The idea of sending the kids back to school, for many parents across the Lowcountry, is a welcomed one. They anticipate less noise, relatively lower grocery bills, and a sense of normalcy by getting back into a routine and on a set schedule.
For many years, this was my reality. Many end-of-summer weeks were dedicated to juggling VBS camps and child care schedules while I worked outside the home. I longed for the beginning of the school year. I could send my kids back and enjoy a regular routine (and let’s face it, peace and quiet) once again.
All of that changed in 2011 when I was expecting my fourth child. We had been living in Charleston for four years and my middle-school aged kids were spending so much time away from home and away from me, now a stay-at-home-mom). I felt as though I was missing so much. It was only a matter of time before they were off on their own. They’d be in college and living their own lives, like, literally where they are right now at 20, 19 and 18.
We gave it all up for homeschooling, not because we were dissatisfied with our experience in public school. We just wanted more time together.
There are some amazing teachers in the Lowcountry. We’ve been thrilled to know several of them. There is no wrong or right way to educate your children, but if you’ve had questions about homeschooling your children in Charleston, let me ease your fears and offer you some beginning steps to get the ball rolling.
This two-part series is designed to include the basics to start homeschooling in Charleston. This post, part one, covers basic legalities and requirements as a homeschooling parent, and tips for transitioning from public school to a homeschool environment. Part two in the series will cover curriculum, homeschool philosophies, and getting into college.
I even address the number one question homeschoolers get asked on a regular basis… “What about socialization?”
How to Homeschool in Charleston
Homeschooling is legal in every state, but each state does have their own set of laws. Here in South Carolina, there are three options for homeschooling families.
- Option One allows parents to homeschool their children under the auspices of a school district.
- Under Option Two, parents may homeschool their children with the support of the South Carolina Independent Home Schools.
- Option Three allows parents to choose a homeschool association with over 50 members and meets the homeschool requirements.
Some parents choose to ‘homeschool’ their children using one of the free online schools. This option technically isn’t considered homeschooling in the broad sense. A significant amount of time is spent on the computer working with a virtual teacher, recreating school at home. Again, online school does work for some, it just wasn’t a good fit for our family.
For the sake of this blog post, I’ll be referencing a popular option here in the lowcountry. Option three, in my opinion, offers the greatest flexibility.
There are thirty-seven Option 3 homeschool associations in South Carolina, all of which meet the Annual Standards Assurance requirements. While some may have additional expectations and regulations, they all meet the minimum state requirements for home education. This includes a 180 day school year and keeping a plan book/diary of work and portfolio. Instruction is to include reading writing, math, science, social studies, and in grades 7-12, composition and literature.
Your homechool association can help put together paperwork needed to withdraw your child from public school and provide you with a new membership card/letter each year. They also help with high school transcripts, and are there to assist you every step of the way along your journey. You’re never alone in the Charleston homeschool community.
Making the Transition From Public School to Homeschool
In addition to the legal aspects of homeschooling and educational requirements, I think it’s also important to address the idea of having the right homeschool mentality.
When I first started homeschooling my kids, I recreated school at home with a dedicated hourly schedule. They were required to sit at the dining room table and pore through pages and pages of book work.
I’ve since learned to be more relaxed in my homeschool approach. I allow learning to happen in an organic way at home as well as out and about in the community. The public school mindset is a tough one to break. Because of this, experts recommend a period of ‘deschooling’ after you’ve withdrawn your children from public school.
Deschooling is the slow and natural progression from a school environment mindset, to that of a more organic, relaxed approach to learning. It’s recommended to take as many months off from structured learning as years a child has been in school. Both child and parent get to ease into a new, natural learning environment. A third-grader, for example, would deschool for three months after withdrawing from public school.
Visiting the library, museums, taking field trips to historic places, playing educational games, and just naturally and organically learning about the world around you is key. Learning happens every day, everywhere, and shouldn’t just be relegated to seated around a table.
Homeschooling your children is so rewarding. Seeing that spark of understanding when your child finally masters a concept is unparalled Getting started on your homeschool journey is a daunting step to take, but once you’ve made the decision and gone through the appropriate steps, you’re now officially a homeschooling family. Be sure take time to deschool yourself and your child, and then you can begin to concern yourself with such things as choosing curriculum, socialization, and getting in to college!