Today is my daughter’s first official day of home schooling. I asked her last night how she was feeling about it and she said she was excited and a little scared. That pretty much summed up what I was feeling too.
The decision to home school your child is a big decision to make. I mean, I kind of liked the idea of getting up and sending her off for the day for someone else to keep track of. It took the worry off my mind while I was at work that everything would be ok with only minor bumps and bruises along the way. (We really do under appreciate teachers sometimes!) Why would I want to take on that job too?
When I was faced with making a decision – keep her in her current school, enroll her in a different school district or home school her, there were so many things to take into consideration. I wanted to be sure I made the right decision for everyone. So I thought about so many things.
- Am I overreacting to a temporary situation with the current school?
- Is there a solution that can be worked out?
- Will it benefit my daughter or hurt her to keep her in the same situation?
- What is involved with switching schools?
- Will I add more pressure and stress to my daughter asking her to adapt to a new school?
- Can we do home schooling? Literally – can we handle it and be successful?
- If we home schooled, how does she still get interaction with other kids?
- What about band and sports? How does that work into the solution?
- Am I doing the right thing?
But mostly, what is BEST for my daughter and what does SHE want to commit to? Figuring out what is best for your child isn’t always an easy thing to do. And even with their input, it may not always be the right decision (like we need anything more to feel guilty about?!). Fortunately, she is old enough to have an opinion on the subject that I could and did consider. She was miserable at her current school and she wanted to do home schooling. She understood the expectations and the changes that would occur.
Me? I had to wrap my head around how NOT to feel guilty if it didn’t work – and how to NOT get on myself if we failed to be successful. First, I sought out to answer some of the questions that I had.
Extra activities? Yes. I found there are many of them for home schooled children. I could get her into an ensemble band. She could still play sports. She could still attend football games and interact with her friends. I didn’t realize there were actually so many ways to get the extra curricular activities met outside of the school system!
Social interactions? Yes. Her friends have all been supportive in her change. Thank goodness for technology to allow them to stay in touch! But also, there are some amazing home schooling groups out there! The door flew wide open! I didn’t realize there were actually so many things available for kids to do! I do have the benefit of living in a bigger city. It may be more difficult if we were living in a small town, but I wouldn’t say the options would be gone. I just had to start looking from a different side of the box.
Good education? Yes. In fact, I read and was told that most home school children actually end up ahead of other students in their academics. I talked to other parents of home schooled children. I researched it online. I spoke to the virtual academy. I chose to use Ohio Virtual Academy, but there are actually many options available. One thing I have always believed is that all children learn differently. A normal classroom setting will work for some, but it doesn’t work for all kids. We all learn things in a different way.
The approach that the virtual academy uses is a combination between online and offline activities, interaction with teachers through (essentially) web conferences and a well thought out curriculum based on mastering skills. The kids work through lessons and then take a test over what they learned. They have to get an 80% or higher to move on to the next lesson. If they get a lower score, they are encouraged and instructed to review areas of the lesson again until they are ready to retake the test. This means they do have to actually get to a certain level of mastering the learnings enough to move on. On the flip side, if they reach a topic they already know, they can simply take the test, pass it and move on to the next lesson.
Can we afford it? Yes! With the approach I chose, we can. There are options to take on home schooling that require you to invest in a lot of books and materials. But, there are also other options. In our instance, the virtual academy is actually considered a public school in Ohio. So, that means it is tuition free! They also supplied my daughter with a desk top computer and printer with head phones and a microphone. They shipped all of her books and supplies to her as well. She was excited to see the paints, paint brushes and clay in the arts materials! They even supplement the costs of internet service with a $9.95 a month stipend.
What if we fail or I am harming my child? Of course those were the big ones to answer. For me, I knew that keeping her in the current situation would be a bigger fail and would be harming my child. This is a big commitment though – for her and me! So I had to resolve my own fears to help her walk in with fewer fears. Could I fail? Certainly. But I do have the option of trying to succeed. Just like my work career, my mom career is full of trying to figure out how to always be better and reach for the stars. So I have to adjust my schedule. So I have to plan more. So I have to refocus my spare time to school time. So I have to TRY. Nothing says she can’t re-enroll into another school district if this doesn’t end up being a good fit for us. So we really aren’t out anything if we give it a shot. And who knows – maybe it will actually be a better thing and we will end up loving it! We would never know if we don’t try! There! Guilt resolved!
And to make sure that I can do this (even if we fail to be good at it and it does end up in re-enrolling), I am going to keep a few rules in check:
- Regular, open conversations with my daughter – is this still what you want? are there holes we need to fill?
- Commit to time every day to do the best I can as her new teacher – I’ve been her main teacher all of her life, so why should this be any different?
- Plan social activities on a regular basis to include field trips for learning
- Interact with home schooling parents as a support system and for information
- Invite friends from her old school over for activities at least once a month (even if they can’t make it – the invitation will go out to them)
- Plan participation in physical activities – sports or exercise planned activities at least once a week
- Work with my daughter to plan a lunch menu each week – to include one day a week of having lunch together
- Create a dedicated work space in the home that has the feel of a school room setting – change the appearance to match the month (like the teachers would do in school)
Always be open to the possibility that she may need or want to re-enroll in another school and that does NOT equal fail. Failure is not trying at all. Success is doing what you think is best for your children and sometimes altering the route along the way. So here we go! Care to ride along?