Offline Education

Remember when pedestrians used to tell us to limit kids screen time to no more than one hour a day? Now five year old’s are attending kindergarten on zoom. Limiting screen-time is the number one pro I considered when deciding to homeschool my kids.

My problem with online school was that my kids are older (11 and 13). They have lives online and know what apps they enjoy most. The “school” app is not their favorite. Last spring, both of my kids found lots of non-educational things to do online while I thought they were learning. Taking school offline actually makes it easier for my kids to work independently, so I don’t have to watch what they are doing every second they’re supposed to be doing school. I can just look at their physical piece of paper at the end of the day and know they’ve actually done their work.

Just taking school offline isn’t enough though. School takes maybe four hours per day. If my kids then sleep for ten hours, that leave another ten hours for them to be online. My older son does sometimes seek out offline activities, so he probably only spends 6-8 hours online each day (which obviously is still 5 hours too many).

My younger son is hard core addicted though. He is obsessed with Minecraft! All of his friends are online, and he’s constantly playing with them. Also, in real life he’s an awkward kid. He was bullied a lot in physical school, and generally not very happy. In Minecraft, he’s popular and cool. He knows how to do things other people don’t and generally feels good about himself.

In many ways, I feel like my son is happier now than I’ve ever seen him. All the big stressors in his life are gone. Except none of the positive things in his life are real. Minecraft is not real life. Yes, he’s talking to friends, but playing a networked video game isn’t the same thing as playing soccer. All of his friends are avatars, with voices he hears through headphones.

I know that thanks to COVID, this is reality right now. But I’m also really worried about my kids. I know electronics are addictive, and I know my children are addicted. What I don’t know is how to get them unplugged. I try to limit screen time, but somehow it’s a fight I loose way more than I win. I’m glad my son isn’t skipping his zoom school to play Minecraft anymore, but that doesn’t mean he’s not still addicted. It just means he now has the reward of Minecraft as a motivation to finish his math assignment.

I’m sure I’m not the only parent dealing with this right now. How are you coping? Are you coping? Is there any hope for this generation of kids. Growing up in the age of social media was bad enough, but now these kids are also growing up in the age of COVID, where even teachers and grandparents live only on zoom.

An Element of Unschooling

If given complete freedom, will children naturally chose to school themselves? Is unschooling an effective education style, or an excuse created by lazy parents?

The basic idea of unschooling is that children are naturally curious, so if a child is given the freedom to do whatever they want, they will want to learn and school themselves. I’ve always scoffed at the idea of unschooling. If given the freedom to do whatever they want, there is no way either of my kids would chose math homework. There are some things adults need to know, that most kids don’t want to learn. I am therefore, a very firm believer in the idea of some required formal education for all children.

2020 has not been a normal year. Embracing the abnormality of the time, I decided to give unschooling a try for the month of July. My kids were on summer break, and we weren’t going anywhere. So I gave them complete freedom. They could eat whenever they were hungry, sleep whenever they were tired, and spend their time doing whatever they wanted. The only rule was don’t leave the house, and that was because of a global pandemic. The results surprised me.

My oldest son is 13. He has always loved to read, and spent on average somewhere between 8-12 hours per day reading during this period of complete freedom. Not only was he constantly reading, he also regularly came to me to discuss the books he was reading. On a few occasions, he even gave me reading assignments so I could properly uphold my side of our conversations.

My younger son is 11. He has always loved video games. Instead of reading like his older brother, he spent the vast majority of his waking hours playing video games. Normally, this would drive me bananas. But, in a time when seeing friends in person isn’t really an option, he spent a lot of time talking to his friends online while they played video games together. Also, the games he gravitates towards tend to be games that involve building and strategy. The kid is insanely good at Minecraft. It’s not constant reading, but it does still require a lot of critical thinking, as well as social interaction. Not the worst way to entertain yourself during a pandemic.

We officially began our school year in the middle of August, and in the past month and a half my children have been given less freedom than they had in July. They are now required to do math assignments, conduct science experiments, write essays, study history, and read books they wouldn’t normally pick for themselves. This formal schooling usually takes between three and four hours per day. It also gives me enormous piece of mind. I know that I’m teaching my kids at least some of the important things they will need to know as adults.

Still our household is very relaxed. My kids have some basic rules, but whenever possible I try to let them make decisions for themselves. When my kids finish their required schooling for the day they are free to go back to doing whatever they want. They read and game respectively almost as much now as they did back in July, with just a short pause for math every once in a while.

When I see them wanting to learn, I adapt their required school work to more closely match the curiosities they are naturally pursuing. When my son expressed fascination in ancient Mesoamerica, we stretched what was supposed to be a week long intro to his US History curriculum into a month long unit study.

Children do need parents, and extreme unschooling can look a lot like neglect. But a little bit of freedom, or even a lot of freedom isn’t always a bad thing. Especially younger kids who don’t have the attention span to sit on zoom calls all day, might be better educated when given the freedom to teach themselves. Your kids might surprise you as much as mine surprised me.

If given the freedom to do whatever they want, what will your children do? What are they curious about? And how can you encourage that natural curiosity and enable your children to thrive?

A Book Over Breakfast

Incorporating a read aloud into your daily routine isn’t only for homeschoolers. Regardless of your children’s age or school status, reading in the morning can change the entire rhythm of your household.

My oldest son is not a morning person! He has woken up in a bad mood almost every single day of his life. When he was little, he often brought this bad mood with him to the breakfast table. By the time my kids were out the door and heading off to school, we were all grumpy and fighting. Then a friend suggested something that changed everything, read during breakfast.

Starting when my kids were in second grade and kindergarten, I started keeping a chapter book on our dining table that I always read aloud during breakfast. It was also picked up during lunch, afternoon snacks, and even dinner on occasion. But mainly it was the breakfast book. My grumpy oldest child loves stories and has always used literature as a way to escape his bad moods. Starting the day with a read aloud not only quieted my kids so they could eat instead of fight, it also elevated my sons bad mood so he left for school smiling and laughing instead of cursing and screaming.

I kept up this morning read aloud tradition for years and only abandoned it when breakfast became a quick grabbing a granola bar on the way out the door and my oldest son had replaced his morning literature fix with a morning caffeine fix. To compensate, we did listen to audio books in the car during the drive to school – but it wasn’t the same as those cozy story filled mornings we had when my kids were little.

Now that we’re homeschooling, the morning read aloud is back. I don’t make my kids get out of bed until 10:00 AM. Even with this late wake up hour, my son still wakes up grumpy. The first thing on their daily homeschool schedule is breakfast while mom reads aloud. Sometimes I read historical fiction that ties in with what they’re learning in history. Sometimes I read non-fiction that ties in with what they are learning. Sometimes I just read some poetry. And sometimes, I grab a really great novel that pulls us all into another world.

“Morning Basket” is a common term thrown around in the homeschool world. Sometimes it’s an actual basket containing group subjects and activities used to start the homeschool day. For other families, morning basket is nothing but a read aloud at the breakfast table. I’ve been parenting a lot longer than I’ve been homeschooling, and I’m hear to tell you, if you’re family is low on morning people – you need a morning basket. Or just a good book for your kids to listen to over their oatmeal.

Working From Home while Homeschooling

How to juggle work and school schedules so everyone is on task and getting everything they need to done – parents included.

I’m a single mom with a full-time corporate job I’m able to do entirely online. I’m also homeschooling my two children. They don’t do online school, I’m their actual teacher. During the past six months, I’ve tried a lot of different schedules and have final found one that seems to be working for my family.

We are basically using a block schedule. Below I’ve listed each block of time and how it’s helping us to get everything done in a low-stress manner. Depending upon your families current situation, a similar schedule might work for you.

Early Morning Work Time – I typically wake up two or three hours before my kids. During those first hours of the day, I get as much uninterrupted work done as I can. I have a lot of work meetings in the morning. This is also a great time accomplish as much as possible first thing and also plan out the rest of my day.

Morning Independent School Work – My kids usually wake up around 9:00 or 9:30 and we try to always start our homeschool day by 10:00. For the first two hours or so, my kids do the majority of their independent assignments. I have set up a workspace for myself in the same room as my kids work spaces, so I am available to answer any questions they have. While keeping them on task, I’m also able to keep working myself. If your kids are doing online school, having a place where they can work near you for a limited part of the day might be a great way to oversee their learning while still staying productive yourself.

Mid-Day Group Work – We try to do all of our group assignments and projects right after lunch. I have been able to shift my work schedule around enough to accommodate a slightly longer lunch break. Most days, I spend about two hours actively teaching my sons. Because I have other parts of the day blocked out for uninterupted work, I feel comfortable taking this time to focus on teaching my kids instead of working. If you aren’t able to take an extended lunch hour, you could break your group work up so you are providing some instruction during your lunch hour and some additional time in the evening after you finish your work day. I could also see a married couple staggering their lunch hours so together they are able provide two back to back hours of hands on parenting in the middle of the day to either help with online school or teach a homeschool lesson.

Afternoon Free Time – My kids are given three or four free hours every afternoon to do whatever they want. Once we’ve finished our group school work for the day, I relocate to a quieter part of the house to put in several more uninterrupted hours of work. My kids can go outside, play a game together, watch TV, play video games, or do what ever else they want during these free afternoon hours. They like knowing there is a clear end to their school day to look forward to, and I enjoy knowing that I’ll have time to answer all the work emails that pile up while I’m distracted by helping my kids with their school work.

Homework Time – Yes, I give my homeschooled children homework – sometimes. On good days, we get everything we need done in the morning and early afternoon. By about 2:00, my kids are completely done with school and able to relax. But not all days are good days. Some days, my kids struggle to complete their independent work in the mornings. Maybe they woke up tired and grumpy, or maybe the material is too hard and they need more help and instruction from me. Either way, any independent work that hasn’t been completed by lunch is turned into homework. I then take however long it takes to work with my child on their homework in the evening after dinner. A leisurely afternoon and a good dinner, plus some further instruction from Mom, is usually all that’s needed and homework assignments are completed without any of the frustration my kids felt in the morning. On days when neither of my kids have homework, we often try to play a game or do some other activity together as a family during this time right after dinner.

Evening Work Time – The same way that sometimes my kids can’t get everything done during the day and need to do homework in the evening, someday I have more work to do too. I like to make up the extra hour that I took for lunch in the evening after I’ve finished helping my kids with their homework. Taking this extra hour at the end of the day enables me to tie up loose ends and start the next work day on a better foot.

Extended Bedtime – My sons are 11 and 13. If they had to be up early every morning, I’d probably try to get them in bed by 9:00 or 9:30. But I actually like it when they sleep in, because it gives me those much needed uninterrupted work hours in the morning. So I let them stay up later. They don’t have no bedtime, but I do allow them to stay up until 11:00. You probably don’t want to enable a second grader to stay up that late, but regardless of your child’s age, pushing their typical bedtime back by a few hours may give you a few extra hours in the morning.

Working full-time while also homeschooling does take a lot of schedule coordination. Getting kids to school, daycare, and extra curricular activities and also overseeing homework in the evenings takes just as much schedule coordination, if not more. If I’m being entirely honest, as a single parent to two middle school aged sons, my life has become far less hectic since we all shifted to working and learning at home.

What type of schedule does your family use? If you have any tips for juggling work and homeschool schedules, share them below.


An enjoyable and effective way to teach middle school students how to write.

When I first started homeschooling back in March of 2020, I wasn’t very worried about teaching language arts. Both of my sons are strong readers, and my oldest son is down right veracious. While we’ve been quarantined, my oldest son has easily spent 6-8 hours reading every single day. Pretty much all he does is eat, sleep, read, and argue with his brother.

English and Language Arts (normally abbreviated to ELA) is more than just reading though. I tried using a grammar curriculum with my son last spring, but he found it super boring. Still, I know not teaching my veracious reader how to also write effectively would be a huge disservice. He may have gotten A’s on all of his seventh grade ELA writing assignments back when he was in public school, but seventh grade is not the end of a students writing journey. In many ways it’s just the beginning. I needed a homeschool writing program that could set my young bibliophile up for success.

After lots of online research, I found the perfect program for my son – WriteShop. WriteShop does make an elementary school program that I’ve never used. Their middle/high school program is 32 writing lessons broken up into two books WriteShop I and WriteShop II (16 lessons per book). The program can be done in a single year, one lesson per week (recommended for high school students), or spread out over two or three years for middle school students.

Each lesson consists of pre-writing activities, skill building worksheets, and a writing assignment. There are self-check checklists with every writing assignment and instructions for how the student can edit their own work. The assumption when following this program is that every assignment will entail multiple drafts as the student improves their writing skills.

My eighth grader really enjoys this program and I can tell he’s learning a lot at the same time. My sixth grader needs another year of more basic grammar and vocabulary before he’s ready to start this program, but it could be used for an advanced sixth grader. I would definitely recommend it for any student in seventh or eighth grade that enjoys writing.

What writing programs have you used?

A Simple Workbook Can Go a Long Way

Can you actually homeschool your kids with nothing but a $12 workbook?

There are A LOT of different homeschool curriculum to chose from. Some have online videos that explain how to do the work. Some have lots of hands on projects and manipulative. Some curriculum teach subjects like math, science, and history through reading engaging stories. Others use more traditional textbooks. Depending upon the type of curriculum you use, it’s easy to spend anywhere from $50-$250 per subject per child. Spending $100+ on a curriculum for a single subject that might not even fit well with your child’s learning style can feel like a huge risk.

As I’ve striven to figure out what types of curriculum work best for my kids, I’ve also come to really appreciate worksheets. There is a reason so much of public school education involves filling out worksheets. It’s easy to verify a student is doing the required assignment and it’s easy to grade, so mastery of a concept can be quickly assessed. Worksheets are also easy for students to do independently.

My oldest son loves to read, and I’ve tried to find curriculum that teaches through compelling stories for most of his curriculum. But simply handing a kid a stack of books isn’t a comprehensive education. Even with a highly literature based curriculum, it’s important to have some type of assignment to go with the reading that both reinforces the concepts and keeps the student accountable. In other words, I still need worksheets.

My younger son isn’t as excited about reading as his brother. He’d prefer to skip the lengthy reading assignment, be it from a text book or a novel, and just do the worksheet right from the start. So I’m giving him what he wants, and saving a lot of money at the same time. I didn’t buy an expensive math curriculum for my son, I spent $12 on a workbook (Spectrum Math Grade 6).

Since this is just a workbook, without any text to go with it, I do have to teach my son how to do all the math he’s being assigned. Spending 10 minutes explaining how to solve the problems and going over one or two problems together before sending him off to finish the rest of the worksheet on his own works perfect for my son’s learning style. If I’d spent a bunch of money on a math textbook, he wouldn’t read it anyway. So $12 for a comprehensive math curriculum is a fabulous deal.

I’ve also opted to go the workbook rout for my sixth grade son’s English Language Arts curriculum. I actually bought three different workbooks to give him a more well rounded/comprehensive sixth grade ELA curriculum. He is using Spectrum Language Arts Grade 6 ($12), Reading Fundamentals Grade 6 ($8), and Wordly Wise 3000 Book 6 ($14). All three of these workbooks have engaging assignments that reinforce important concepts my son needs to be learning at this age. Similar to the math workbook, I sometimes need to give a bit of instruction when he’s first learning a new concept. Once he has the idea down, he is able to do this work independently. Combined with independent silent reading, he’s getting a really good language arts education that includes reading comprehension, grammar, vocabulary, and parts of speech all for less than $35 for the entire year.

People often give workbooks a bad rap, and they aren’t great for every student. But they do work well for a lot of kids, which is one of the reasons they are used so often in public school. If you don’t have a ton of money to spend on homeschool curriculum, you really can give your child a comprehensive education with a few carefully selected workbooks and a library card.

The Life of Fred

A whole new way to teach math, that is actually working.

I need to start with a bit of honesty and personal information. I am an engineer. When I was a kid, math was hands down my favorite subject in school. I was even a mathlete in middle school. But my oldest son learns in a different way than I do. He has always struggled with math. For years, I spent hours helping him with homework every night, I payed hundreds of dollars per month for math tutors. In March of 2020, my son had an A in English and a D in seventh grade math. He will never follow in my mathletic footsteps.

Now we’re homeschooling, and I have to figure out how to teach this kid math. Remember, I’ve been trying and failing to teach this kid math for years. It’s time to get unconventional – we’re using Fred.

The Life of Fred is about as unconventional as math curriculum can get. It’s a story, about a 5 year old boy named Fred who teaches math at Kittens University. Fred is very good at math, but he’s only five, so he isn’t very good at life. As Fred lives his life, he runs into all kinds of problems that he has to solve with math.

Basically, “The Life of Fred” is a novel length story problem, that’s supper funny. There are lots of smaller story problems sprinkled all the way through. It’s perfect for my very intelligent son, who loves to read and completely hates math.

The biggest con for “The Life of Fred” is that it isn’t comprehensive enough. Students who only read Fred won’t know every single math concept taught in common core math. Um hello, my son had a D in math, with a tutor while attending public school. He was never going to learn every single math concept taught in common core math. But with Fred, he’s learning a lot. He doesn’t hate math anymore, and because all concepts are presented in a story form, he understands not only the idea but also the real life applications.

If you’re interested in trying Fred with your own children, here is a little more info about how it’s laid out and how we’re using it. Each chapter (usually 3-5 pages) presents a new math concept in the framework of the full story. At the end of the chapter there is a “your turn to play” section that has three to five math problems for the student to solve on their own. The answers to these problems are given on the next page, so this really isn’t homework.

At the end of every five chapters there is a bridge quiz. The bridge is a list of ten story problems that the student has to solve in order to cross the bridge. If the student answers 9 of the 10 questions correctly, they pass the bridge and move onto chapter six. If they get 8 or fewer questions correct, they have to take the bridge again. There are six quizzes provided for each bridge location. If the student fails the sixth attempt, they have to go back and read the chapters again before moving on.

My son loves to read, and he’s 13, so he always reads the chapters to himself. He reads all five chapters at once. His reason for wanting to do five chapters in a single day is driven more by his enjoyment of the story than anything else. Once he’s ready to attempt a bridge, we sit down together and review the concepts covered in the chapters he read the previous day before he takes the quiz. I read each question out loud to him and he solves the question in front of me. If he gets stuck, I guild him toward the right answer without letting him practice doing the math wrong. Because we’re basically taking the quiz together, I’m a little looser on the 90% to pass rule. Instead I judge how many hints he needed and how much help he needed. If I have to do any of the problems for him, or he needs more than two or three small hints, we re-read the chapter that covers the concepts he’s struggling with together before he makes a second attempt on the bridge. Using this system, he’s never had to try a bridge a third time.

Honestly, I wish I’d known about Fred years ago. Even when my son was in public school, reading these books would have been way more useful than paying for private tutors and crying over homework assignments. Fred definitely isn’t for everyone, but it’s perfect for us.

If you’re thinking about giving Fred a try and are curious about levels, here are those details. The elementary series has 10 books with titles in alphabetical order (Apples through Jelly Beans). Regardless of grade, they suggest starting at Apples and simply moving through the early books quickly if you have an older student. There are then three extra books (Kidneys through Mindshaft) that can be added in once the series is finished if needed. If a student gets all the way to the end of Mindshaft before completing 4th grade, they actually recommend going back and reading all the books again – not moving on to the middle school series.

The middle school series is five books (Fractions, Decimals & Percents, Pre-Algebra 0, Pre-Algebra 1, and Pre-Algebra 2). My son started the Fractions book last spring, when he was in the middle of his seventh grade year. He is now working his way through Decimals & Percents. I am hoping that he’ll be able to get all the way through Pre-Algebra 2 by the end of this year. Completing Pre-Algebra by the end of 8th grade will have him back up to grade level in math, something he hasn’t been for years. There are also longer single subject books for each high school level (Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, and Trigonometry).

What are you using to teach math you your students?

Finding Your Homeschool Style

So you want to homeschool, now what? Before diving into the overwhelming waters of curriculum, the first thing you need to do is figure out what style of homeschool you want to have.

There are a lot of homeschool curriculum to chose from, and knowing where to start can be very overwhelming. Fortunately, most curriculum fall into different styles or categories. So once you know what style you are looking for, it can quickly help you narrow down your search. Here’s a list of the main homeschool styles.

Traditional: This is the style that looks the most like public school at home. If you are using a traditional homeschool approach, you will have textbooks and workbooks for each subject. If you’re only planning to homeschool for one year, using a traditional approach may make for the easiest transition both into homeschool and back to public school when you plan to return. Popular traditional curriculum to look at are Abeca (religious), Spectrum, Saxon (math), IEW (language arts), and many more.

Classical: The classical homeschool approach is heavily focused on rhetoric and brings Latin into the core subjects taught very early. The idea is to teach children the way children were classically taught in the 1800. I don’t know very much about this style, but do know Classical Conversations is the most popular curriculum that uses this approach.

Charlotte Mason: Like the classical style, Charlotte Mason can seem old fashioned. Charlotte Mason was a teacher in the 1800’s who developed a new approach to education that many homeschoolers are still using today. The idea behind the Charlotte Mason approach is to teach with “Living Books” instead of text books. Basically, this homeschool style is very literature heavy and teaches things through engaging literature not textbooks. My oldest son loves to read, so I’ve done a lot of research into the Charlotte Mason style. Some of the most popular Charlotte Mason curriculum are Simply Charlotte Mason, Build Your Library, The Good and the Beautiful, Bookshark and Sonlight. You can also create your own literature based curriculum simply by giving finding books for your student to read on a given topic and then developing your own writing or narration assignments to go with the reading.

Unit Study: Instead of getting a full years curriculum, many homeschool families do unit studies. This style of diving deep into one topic for a few weeks or months before moving onto a new topic works well for many younger students. Depending upon the types of projects you do with your unit study, it can also be great for active hands on learners. Doing unit studies often requires a lot more prep work from the parent/teacher. Instead of using an open and go curriculum, you’ll need to do a lot of the prep work yourself and pull together various books and projects on your own. There are some curriculum that provide an easier jumping off point for unit studies. If you want to do unit studies with your kids, I suggest looking into Curiosity Chronicles, The Good and the Beautiful, and Blossom and Root. Since you could easily build your own unit studies by simply checking out a bunch of books from the public library on a given topic, this can be one of the more economical options if you don’t have lots of money to spend on curriculum.

Unschooling: The name unschooling makes this teaching style sound terrifying for many families. The basic idea behind this style is that children are naturally curious and if given the freedom to explore the world they will naturally educate themselves. Some unschooling families truly allow their kids to do whatever they want, but most unschooling families still guild their children and at least teach the basics of reading/writing/math. Allowing for more child lead learning that follow a students natural curriousities for topics like history, science, and art could still fall into the unschooling category. If you are interested in unschooling, you don’t need to buy any curriculum. Just fill your house with interesting books, lots of art supplies, encourage your kids to spend lots of time outside, and be ready to answer questions when your curious kids start asking them.

Virtual: Right now, pretty much every public school in the country is offering a virtual or distance learning option. In addition to the current public school distance learning situation, there are also many accredited charter schools and private schools that offer online options that can be a good way for “homeschooled” children to receive an accredited diploma. K-12 and Connections Academy are both well established accredited online programs. If you don’t want a full online education, but do want to include some aspects of online education in your homeschool here are a few more non-accredited online homeschool resources: Time for Learning, Teaching Textbooks (math only), Outschooling, Khan Academy, and Easy Peasy.

Eclectic: Most homeschool families categorize themselves as eclectic. Basically, this means they do their own thing and pull a little bit from several of the styles listed above. That is the beauty of homeschool, you don’t have to follow a rigid schedule or adhere perfectly to a set curriculum. Personally, I’m using a fairly traditional style with my youngest son and more of a Charlotte Mason style with my older son. My boys have different learning styles, and being able to find curriculum that works for them is what makes homeschool so great.

What style of homeschooler are you?

The Pro’s and Con’s of Homeschool

Deciding to homeschool is a huge decision, here are the pro’s and con’s I considered before opting in to at home and offline learning.

Homeschool is not a new inversion, parents have been homeschooling their children for longer than public schools have existed. But in the United States, homeschool often holds a cultural stigma. Many people assume that homeschool families are all either extremely religious, or super lazy and don’t actually teach their children anything. Of course this isn’t fair, and I personally know several families that homeschooled their children long before 2020 who provided very high quality education to their children from home. If you’re thinking about homeschooling this fall, here are a few items you might want to conciser.

The Parent Becomes the Teacher

This seems obvious, but can also be a huge concern for parents thinking about homeschooling. Parents are busy with lots of other things going on in their lives. Maybe your like me and will be working from home at the same time as your children are learning from home. Juggling schedules can be hard. Even if your family’s schedule does allow one parent to take on the role of full time teacher, is that a role you want to take on? Maybe you don’t feel comfortable teaching every subject and are worried you’ll end up fighting with your kids all day and they won’t actually learn anything.

These fears are genuine, and I definitely agree that homeschool is not for everyone. If you don’t have the time or desire to teach your children – don’t. But if your only concern is that you don’t know everything, it is okay to learn with your student.

What about Socialization?

Um, what about it? I’m writing this in 2020. So chances are very high if you’re reading this, your trying to decide between homeschooling your student and having them attend school online. Are they getting socialization in that class zoom call? Hopefully, your kids already have friends that you can help facilitate interaction with (either on or offline depending upon social distancing requirements in your area).

And when looking beyond 2020, most homeschooled children participate in extra curricular activites. They play team sports, participate in scouting or youth group activities, and they have friends in their neighborhood to play with. Talking to the kid sitting next to you in class isn’t the best way for students to socialize. All of the real social activities kids should be participating in are available to homeschool students and public school students alike.

Individualized Education

Not all students learn the same way, or at the same speed. Public school teachers are superheros and do an amazing job of juggling the needs of all their students simultaneously. I’m only teaching two students and even that can be a challenge. Because my two students have different strengths and weaknesses. The solution is that I’m teaching them in different ways, using entirely different curriculum.

The fact that as a homeschool parent, I can select a curriculum specifically geared towards my child’s learning style and then teach it at exactly the speed my child needs to fully grasp the concepts without getting board is hands down the biggest pro for homeschooling in my opinion. If online school matched my kids’ learning styles, we’d be doing online school. But it doesn’t, and as a homeschooler, I can tailor their education to exactly match their academic needs.

How Long is This Going to Take?

Students typically attend public school about six hours per day. This time includes lunch, multiple recesses for younger students, passing time between classes for older students, and a lot of classroom management time when the teacher is recapturing the attention of all the students. The result – homeschooling typically takes 2-4 hours per day. That’s it. Of course your kids still need to eat, and play, but the sitting down and learning time is only 2-4 hours per day (half the time they normally spend at public school). If you choose to homeschool, you can let your kids sleep in and still be done with school by lunch so they can play all afternoon.

What about Accreditation?

This is the biggest con by far, and the one nobody ever talks about. If you’re thinking about homeschooling, you need to look at the requirements for your state. But regardless of where you live, and what bookkeeping or testing requirements your state has, it’s relatively easy to homeschool K-8 students. If you choose to homeschool in the fall and then want to send them back to public school in the spring, all you have to do is register them for public school and your local district will stick them in a classroom.

High school is a very different story though. Most, possibly all, public high schools do not accept homeschool credits. It is possible to get into college with a homeschool transcript, but your local high school is not going to recognize your homeschool transcript when applying credits towards graduation. That means if you opt to homeschool your 10th grader for the 2020-2021 school year, and then you want to send them back to public school for their 11th grade year, they are going to be short a lot of credits. The public school may require your child to retake several of the classes you thought them at home, and they might not be able to graduate on time.

Deciding to homeschool a high school student needs to be a four year decision. If you only want to keep your high schooler home this year because of COVID, do online school. Most public schools are offering distance learning options this year, in many districts this is the only option. There are also numerous online charter schools and other accredited online options that can easily transfer credits. All the pros of homeschooling can be taken advantage of for a short time for K-8 students, but if you want to homeschool your high schooler offline, you’re likely going to need to commit to staying their teach until they graduate.

What did I miss? What pros and cons are you considering when deciding if homeschool is a good choice for your family?

The Back To School Conundrum

Like every other parent across the country, I have more questions than answers regarding the 2020-2021 school year. Here’s the plan I’ve come up with for my family.

It’s August, but the hustle and bustle of back to school feels very different this year. The last time my children, ages 11 and 13, stepped inside a school building it was March. In the past five months, more than 150,000 Americans have died from COVID-19. September is a month away, and it’s bringing a new level of fear and uncertainty to every parent and teacher in the country.

Like many other school districts around the country, my local school recently made a formal announcement that all schooling will be done via remote learning until at least November. I’m glad our local school district is taking this virus seriously, but let’s be honest for a minute here, distance learning sucks.

Online school is hard! It’s hard for teachers and it’s hard for students. My 13 year old lasted exactly one week doing online school last spring before I pulled the plug – literally. There are WAY TOO MANY distractions online and my son was doing everything but getting his work done. So we took school offline, and I opted to homeschool instead.

My younger son stuck with online school through to the end of the school year, but it didn’t go very much better for him. He “forgot” to attend almost all of his class meetings, so I ended up teaching him how to do all the assignments his teacher assigned. Since I was already homeschooling his older brother, I came up with lots of supplemental school options for my younger son too.

This coming fall, both of my boys are going to do homeschool – offline, with me as their only teacher. In normal circumstances, I’m a huge fan of public school, but these are not normal circumstances. Right now school is happening at home weather we like it or not. When school happens at home, homeschool is definitely an alternative option parents need to think about.

In addition to homeschooling, I’ll also be working full time. I have a professional career that I’m able to do online. My employer has made it clear they do not want me to return to the office until their is a vaccine, so being home with my boys won’t be an issue. I am a single mom, so I won’t be able to tag out with another parent and will have to do a lot of juggling to work and teach at the same time. Fortunately, my boys are old enough that they can work independently a lot of the time – as long as that independent work isn’t online where there’s YouTube and Fortnite to distract them.

I’ve had a five month head start on figuring out workable homeschool schedules and researching curriculum. So I decided to add another task to my already busy schedule and start a blog, where I can share this research with other parents. If you’re thinking about homeschooling this fall, but don’t know where to start, stick around.

The world is changing, and school is changing with it. Welcome to New School.