When it comes to homeschooling, parents have a lot of decisions to make. But what if those parents are divorced or live separately? Joint custody and school decisions can be tricky to navigate, but with some planning and communication, homeschooling with divorced or separated parents can be successful. In this article, we’ll explore some tips and resources to help homeschooling families with divorced or separated parents.
Communication is Key
The most important factor in successfully homeschooling in unique family situations is communication. Both parents need to be on the same page about homeschooling and agree on the curriculum, schedule, and other aspects of their child’s education. This can be challenging when parents are no longer living together, but it is essential to put the child’s education first.
It’s a good idea for both parents to attend meetings with educators or other homeschooling parents together so that they can ask questions and discuss any concerns. It’s also important to keep each other informed about the child’s progress and any changes to the curriculum or schedule.
Keep all homeschool-related and relevant information in a “living” document (such as a Google Drive folder) where parents can make changes that become immediately available to other family members. You can track curriculum, progress, grades, state regulatory information, important dates, and more. For paper documents, an easily portable small document case that can be transported to meetings or between homes is ideal.
Quick Tips for Communication:
- Both parents should attend key meetings
- Keep school-related information in a shared document
- Update each other on any changes
Planning is crucial when it comes to homeschooling, and even more so when parents are divorced or separated. It’s important to plan ahead and create a schedule that works for both parents and the child. This will help ensure that everyone is on the same page and there are no surprises.
If you’re new to homeschooling, choose a curriculum that supports your child. Parents with differing educational philosophies may have to compromise while putting the child’s best interests first. Educational philosophies and your child’s learning style can be incorporated into any curriculum with adaptation. Don’t worry about finding the perfect curriculum; choose one that supports your child and that all parties can agree on.
A curriculum with a looser schedule might work best for your family, or one with a daily checklist might be best. If you’re considering Oak Meadow, we suggest taking a look at our samples to see our weekly lesson plans.
Work out a general yearly school schedule (including breaks) ahead of time so all family members know the plan. Don’t forget to include extracurricular activities and field trips, vacations, and more.
It’s also a good idea to create a backup plan in case one parent is unable to homeschool for any reason. This could mean having a trusted family member or friend who can step in or finding a homeschooling co-op or program that offers drop-in days.
Quick Tips for Planning:
- Consider purchasing a homeschool curriculum, rather than designing your own
- Consider a curriculum with a clear but flexible schedule
- Create a shared calendar for the school year
- Find extra backup in case both parents aren’t available
Creating consistency is another important consideration when homeschooling with multiple parents, family members, and/or locations. The logistics of creating consistency for your students should include things like transportation, homeschool space, materials, and equipment. It’s important to have a plan in place for how these things will be handled, especially if the child will be spending time in both parents’ homes.
One way to simplify logistics is to create a homeschooling “kit” that can be easily transported between homes. A hard-sided crate with wheels and an extendable handle is a great option. This could include textbooks, workbooks, and other materials, as well as any equipment or supplies needed for experiments or projects.
Alternatively, you might choose a digital curriculum and an electronic device for the student to reduce the number of books being transported, or even have multiple copies of curriculum materials available so school never gets left behind!
Quick Tips for Consistency:
- Stay consistent in schedule, transportation, & materials as much as possible
- Create a homeschool kit that can move between households
- Consider a digital curriculum to reduce the amount of books being transported
Homeschooling can be isolating, and this can be even more true for families with divorced or separated parents. It’s important to seek out support from other homeschooling families, as well as from professionals like therapists and educators.
Many cities and towns have homeschooling support groups that meet regularly to provide opportunities for socialization and support. Libraries, community centers, and parks often have homeschool-friendly activities or groups. Online forums and social media groups can also be sources of connection with other homeschooling families, even if they aren’t in your geographic location.
Create your support system, and as you grow it, keep appointments and contact information in your homeschool living document.
Quick Tips for Seeking Support:
- Join local homeschool groups
- Attend homeschool-friendly activities and events
- Find connections online
- Document contacts in your homeschool living document
Finally, it’s especially important to be flexible when homeschooling with divorced or separated parents. Things don’t always go according to plan, and it’s important to be able to adapt to changes in schedules, curricula, and other factors.
Flexibility can also mean being open to different approaches to homeschooling. For example, one parent may prefer a more traditional approach, while the other may be more interested in a child-led approach. It’s important to find a balance that works for everyone involved. It’s okay to blend approaches and do different things with different parents, as long as the children feel consistency in what to expect.
Quick Tips for Being Flexible:
- Don’t be afraid to blend educational approaches
- Sometimes schedules and plans will change; stay flexible through the changes and work to get back on track
Homeschooling through divorce can be challenging, but with planning, communication, and encouragement, it can be successful. Remember to keep the child’s education first, plan ahead, consider consistency, seek support, and be flexible. By working together, parents can provide their child with a high-quality education that meets the student’s individual needs and goals.
We recognize that much of the information in this article presupposes that communication between co-parents is possible, which, of course, is not always the case. In these situations, legal measures may be necessary to decide your child or children’s educational future. If this is your situation, here are some good places to start:
Understand your state’s guidelines for homeschooling: Every state has slightly different requirements for their homeschooling students. Make sure you know what your state requires so you can be sure you’re fulfilling your obligations.
Keep thorough records of your student’s schooling: Even if your state doesn’t require detailed educational records, having documentation of your child’s educational progress through homeschooling can be helpful.
Get the advice of experts: Throughout this process, you may need to consult with a family attorney, social workers, judges, and other professionals who have expertise in navigating educational disputes. Having help, support, and guidance from experts is really the best way to ensure that you and your children will end up with the best possible outcome.