriculum. Concepts are taught using whole books rather than textbooks or snippets of an author's work. Children are encouraged to use narration to retell what they have read and experienced. The method also encourages nature walks, journaling, art appreciation, and developing habits. More information is available from a variety of sources.
- Montessori: The Montessori method focuses on active, hands-on learning that is child-led. Cooperative learning and mixed-age grouping are encouraged. Montessori has a focus on teaching self-regulation, encouraging children to value knowledge and curiosity.
- Online School: There are a variety of options for online curriculum where your child can view video lessons, participate in online activities, and get varying levels of support and accountability through the online platform. Be sure to preview an online program before making your selection to be sure you choose the one most appropriate for your situation.
- Project-Based Learning: In project-based learning, you begin with a broad learning objective, then set students up with hands-on projects to pursue the skills and knowledge relevant to the learning objective. Project-based learning involves identifying big ideas or answering big questions. The parent's role is to guide and monitor the project while the student should be guiding the project and doing work.
There are numerous resources available online to help you with whatever curriculum you choose. Find printable materials that line up with your goals and needs. Study.com includes a homeschool platform covering a wide variety of topics from third grade through college. Parents can monitor their children's class progress and their scores on tests and quizzes. Children can retake lessons for challenging concepts. The platform also includes numerous lesson plans, discussion questions, and project and activity ideas to support homeschool learning.