A hashtag on Twitter got me reminiscing (#homeschoolin5words). Most of the people posting are not homeschooling long term but maintaining their kids during the corona virus. The tweeters using the hashtag are funny and exasperated. I’ve enjoyed a lot of their posts. I just hope the families are focused on these moments, because they will be wonderful memories.
Homeschooling has come a long way since 2007 when I started. It was a conservative movement, and most of the homeschool moms I knew at the time were religious conservatives. They assumed I was, too. I was neither. I recall a group outing for pizza when a mom sat down next to me and complained about how we had to stop the gays from getting marriage and the Bible said…. I told her she had a lot of hubris speaking for god.
My oldest sister had homeschooled a few of her kids, and that gave me the belief I could, too. My sense was she did it because she felt the school system was too liberal. I felt just the opposite. It wasn’t liberal enough. It wasn’t focused on critical thinking enough.
I quit work when I had my first child. My second came along only 15 months later. I was excited to share the world in a way I didn’t feel I could if they spent more time with strangers than with me. With buses, the school day, homework, and sleep, I’d get them for only a few hours, whereas the state would get them for 7. I had the privilege to stay home because my partner made a good living wage. When I started back to work part-time, I had my mother to help watch them.
I wasn’t convinced public school would give them the critical thinking skills that I could. I believe I gave them a good foundation; they tell me they remember homeschool being very hard — all that self-discipline I expected of them, whereas public school organizes their time for them. It makes me smile.
Our curriculum included Latin and Greek, math, English grammar, taekwondo, gymnastics, piano, swimming, Kindermusik, Girl Scouts, and plenty of nontraditional learning with science, cooking, games, their own blogs, their own videos, and building things. 2-3 hours a day, then the rest was free time.
How to Homeschool
I wasn’t confident in my own ability to structure, so I enrolled in the Iowa Home School Assistance Program (HSAP). This is a program that provided enrichment opportunities, some group activities for kids, and a supervising teacher that checked in once a month. We participated in the Cedar Rapids program first. Later, we transferred to the closer Iowa City program. These programs are not supposed to be alternative schools but enrichment opportunities, and they were spectacular at the time — we even keep in touch with a favorite teacher who taught us a lot about the German culture and language.
I found online resources, too. There weren’t many back then that weren’t Christian-based. We used Khan Academy, and my kids still use this for calculus help today. We found science experiments online from other homeschoolers and even videoed our own. We used Singapore math, which I preferred to Saxon math. Later, I purchased used Pearson math books for Geometry and Algebra. I tried different Latin and classical Greek programs, finding Athenaze the most accessible. But I also used Lushnig’s Introduction to Ancient Greek because it’s the one I learned with. For Latin, of course it was Wheelock Latin An Introductory Course, the one I used and just so easy to move through. We tried Rosetta Stone for Spanish and Latin but didn’t really stick with them.
My kids are high achievers, scoring in the 99th percentile on standardized testing every year since elementary school. One is highly motivated to work and earn money and invests in his own stocks. The other is adept with symbolic systems, having skipped an entire year of French, advanced in piano, and enrolled in university math courses in 11th grade. I don’t know if these things are innate or arose due to their early schooling or both. I was never interested in pushing them quickly to get ahead. It’s just with “school” that focuses on a few kids rather than hundreds, you can move at their pace.
Not every child or parent is cut out for homeschool. It requires a balanced decision to determine what will benefit everyone best. Iowa is homeschool friendly these days — you can go entirely off the grid. No check ins, no tracking of any kind. I’ve dealt with the fall out of bad decisions, kids who transition to public school at 10 years old unable to read because they just watched television all day but their parents called it “homeschool.” Do yourself a favor: if you homeschool, get some supervision just for yourself, to be sure that YOU are doing a good job providing your kids what they need.
It’s a different world today, just a decade later. My kids have free Chromebooks that connect them to assignments, online books, and communication with their teachers. Online resources are plentiful, including many secular ones. If you’re moonlighting for the COVID-19 duration, that’s all you likely need. If you and your kids get a taste for homeschool, I bet your state has plenty of resources, and I encourage you to try it. Most places in the US allow you to start and stop at your convenience.