So, You’ve Made the Decision to Homeschool. Now What?

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Regardless of the type of education you choose for your child, you want what is best for your family with their success and happiness as the ultimate goal. For our family, we learned early on that homeschooling was the best option. I was grateful then for an active homeschooling community in Charleston. It was easy to learn how to get started, which I break down here in the first part of this homeschooling series.

What I didn’t have at the time though, was a guide to help me figure out how to go about educating my kids. I mistakenly thought I had to know or at least seem as though I knew exactly everything. I was afraid of being questioned as to my abilities to actually educate my children. Homeschooling parents often doubt themselves and I was no different. I didn’t know I could reach out to my homeschool association to ask questions without judgment. Instead, I muddled through on my own and figured it out by trial and error.

If you’ve made the decision to homeschool, you may be thinking, “What do I do next?” and with good reason, as there are many options and several things to consider. Deep breaths though, you don’t have to have it all figured out. I’m still learning as I go some days, even after seven years of homeschooling under my belt. 

What About Curriculum?

During our first year as a homeschooling family, I purchased far too much curriculum before really determining the ways in which my children learned best. This is where ‘deschooling’ comes into play.  You learn how best your child learns as you go, it’s not meant to be figured out all at once.

Depending on the type of learner your child is, your approach toward each child can look different. Often what works well for one child, may not work for another. The beauty of homeschooling is that you can first, take your time to determine your child’s needs and second, research curriculum that works best for you and your children.

We’re fortunate to have a rich homeschooling community in Charleston. Parents and educators, as well as association members, are always willing to jump in and lend books to review, offer samples and suggest free online resources. It’s important not to rush in and spend all the money before you determine exactly what you’re looking for and what your child needs most.

What is Your Homeschool Philosophy?

There are as many variations of homeschool styles as there are families. Some families prefer a structured, out-of-the-box curriculum while others lean toward specific philosophies like Waldorf or take a Montessori approach.

Many families fall within the spectrum of several of these. As eclectic homeschoolers we pull from a bit of everything, incorporating a hands-on style with some organic unschooling built in. We also use boxed curriculum and various free resources online to round out our homeschool as well as field trips and YouTube videos and documentaries to supplement learning.

My youngest recently had a significant interest in the Middle Ages from about age 5 to 6.5, he’s still quite a fan of all things Knights and Castles.  Because of this interest, we spent the entire year and a half learning the time period in what is called child-led learning. 

He read picture books about medieval weaponry, falconry, and castles while I read to him longer stories that weaved in more of the historical significance of the time period. We completed lapbooks and projects based on historical figures we had learned about. We watched videos and created our own catapult and suit of armor and capped off our learning with a fun family trip to Medieval Times in Myrtle Beach. Twice. Because he’s still obsessed.

It’s not always about the books and worksheets, checking off boxes and completing assignments.  Learning can happen organically based on a child’s interest.  We use a lot of YouTube and documentaries to round out our learning.

What about Socialization?

Ah! The dreaded question that makes every homeschooling parent cringe. People worry that by closing their children off from other kids their age, they’ll somehow ‘mess them up’ or make them weird.  

What is comforting to know about homeschooling in Charleston is that we have a vibrant community. There are countless co-ops, classes, programs and events throughout the lowcountry for homeschoolers to attend. There are dances, cook-outs, picnics, beach days, regular field trips and even a prom! We often find ourselves saying, ‘No, we really need to stay home today’ and get some book work done.

Charleston homeschool community members are passionate about what they do; there’s never a subject left out. We’ve been ocean seining on Sullivans Island, scoured Edisto Beach for fossils and learned to create full-course meals with help from some of the best chefs in the city.

Outdoor nature school opportunities abound around Charleston as well, from wild-and-free roaming the woods on Johns Island to nature walks foraging through the woods for wild winter edibles!

There are activities and classes every week, year-round that provide our kids with experiences that cannot be recreated in a classroom environment.

Can a Homeschooler Get into College?

Making the decision to withdraw your kids from public school can be a difficult one but it’s important to note a few things.

While the decision to homeschool is reversible and enrolling your child back into public school is always an option, to truly get a feel for how to homeschool and what homeschooling means to your family, it’s good to put in a solid year or two before giving up and heading back on the school bus.

That’s not to say that this decision is one to take lightly, nor is it the right choice for everyone but if the idea has been in the back of your head for some time, don’t be afraid to take that leap.

When my second oldest daughter was sixteen years old, she decided that she wanted to attend our local high school instead of being homeschooled another year. We registered her that summer and off she went in August.

By Halloween, she had decided that she preferred homeschool where she had flexibility and more input as to how she spent her time and focus. We withdrew her once again and she continued homeschooling. She started at Trident Technical College soon after and is set to have her Associates of Arts Degree by the end of 2018, at the age 0f nineteen. Some colleges actively pursue homeschooled students for admission to their programs!

If there’s any question about homeschooling through high school and attending college, don’t give it a second thought. I’ve got three college students to prove it!

Homeschooling my children has offered us the opportunity to deepen our relationships as a family and travel together during offseasons, Hello, Disney! This allows us to save money on family vacations and the best part, use our travels as a springboard into some of our homeschool history lessons.  

There’s no question that I do sometimes doubt myself as a homeschooling parent. It just means that my standards are high. I’m doing a good job and have my kids’ best interests at heart.

With a newfound love for history and science, I’m learning so much the second time around. I get excited about learning, which carries over into my youngest sons attitude about learning. His natural curiousity is piqued as I create an environment conducive to understanding the world around him. This is the first step of fostering a life-long love of learning!