“I don’t know how homeschooling families do it all.”
“I like the idea of homeschooling, but I could never do it all.”
“I can’t even imagine how you do it all.”
“How DO you do it all?”
Do it all?!!
What does that mean? What exactly do homeschooling families do all day, and how do parents manage the needs of their children along with their other responsibilities?
Every family is different, so there is a wide range of possible responses to those questions. Here are a few insights into some possibilities.
How do you find the time? Those who have not navigated homeschooling firsthand may have some incorrect assumptions about what homeschooling requires. They might think that, like a classroom teacher, the homeschooling parent must teach on their feet while their children sit at desks for five or more hours a day. It’s understandable that some would think this; Western culture doesn’t give much support for other models of learning. But homeschooling brings a great deal of flexibility.
Get Out and Socialize!
How do you meet your child’s social needs? Some people make the assumption that homeschooling happens entirely between parent and child at home. But this approach would exhaust many parents and bore many children!
Spending time with one’s parents is not equivalent to spending time with one’s peers. Institutional (public or private) school allows students to interact conveniently with numerous other students over the course of the school day, making school seem like a sort of one-stop-social-shop for same-aged children.
In contrast, most homeschoolers spend a good deal of time socializing out in the world, interacting with their community in various ways and learning from myriad interpersonal interactions. It often doesn’t take much effort to find a social niche through activities, hobbies, or interests shared between your child and other community members. Sometimes it takes persistence and creativity to make these connections.
If parents were the only source of social engagement, homeschooling would be a dull (and exhausting) proposition, indeed. And many parents would find it to be completely unsustainable. It’s a good thing there are other options!
How do you teach everything? Many parents find support and relief in local homeschool groups that meet formally or informally to share teaching, learning, resources, planning tools, and ideas. This can help the load feel lighter. Some groups have parents take turns leading or organizing cooperative classes that shift with the needs of the students. If you have hard time finding a homeschooling group in your area, check with your local library (historically a great connecting hub for homeschoolers) or ask the state Department of Education if they can provide a list of contacts.
If there is no group near you, reach out and start your own! Your librarian, faith community, or local school officials (if they are supportive of homeschooling) may be able to connect you with other homeschooling families with similar needs. You might hang some posters, publish a blurb or ad in the local paper, or see if your town hosts an Internet bulletin board where you can post an inquiry. You can also reach out to find local families through Oak Meadow’s Facebook page.
Some parents also engage tutors, enroll their child in select classes, or cultivate mentor relationships to help with subjects they are less comfortable teaching.
How do you ensure your child meets long-term goals? One important aspect of the homeschooling version of “doing it all” is academics. Planning is key, especially if you have an eclectic approach that draws from a variety of sources to round out your curriculum. Your town or state may have an outline available that reflects grade-appropriate expectations. Oak Meadow offers a complete curriculum package for each grade level, making it easy to ensure that your child is getting all of the essentials each year. Our grade overviews also provide a great scope and sequence to follow for those who are designing their own curriculum.
Setting and reaching yearly educational goals may sound like a tall order, but there is support available. Talk with other parents to find out what they have done, or connect with them via social media channels. Oak Meadow’s distance learning school gives parents professional planning support throughout the year, and support is also available for unenrolled families.
If your state requires end-of-year documentation, it’s important to have a good system in place for collecting that documentation so that you or someone else can make sense of it at the end of the year. The first year of documentation is usually the hardest; once you have gotten through the first year’s submissions, subsequent years will be routine. If you are in the U.S. and unsure what your state requires from homeschoolers, check the HSLDA website.
If you expect your child will experience a stretch of homeschooling followed by a stretch of public schooling and you want your child to be on target for smooth academic entry into the public school, you may want to take the public school’s academic pace into account when planning your year.
Weekly and Daily Planning
How do you stay on top of all of the details? How can you manage the day-to-day and still meet your goals by year’s end? Careful planning is important to maximize your time. Your plan will depend on your expectations, your style (relaxed or structured), your child’s personality and preferences, your ability or willingness to be flexible, and the pace expected by your state or local authorities.
Here is where the concept of “rhythm” comes in. A short burst of quality academic engagement with your child will have more benefit than hours of detached disorganization. Take some time to observe your family’s natural patterns. When is each family member’s energy the highest, attention span the longest, interest in learning the most engaged? What non-academic tasks are essential in each day and need to be planned around? Allow these insights to inform a general daily rhythm that will help you get through each day and accomplish the year’s goals in day-sized bits.
Think also about your weekly and yearly commitments. Consider pockets of time in your week that can be used for academics. Craft a weekly rhythm that honors this ebb and flow. Some families enjoy diving right into academics first thing Monday morning and taking it easy on Fridays. Others find it works best to go slow on Mondays and hit their stride midweek.
Some families homeschool six or seven days a week; others four or five. Some homeschool year-round, while others focus on academics only through the traditional school year and take summers off. Some families take a break from academics for the entire month of December. You have the freedom to make your homeschooling schedule fit your family’s lifestyle.
Aligning Expectations with Reality
What does “doing it all” mean to you? Homeschooling is a process of constant revisiting and adjustment. Don’t be afraid to do some trial-and-error to find what works best for you and your child. If you try a particular approach and it feels overwhelming, adjust your expectations and try again. Ask other parents what works for them. Ask your children for their input. You may be surprised at their thoughtful responses! Phone counseling is available from Oak Meadow for those who would like experienced guided help creating a homeschooling rhythm. Keep your expectations realistic and trust that you can do this!
In Part II, we will explore the non-academic side of what “doing it all” means for homeschoolers.