When schools closed in spring 2020, parents and kids had a trial by fire trying to combine working from home and virtual school with the worries of a global pandemic. COVID-19 had thrown everything into disarray.
It was stressful for everyone, but the hope was that it would be temporary and that things would be back to normal in the fall. But life is decidedly not approaching normal yet, and the beginning of the school year is hurtling towards us all at breakneck speed with many school districts still trying to hammer out reopening plans.
In this environment, many parents are deciding to take charge and homeschool their children for at least the coming 2020-2021 school year. Are you one of them?
You may be questioning your decision and wondering just how you are going to make this work. The good news is that, regardless of your situation, you can homeschool. Keep reading for three common homeschool situations and our suggestions for making the best of each.
Scenario 1: Become a stay-at-home parent while your spouse works
If one of you is able to become a stay-at-home parent, this is a great option for homeschooling. I’ve been both a full-time stay-at-home homeschool parent and a working homeschool parent and I have to say that full-time stay-at-home educating parent is my preference when I have a choice.
Pros of being a stay-at-home parent: Being a stay-at-home parent allows you to create a more relaxing, lower pressure educational environment for yourself and your kids. You’ll have time to capitalize on your students’ interests and take advantage of teachable moments that may arise in your day.
You’ll get to create a schedule that works best for you and your children. Do you all hate to get up at sunrise so that the kids can get on the bus at 7am? Do you abhor homework? Do you want to go on vacation in September instead of July? When you’re running the show, you get to control these variables.
Cons of being a stay-at-home parent: It’s not all sunshine and daisies when you are the person home with the kids full-time. There are some downsides, all of which can be overcome, but it is good to consider the potential problems so that you can make an informed decision.
Being the person home with the kids full-time means that you don’t get much of a break during the day. It can be mentally exhausting to be available to your kids from dawn to dusk if you aren’t used to it. Your income is likely to be lower since you will be living on one income instead of two, which can create stress.
What’s more, your spouse probably won’t be able to pitch in as much on the household tasks since they’ll be the major income earner. This can cause friction between partners. The kids can help take up some of these responsibilities and contribute in a meaningful way to the family.
Ultimately, you’ll have to learn a whole new way of living—meshing together family life, household responsibilities, and being your children’s teacher.
To help with this, it’s a good idea to have a plan for how you and your partner will deal with all the stress and uncertainty. For example, will you be responsible for all the meals and schooling? Or will your spouse bring home dinner on Friday and teach some subjects on the weekend? Deciding ahead of time how to manage these situations and revisiting your decisions periodically will go a long way to making this new lifestyle manageable for the whole family.
Scenario 2: Work part- or full-time from home while home educating
If you can’t give up work or don’t want to, but you wonder if you can still homeschool, there is good news: Many current homeschooling parents are working part- or full-time, either from home or outside the home. If you and your partner can work different schedules so that one of you is available to the kiddos while the other parent is working, so much the better.
For many of the years that I have homeschooled, I worked part-time outside of the home. I taught the children once I arrived home from work. I worked mornings while my husband was at home with the kids. Once I got home around 1pm, my husband went off to work and we started the day’s schoolwork.
A friend of mine and her husband both worked full-time outside of the home when she began homeschooling her 13-year-old son. Her son had work to do independently while his parents were at work and anything that needed explanation was done in the evening after dinner, with in-depth projects and difficult assignments tackled on the weekend. She homeschooled her son all the way to graduation while working full-time outside the home.
It takes out-of-the-box thinking and a curriculum that doesn’t require a lot of in-depth preparation on the part of the teacher to homeschool while working. It’s important to set realistic and clear expectations of what will be required of everyone to have a successful school year and avoid getting bogged down trying to do too much. This isn’t the time to get into a lot of extracurricular activities because it leads to stress for parents and kids.
Scenario 3: You’re a single parent
This is the most challenging of all the homeschooling scenarios, but you can make it work. Your best bet is to join forces with someone who can back you up by watching the kids or even helping you to homeschool them. Depending on where you live, you can even hire someone to teach your kids for you. Because of the pandemic, outside classes are not something you can count on this year, so it may be best to see if you can tag team with another homeschool family for child care, or to teach each other’s kids while the other parent works.
Getting advice from other single parents who homeschool will be one of the keys to your success. Your best bet to find other single homeschoolers is on local homeschool Facebook groups.
Final word: Prepping for a return to traditional school
In all three scenarios, be sure to find out what your state’s homeschool requirements are and follow them, including any procedures outlined for withdrawing your children from school. The Home School Legal Defense Association has a great resource for looking up the regulations for each state.
If you are homeschooling children from kindergarten to eighth grade, enrolling them in public school next year should not be a problem. Putting a high school student back into public school from homeschooling is another issue. Many high schools do not accept homeschool credits, so it’s advisable to make sure that your high school student is using an accredited high school curriculum (there are many from which to choose at various price points). Check with your local school district to find out what they will expect from you when/if you put your kids back into public school.
We wish you all the best for the upcoming school year and we are here to help!