Oh the joys of homeschooling. Today, I was sitting at the table with Elijah, Joshua and Benji. Joshua was working on his own thing, I was reading science to Elijah, we were learning about leaves. But of course Benji had to put in his two cents. But he does it very politely, by raising his hand. But by the third interruption, I just had to let him keep his hand raised, and just motioned to him to wait. So I continue reading. But Joshua decides to put Benji’s hand down. As he brings his hand down, the other one goes up, so he tries to put this hand down, and the first one goes up. This went on for a couple of seconds back and forth, while we all tried not to laugh, put couldn’t help it. I felt like I was watching an old Laurel & Hardy movie. Needless to say, laughing is a wonderful stress buster, and is needed often when homeschooling with a 3-year old!!
For the last couple of days, when I sign in on the Internet I see that the Yahoo page comes up with school supplies all around its logo. I usually enjoy their little graphics for the different seasons and holidays, but I must say I’m not quite ready for school supplies. As I write this I am sitting in my backyard enjoying the nice weather, there’s a slight breeze that is making it very pleasant. Recently the days have been so hot we spend our time out in the early evening. The little guys play in the sandbox while my husband and the twins shoot some hoop, or we’ll take a ride on our bikes. The long days are nice, but as I look at the calendar, I know the beginning of school is fast approaching, so I must begin preparing.
The first thing I do is make my list of what books I need to purchase. We always start our school year the day after Labor Day, and those four days are spent on reviewing things from last year, and just getting back into the routine. So I can usually wait to purchase my books at the end of August. I also make a list of school supplies they’ll need and start picking them up here and there as they go on sale. One thing nice about homeschooling is that we don’t have those extensive school supply list I hear so many parents complaining about. Every year at Wal-Mart, I see a couple of parents with their lists in hand and a frustrated look on their face discussing products on the list compared to what is on the shelf. I secretly envy them, a school supply scavenger hunt sounds like the most fun. But then again, I’ve never had to do it.
The next thing I do is create my calendar for the year. For our State in Illinois, the required days of instruction are 176 days. This is not mandatory for private or home schools, but I use this as my guide in planning my days off and breaks. I pretty much follow the traditional school calendar, having Christmas and spring breaks. I decide which federal or state holidays we observe, sometimes on that day. “It’s Casimir Pulaski Day, hey we’re Polish, let’s take the day off!!” Having a guide for the year like this helps me alter it easily. We can take an unscheduled day off if we want to visit with relatives from out of town, or if my husband has a day off during the week and we want to do something. Then what we can do is have school on one of the planned Federal Holidays like Columbus Day or President’s Day. The kids will get a copy of the calendar on the first day of school. The first thing they do is count how many days until their first day off.
I have read articles from other homeschool Mom’s who will go away for a weekend by themselves before the school year starts. I have done this once before, and I used some of the time to go over lesson plans, and review curriculum. I usually take a semester break in January or February and just stay at a hotel and do nothing but enjoy the time by myself. I do have an opportunity to get away for a weekend in a couple of weeks, which I am taking full advantage of. I haven’t always taken these breaks, I used to think wanting to get away was selfish, and a sign that I was a bad mother and wife. I would feel guilty wanting to leave the kids with my husband for a whole weekend. But I have felt the benefits of time away to re-charge my batteries. It doesn’t have to be fancy or far away, unless your budget allows it and you want to go to Hawaii. I just know how good it feels to get away and I highly recommend it.
Being that August just started, I do have some time left to enjoy the summer and that’s what I plan to do.
I know that different areas of the country may start their school year at different times. If you could have it your way, would you have school start before or after Labor Day? You can add your opinion below.
Deciding to homeschool your children will be one of the most important decisions you will make for you family. You will find though, that there are many valuable resources to aid in your decision. Before you do anything, find out what your state law requires, because each state is different. The best place to obtain this information is the Homeschool Legal Defense Association. Listed here are a few of the pros and cons of homeschooling.
Pro: Individual Attention: This is probably the best benefit of homeschooling. Your child gets the undivided attention that they need to excel, as opposed to competing for attention with 30+ kids in a classroom. This especially benefits boys who tend to have more energy that needs to be channeled. Even when you are homeschooling more than one child, you can still focus on each of them. This is very helpful in determining how your child learns. Even in the same family, what works for one may not work for the other. By spending time with each one of your children, you can see how they learn the best and tailor their curriculum accordingly.
Pro: Set your own schedule: This includes your daily schedule as well as yearly. It’s best to give children consistency. A daily start time, break, lunch and end time is beneficial and will prepare them for the working world. But you can start at any time and not have to worry about getting them up super early to catch the bus, driving them yourself, or carpooling.
Your child’s daily schedule will not be as long as a traditional school day. You will not have to spend eight hours teaching them, unless you want to. Keep in mind your child is not in a large classroom, there are far less distractions. They don’t have the time in between classes to switch from room to room. Usually a day for a younger child will last 3 to 4 hours, with you spending the bulk of the time with them. For older children, their day can be completed within 4 to 6 hours with your involvement of about 1 to 2 hours.
You can follow the traditional school calendar and have the same days off and breaks as well. Some people homeschool all year round, working for six weeks and then taking 2 weeks off. You determine what works best for you in conjunction with what your state requires for attendance.
One of the best benefits of setting your own schedule is that you can alter your schedule at any given moment. You’ll be able to spend time with out-of-town guests. If your spouse’s job keeps them away for periods of time, when they are home you can spend that quality time with them. You can plan vacations during the year. Also take advantage of free days during the week at local museums, art galleries or cultural events.
Pro: Save Money: You will be saving money on tuition if your child would otherwise attend a private school. If they would attend a public school, their wardrobe would not have to be as extensive, or you wouldn’t have to buy uniforms. Mind you, they do need clothes at home. Homeschooling in PJs is probably not the best idea, so they do need to get dressed. But they will only be seeing you and their siblings, so the need to look hip and fashionable is no longer an issue.
There will also be savings for lunches, you won’t have to purchase special juice boxes or “lunchables,” or provide lunch money.
Con: Responsible for education. You have the sole responsibility of your child’s education. You decide what and when you teach them. You’ll have many choices for curriculums, and finding the right one for each child may take some time. But just because a curriculum might not be achieving the results you desire for a semester or even the whole year. All is not lost. Keep trying until something clicks. Your child is not falling behind; you set the pace and the schedule. They are still learning something. As long as your child is not spending the whole day in front of the TV or playing video games, they are getting an education.
Many well-meaning friends and family members may question your ability to teach. Many people think you should have a teaching degree. Many curriculums have extensive instruction for the parent to teach. You must be willing to put the time in for preparation. As long as you are willing, you are more than capable.
Con: You are with your kids all the time. We love our children; there is not doubt. But when you homeschool, you do not have the luxury of a quiet house while they are at school. Unless they are involved in outside activities, for the most part, you will be together for the majority of the time. The key to keeping your sanity is to work something out with your spouse to get some time for yourself. You need that to recharge your batteries, and to continue to enjoy this experience.
If you live in an area where there is snow in the winter, there are no snow days. This of course affects the kids more than it affects you.
Con: Sacrifice an income. This is probably the biggest sacrifice you will make. If you are used to working, and then begin homeschooling, it’s a big adjustment to live on one income. But it’s worth every penny.
You will also have to purchase the full curriculum for each child. Some textbooks can be used for other children, but you usually have to purchase workbooks for each child each year. This is still the fraction of the cost of tuition. It also depends on the curriculum you use. The least expensive is buying the books, teaching and keeping all your records. There are also teaching DVDs and correspondence schools, where you pay them to keep track of record keeping. Choose one that fits your schedule as well as your budget.
Final thought: Before my first child was born, I knew that I would be homeschooling. When I became pregnant, I started reading up on the subject. Then when I found out that my first child was actually twins, I realized I would have a mini classroom. My twins are now 13, and I have been homeschooling them the whole time, along with their brother who is in first grade, and I have one more to go after that. I plan to homeschool all the way through high school, with the thought of using an online school or correspondence school at that level. It’s a lot of work, but I continue to enjoy it, and learn things myself along the way.