You’ve chosen to homeschool or, because of present circumstances, homeschooling chose you. Now what? In our next post, we’ll discuss homeschooling with multiple children. Today, however, is going to be an incredibly practical post. If you are spiraling down the rabbit hole, here’s my hand! Grab it. Grab some tea and let’s chat. Logistically, there are three steps you need to consider when moving forward with (or being forced to) homeschool: 1) register with the county or enroll in an umbrella school, 2) choose a curriculum, and 3) find your family rhythm. Deep breaths. Keep reading.
As a brand new homeschooler, you’ll need to unenroll your child with their public school and register your student with the county as a homeschooling student or with an umbrella school. An umbrella school is a private or charter school where you join as a homeschooler and usually pay a fee for the ability to take certain classes. An umbrella school can also be used for oversight in the curriculum process, testing, or help with record management. Some umbrella schools are accredited and some are not. Each is different and will offer varying degrees of support. You do not need an umbrella school, however. Our family has never used one. You can register with your county directly and simply follow your state’s home education requirements and laws. Consult your state’s home education laws! Each state has its requirements and they can vary wildly. Further, this applies even if you only plan to homeschool one year.
In the state of Florida, we must register every year. Make a note and save a copy of your registration log and the date you sent it in. You will need to send in your evaluation by a certified teacher before that date every year. In our state, the wording of the law states that we must ensure our student is making progress commensurate with his/her abilities. This means if they are capable of progressing a full grade full of material successfully, then they must do so. We must also keep a reading log, a book and curriculum list, (I keep our weekly library print out receipt for my records), a record of our lesson plans, and either take standardized testing at the end of the year or show a licensed teacher a portfolio of our children’s work from the beginning, middle and end of the year. They will evaluate this work and sign a document stating that the child has made progress commensurate with their ability and is approved to graduate to the next grade. You will submit this to your county before the date on your original registration form. Some states require a specific number of days and hours of class time and in some states, the requirements are far less specific. It is our responsibility to ensure that we are doing this with excellence and according to the law.
Next, you will need to choose a curriculum. If you are just doing a distance learning program through your local public school, they choose the curriculum for you. Florida also has a virtual school program which is online classes taught by certified teachers using Florida’s standards and curriculum. In this model your role becomes one of a supervisor, ensuring follow-through of assignments. There are several other online options, including Khan Academy (a wonderful free resource for all grades!), and a myriad of traditional curriculum choices out there that align with different educational philosophies. I know, this is where I lose some of you. Curriculum? Teaching philosophies? What does that mean? Classical education? Religious or Secular? Literature-based? STEM-focused? We will get there. YouTube is a wonderful resource by the way. Lots of mamas have given tutorials on educational philosophies and reviewed curriculum on there. I highly recommend that resource if you are looking for help in this area. You know your kiddos and you know your family. As you review your options you may decide one philosophy resonates with you and your family better than the others, so you narrow down your curriculum choices accordingly. You may end up choosing a curriculum a friend chose or may want someone to choose for you. That’s all ok! The goal is to find something you and your child can enjoy and that fits you.
Next, you’ll need to come up with a plan on how to manage these changes now that you will be doing everything from home. This probably feels like the biggest puzzle piece, so much so that this is the step where many get overwhelmed and back away. There’s no need to be overwhelmed. You simply need a rhythm. It’s not a schedule, per se, because that inhibits flexibility. However, too much freedom and too many options can leave us feeling overwhelmed, unsure of ourselves, and lost when it comes to planning our day. This is especially important if you are also working from home while homeschooling your child. If this is you, get creative with the times you’ll do school. No one is mandating that you teach from 8-3 every day. Some homeschoolers have a four day week, some school year-round, some learn from 1-4:30 in the afternoon, or even later if the students are teenagers and have greater flexibility. Organization is the key to your peace. If you are prepared, you will be much happier.
Your daily and weekly rhythm include your household chores, any outside classes or library visits or activities, and school work. It doesn’t lay out time slots because sometimes math takes longer or your child gets immersed in a science experiment or you have to have a heart to heart with a child and then your whole day gets thrown off. It’s a guide that helps you know what comes next. Your children know what comes next and what is expected and everyone can settle down into a routine.
It may also be helpful to plan out a meal schedule and grocery list to help you save time as well. Meal planning and prep is a very time-consuming thing for me. We try and eat healthily and we have several food allergies to contend with so I feel like I am always in the kitchen. With that in mind, recently I did this crazy thing: I made 20 freezer meals! Crazy? The whole family pitched in and helped me- it took just over 3 hours. I had almost a month of meals and all I had to do was stick them in my Instapot, or the oven, throw together a side and dinner was made! It was magical! I am planning on doing that again before school starts. If you would be interested in what I did, contact me!
You will also want to make a list of all the chores you do during the week. Get a chore chart for the whole family. Start or continue teaching your children to help out- to be a part of the team that works to keep your home in order. I made all of our children chore charts last year and it was life-changing! At the end of the week (or day depending on the age and ability of the child) they got to choose their “reward” for good work. In some later posts, I will share their chore charts and ages. Everyone in our home has one. It cuts down on the Mama nagging and that makes me happy!
Some families do chores before school starts, some start with a read-aloud book or independent reading time, some start with outside time first and do chores after learning time while lunch is being made. Experiment and see what works best for your family! Do you expect your kids' beds to be made before breakfast? Or is your priority a morning work out? Let me emphasize: this rhythm experiment should be done before you begin your school year. No one says you can’t change it during the school year, but it will help you to have a general plan first. Rhythm also speaks to how your littles will spend their time while you teach, supervise, and advise the bigger kids. With a list, you can free up some brainpower while you are adjusting to your new lifestyle.
Now, brainstorm. Think of your family, your needs, your responsibilities, and how you can all work together to pull this off. Make lists, get a chore chart, and ask a friend for feedback. If you know a homeschooler in real life, ask them for help. If homeschooling is a foreign word to you and you have never met one in your life, we can do a consultation with you. Remember to check your attitude. This can be a wonderful adventure you embark on as a family. The goal is not just to survive this COVID-19 homeschooling journey, but to thrive in it and come out stronger. Here’s to growth!