by Jenny Smedra
The past school year our family decided it was best to switch to remote learning during the pandemic. Although there is a distinct difference between remote learning and homeschooling, it is a frequently discussed topic in our household. Every day I ask myself, “Is homeschooling the right option for us?”
Choosing to homeschool is not a decision that should be made lightly. There are many benefits of becoming more involved in your kids’ education. But, it is a decision that will affect your entire family. As we continue to weigh our options, I wanted to share some of our personal challenges as well as free online resources that have helped supplement our education at home.
Benefits and Challenges of Homeschooling
The Greatest Benefits of Homeschooling
1. Your children get more individual attention.
One reason we are leaning towards homeschooling is because I can give more individualized attention. Not all children learn in the same way. Since we have begun working with my nieces one-on-one at home, we have been able to customize the curriculum to their learning styles. Furthermore, we can work at our own pace. This allows us to spend more time on areas they struggle with and breeze through ones they quickly grasp.
2. You have greater flexibility.
Homeschooling also grants you greater flexibility to work around your family’s schedule. While it is important to maintain a steady routine, you can better adapt when emergencies arise. If bad weather or family emergencies interrupt the school day, you can easily adjust it to accommodate your schedule. For many families that need more flexibility, homeschooling is the right choice for them.
3. There is more opportunity for experiential learning.
Another reason I believe homeschooling is right for us is because it allows more opportunities for experiential learning. I am a firm believer in learning by doing. Taking field trips, performing experiments, and doing hands-on activities makes the lessons more relatable to real life. Studies show that the content is more meaningful when children can experience it for themselves.
While there are state standards every homeschooler must meet, it also provides more opportunities for self-directed topics. You can use these free homeschooling resources to help your kids explore their interests or find their passion. Fostering a supportive environment could open new doors unavailable to them in the traditional education system.
The Biggest Challenges We Face
1. It can be difficult to balance everyone’s needs.
Truth be told, it is a daily struggle to balance the demands and needs of every family member. Mainly, it is because each person’s needs change from day to day. However, it becomes even more challenging when you share the same space all day, every day.
Some weeks I find myself completely exhausted from juggling the responsibilities of our personal, professional, and school lives. At times, it requires every ounce of my patience not to raise my voice when the kids are bickering or misbehaving. This is why we also make time for fun – activities we enjoy both as a family and alone. It is important to remember balance plays a huge factor in maintaining a healthy lifestyle and learning environment.
2. There is the constant fear of failure.
When deciding if homeschooling is the right fit, I constantly worry that I will fail them as a teacher. I doubt my abilities and question if I am doing enough. One of my greatest fears is that I will fail to prepare them for higher education and life in general.
However, every parent I know who homeschools has felt this way at some point. The advice they give me is to remind myself that no one is perfect. I need to trust my training as a teacher, and know that we are all doing the best we can. Instead of focusing on the failures, we should celebrate each success and achievement while continuing to work through our problems.
3. Some lessons can only be learned through peer interaction.
Any psychologist or educator will tell you that peer interaction is crucial to children’s social development. Families who homeschool also understand this, which is why there are plenty of extracurricular activities available to them. Unfortunately, there are some life lessons that can only be learned through peer interaction.
Homeschooling can shield your kids against a lot of the negative influences. But, it is also prevents them from learning how to cope with and resolve conflicts. Furthermore, it is difficult to mimic group projects where they have to work together towards a common goal. Learning how to effectively communicate within their peer group is one life experience that is nearly impossible to replicate at home.
4. Homeschooling is a full-time job.
Although you don’t get paid, homeschooling is a full-time job. Most families I know who homeschool have one person who stays home to attend to the kids’ education . However, leaving a job also means there will be a heavier financial burden due to the loss of income. If you decide to homeschool, you may also have to get used to living on a limited budget.
Free Homeschooling Resources by Subject
One thing that has been very encouraging during this family discussion is the number on online resources. With more than 2 million children now homeschooling, there is a thriving community and support network for parents and teachers.
The mere mention of the subject caused a bit of panic. Although math was never my strong suit, Homeschool Math has made it manageable. With e-books and curriculum guides for parents and teachers, they have tons of free resources to supplement home education. You can easily review difficult lessons or find worksheets and games for additional practice. The site focuses on mastering the concepts instead of simply memorizing rules for a more comprehensive approach.
If you are looking for ways to engage your kids in the sciences, Howtosmile is an excellent resource for kids to explore different fields. It has 3,500 STEM activities on a range of topics which are free to everyone. Many of the activities come from the best science museums, universities, and educational organizations across the country. You can adjust the search filters to find the perfect activities for your lesson plans.
While I have always been a bookworm, it is a never-ending fight to get some kids interested in reading. Lucky for us, the Reedsy blog has offered some much needed assistance. Their team has compiled 20 different sites with thousands of free e-books you can download. There are new titles added every day and hundreds of genres to choose. You can search for specific books to save money on school projects, or take their quiz for new reading suggestions.
Getting Started with Homeschooling
If you think homeschooling is right for you, the first thing you should do is talk to other families. I began with family friends who homeschool and found others in our community. They have shown me where to get in touch with local groups and online forums dedicated to homeschooling. By asking questions and looking at their lesson plans, I hope to get a sense of what our daily routine would be to make the decision easier.
The next step is to familiarize myself with the homeschool laws for the state where we live. My logic is that you need to make sure that you know what is expected so you can choose the best curriculum to suit your family’s needs. The HSLDA website is the best place to get started and offers support to help your kids get the best homeschooling education possible.
Jenny Smedra is an avid world traveler, ESL teacher, former archaeologist, and freelance writer. Choosing a life abroad had strengthened her commitment to finding ways to bring people together across language and cultural barriers. While most of her time is dedicated to either working with children, she also enjoys good friends, good food, and new adventures.