Once You Decide to Homeschool
The first major decision that you need to make is whether or not you are going to use a secular or non-secular curriculum. The majority of homeschooling curriculums are Christian in design and content. Finding the curriculum that best suits your family will be one of the more difficult aspects of beginning your homeschooling journey. Our family is not of traditional faith, in terms of the military whole, so pinpointing a curriculum we love took a significant amount of time. Keep in mind that what works for one child may not work for another and it is ok if your curriculum changes every year or every kid. This is not uncommon!
Identifying some key characteristics in regards to play and learning will help aid you in this decision-making process. There are all sorts of curriculums out there; strictly textbook, nature-based, book based, manipulative-based and the list goes on. Using a combination of them all is common as well! There is no right or wrong way to homeschool. There is only the right and wrong way to do it for your family.
Some families do not use a structured curriculum at all. This is especially common during the elementary years. If you are a hardcore Pinterest mom, you may be able to create it all yourself. In which case, BRAVO TO YOU!
PCS-ing and State Homeschooling Laws
Homeschooling is legal in the majority of the United States. With that being said, each state has it’s own homeschooling laws. These laws vary drastically! Some states have almost no laws at all and others are incredibly strict. If you have already begun to homeschool and are not sure of the laws in your area, do yourself a favor and keep samples of work from each subject. Being organized and having paper trails can be a saving grace in these types of situations.
If you are not sure where to start in regards to the legality of homeschooling at your current duty station then this is a great website to expose yourself to https://hslda.org/content/laws/. This website is full of wonderful resources no matter where you are in your homeschooling journey.
The Flexibility That a Military Family Needs
The majority of homeschooling families follow a standard 36 week or 9 month school year. This works wonderfully for some people. Especially if your military member works standard weekday hours. In our household (pilot family) we have never in the duration of our family’s history experienced standard working hours. Therefore, I began homeschooling our children year round. We take off all major holidays, but for the most part, we follow a 6 week on 1 week off schedule. What this scheduling does for our family is unmeasurable.
Post-deployment leave is spent loving daddy hard. No one is missing out because of school and we just have to do 6 weeks of schooling on either side of it. When family comes to visit we can plan that visit to fall at the end of a 6-week unit study. Even with this type of schedule, you are looking at a 40 to 42 week school year, which is longer than most. The remaining weeks I tend to leave open for sickness and pcs season if that is something on the horizon.
Scheduling Your School Days
When most families begin homeschooling they compare their scheduling to that of a mainstream school. Mainstream schooling is misleading in regards to scheduling. An 8 hour day is not necessary for your homeschool classroom. In all actuality, about 3 to 4 hours a day of actual classroom work is done in mainstream schools. The rest of the time is spent lining up, recess, lunch, etc. In our home, we do about four hours of school on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. We are always learning and creating things throughout the week, but standard subjects of Math, Language Arts, Geography, Living Books (curriculum specific), History, Art, and Science are focused on from approximately 0830 to 1330 Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The time frame of 0830 to 1330 also includes an hour for lunch.
Spending time outdoors is a huge passion for our families, but a huge part of our curriculum as well. We do additional learning activities in nature. For example, we keep nature journals, plant and tree identification, animal tracking, and everyone’s favorite fort building. This side of our homeschooling falls closer to the forest school description that you may stumble upon online. I will be addressing forest school a bit more in a later article. Our afternoons are spent outdoors and sometimes our mornings are as well. We aim for a minimum of three hours outside per day.
Every family and every child is different. What is working for us right now may not work for your family at all. With that being said, it may not work for us in a few years either. Homeschooling, sometimes, means being ridiculously flexible. This can also be one of the biggest perks to homeschooling! Embrace it, but give yourself enough time to feel like you are accomplishing things as well.
Finding a support system in the form of like-minded friends and group members is huge for new homeschooling parents. Co-ops are a wonderful option. Though we are not currently part of a homeschooling co-op, we have been in the past and loved it. Some duty stations have plethoras of co-ops and others do not. Do your best to be a part of something larger a couple of times a month. It will help you, as the teacher, feel more supported. When we are part of a co-op we typically reserve a weekday (Tuesdays or Thursdays) for those types of gatherings.
Check out your local library! Libraries typically have a homeschool meetup, or homeschool events scheduled where you can meet others and learn more about local resources. Libraries also do homeschool resource fairs and bring in speakers and businesses that teach free classes. If you are heading into a new duty station where you know no other homeschoolers, your library is the perfect place to start!
One of the reasons that most families find themselves homeschooling is because of their child’s interests, or lack thereof in the mainstream schooling sector. When you choose to homeschool you are saying “yes” to so much more than the time commitment. Homeschooled children get to pursue their interests significantly more than if they were in the mainstream sector. There are more opportunities and time to do so. There is more freedom to suggest a non-traditional subject.
Our 6-year old’s school year goals include learning to whittle. As a mother, probably raised in the mainstream system, you will have to work the most on yourself. I understand that this seems like a strange statement, but children tend to fall into the homeschooling life quite easily. It is the parent that has to re-write their life to fit this new change.
Child-led Learning for You as well
I never wanted to be a teacher. Are you saying the same thing to yourself? Teaching was NEVER in my life plans. When there is ample time to teach and someone willing to learn, you may discover that teaching can be done anywhere doing anything. If your child wants to cook with you. I challenge you to teach fractions and let them at it, no matter the age.
You may begin a space unit study that is only supposed to take two weeks and turns into a two-year rocket building, room decorating obsession. Go for it. This is what homeschooling is all about! It is not that they will never learn how a snake sheds their skin or the life cycle of a butterfly. It is about a love of learning that they find themselves. When they come across it themselves you are suddenly winning on so many parenting and adulting levels. Give them the structure they need to learn and then loosen the reins.
Not every child, parent, and family is made to thrive in a homeschooling environment. You have to decide what is best for your child. Sometimes, homeschooling is a season. Sometimes it is necessary because of a rough duty station, bullying, learning, and teacher clashes the list goes on. The important thing is your child’s happiness and the happiness of your home. Scour for resources so that you feel supported. Join the groups and go to the events. Get out there so that when you are inside attempting to blow the volcano up for the umpteenth time you feel supported and confident in your choice to homeschool.