10 Things Parents Give Up When They Homeschool

1. quiet days, whether at home or at the office
2. packing brown bag lunches or scrambling for lunch money every morning
3. the morning ritual of making sure nobody goes back to sleep after their alarm sounds
4. sending your child out running to catch the bus (and driving them to school when they miss it)
5. parent/teacher conferences (unless you count walking around and muttering to yourself as a teacher conference!)
6. all-school concerts and other mandatory evening events
7. providing a doctor’s note when your child misses school due to illness
8. mandatory parent-teacher commitments and fundraisers
9. the evening homework saga
10. before- and after-school transitions (in which you’re sure your child’s best behavior is being saved for their teacher)

What others can you add to this list?

14 Tips for Surviving the Summer with Kids (from Homeschooling Parents)

School’s out! The kids are home for the summer, and suddenly your world has been turned upside down. How will you survive ten weeks with children home all day?
Homeschooling parents do it year-round. But when you’re not used to having kids home all day, it can certainly feel like a shock to the system. Here are fourteen strategies from homeschoolers to help you get through the summer:

Photo Credit: Melanie Yang (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo Credit: Melanie Yang
(Oak Meadow Archives)

1. Free your children from boredom by encouraging independence. At the start of the summer, ask them to brainstorm a list of things they could try if they get bored. Post it in a handy place. When they complain of boredom, refer them to their list. Create a dog agility course in the backyard! Make a kitty condo by taping boxes together! Set up a cozy reading nook (indoors or out). Build a fort. Learn about ants, find an anthill, and watch them at work. If all else fails, suggest that they lie flat on their backs, look up at the sky or the ceiling, and wait there until a more interesting option comes to them — something always does.
2. Find a new rhythm during the day. If you live where summers are hot, the sun’s pattern may shape your daily rhythm. Spend time outdoors in the morning and late afternoon. During the middle of the day when the temperature is at its peak, do restful activities in the shade or the cool indoors. Evening can be a lovely time for a daily family walk.
3. Let your children follow their own bodies’ individual patterns for sleeping, waking, being active, or resting. Encourage them to listen to how they feel after a late night or an early morning. Challenge them to figure out their own most comfortable daily rhythm and follow it during the summer months, even if the schedule will be less flexible come September.
Photo Credit: Bolyard Family (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo Credit: Bolyard Family
(Oak Meadow Archives)

4. Balance outings with unstructured time at home. During the summer, day camps and other activities can have a big impact on the shape of your days. If your family is extra busy, be sure to make room in your schedule for regular unscheduled time at home as well. If you’re usually at home without much structure, consider designating one or two regular days each week for outings.
5. Lean on the village. Connect with other compatible families and plan regular playdates where one parent gets a break while the other supervises children from both (or multiple) families.
6. Make regular time to play together as a family. Plan a set time in your day or week when everyone sets aside work responsibilities and obligations, and do something fun that you can agree on. If agreement is hard to come by, take turns choosing a family activity. Make a habit of being present with each other without distractions or multitasking.
7. Set things up so everyone in the family can be as independent as possible with meals and snacks. It’s nice to have one meal a day together as a family, but perhaps breakfast, lunch, and/or snacks can be a help-yourself venture. If your children are capable in the kitchen, ask them to regularly take a turn making dinner for the family during the summer. Or make dinner prep a family project once in awhile so the primary cook isn’t doing it all alone.
8. Keep bags or bins of interesting things handy for children to play with and explore. Stock up on puzzles of different kinds; Mad Libs, crossword puzzles, and Sudoku books; and interesting materials for experiments and crafts. Check the public library to find out if they have a “busy box” collection to lend out. Save these items and pull them out as a last resort when you need a few quiet moments to yourself.
9. Gather plenty of basic craft supplies, and set up an area in your home or yard for artistic exploration where children can be as independent as possible and clean-up is relatively easy. For craft ideas, visit our Pinterest boards.
Photo Credit: Joy Cranker (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo Credit: Joy Cranker
(Oak Meadow Archives)

10. Take midweek field trips! Enjoy local museums, historical sites, libraries, parks, hiking trails, and beaches. Go on a weekday morning when crowds are most manageable. Your local library may have free or discount passes that families can borrow.
11. Give your children extra responsibilities – and extra benefits, too. A child who is around more can help out more. Use this opportunity to help them learn how to do useful, routine tasks around the house. Those who prove capable of cleaning up the kitchen might be allowed to experiment on their own with new recipes or culinary inventions. Turn wood-stacking into a fun race, and end with a bonfire when the stacking is all done. Have the kids speed-clean the common areas of the house before sitting down to watch a family movie. Make a post-lawnmowing swim a routine perk of the job. Give your children the opportunity to feel useful, develop skills, and then celebrate a task well done.
12. Limit screen time. Send your kids outside to play creatively in nature every day if you can. If they’re reluctant or it feels challenging to you, read this article for some ideas on how to get kids outdoors.
13. Take breaks from each other. Adults and caregivers need time “off the clock” where they can turn off their parental radar and recharge. Children benefit from relationships with different adults. If your child’s needs do not allow for separation, invite other adults to come and share the load.
Photo Credit: Kara Maynard (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo Credit: Kara Maynard
(Oak Meadow Archives)

14. Enjoy your time together. Take advantage of opportunities to connect throughout the day. Those moments may happen unexpectedly, so be on the lookout and make the most of them. If your children are more independent, putter around the house or yard occasionally just to find and say hello to them. If they are at an age where they want to be with you every moment, give in to their need and keep them close. September will be here all too quickly, and these moments do not last forever (even if it sometimes feels that way).
Happy summer!
What other suggestions can you add for an enjoyable summer at home with children?

10 Things You Don’t Miss When You Homeschool

Some of the hallmarks of school are blissfully absent for homeschoolers. Here are ten key examples.

1. The morning alarm clock: Homeschoolers can design their schedule to honor their body’s natural rhythms. Many wake each day only when their body is refreshed and ready.

2. Homework: When homeschool work is done, it’s done! There’s no additional pile of work to add on at the end of a long day.

3. School lunches: Whether you pack them or buy them in the cafeteria, school lunch options are limited, and health is all too often sacrificed for convenience. Homeschoolers can enjoy all of the natural, healthy options their parents make available in the fridge or pantry.

4. Permission slips: All of those endless slips of paper to sign and return magically disappear when you bring learning home instead!

5. Detention: Homeschool discipline is simply an extension of regular parenting. There’s no need to compel a student to “stay after school” to make a point.

6. Report cards: Homeschoolers don’t need report cards because their parents keep ongoing tabs on how their learning is going. Some homeschoolers even consider grades optional.

7. Parent-teacher conferences: There’s no need for a meeting because the home teacher is also the parent. As one bit of homeschool humor asserts, “I’m not talking to myself; I’m having a parent-teacher conference!”

8. Shortened recess: Recess can happen anytime and as often as it is needed!

9. The bell: The bell to signal the end of the class period or school day never interrupts your work or that wonderful book you’ve just delved into. And you never spend any time watching the seconds hand go round and round as it counts down the boring minutes to the end of class. You might wish there were more minutes in your day, though!

10. The end of summer vacation: When school vacation ends and school kids head back inside school to their lockers, desks, and workbooks, yours can keep playing outside as much as they want.

When Your Homeschooler Misses School

The summer is ending and the school year beginning for those who are headed back to school. You’ve spent the summer cementing your decision not to send your child back to school this fall — or perhaps ever.
You’ve read everything you could get your hands on about homeschooling; you have chosen materials and curriculum; you have soothed the concerns of family and friends even while feeling a bit unsure yourself. You don’t know how the details will play out, but you are convinced that homeschooling will be a better option for your child.

child-schoolbus-CreativeCommons
photo credit: Waiting for the school bus via photopin (license)

Your child’s friends and neighbors are sporting shiny new backpacks and heading to the bus stop to wait for the big yellow school bus. They have new sneakers, new desk supplies, and a lunch packed in a fancy container. They are bubbling over with excitement and anticipation as they head back to school.
As they walk by, your child is still in pajamas, rubbing sleep out of his or her eyes. Breakfast seems mundane. It feels like any other old day at home. What day is today again? As the school-bound children get on the bus, it suddenly hits. Today is the first day of school, and your child is not headed there.
“I wish I could get on that bus and go to school with all my friends!”
What now?
Homeschooling is a big transition for both you and your child. Your child may grieve the loss of many aspects of the school experience. You might even be surprised at the things that he or she misses most. Even if school was a bad or mixed experience, there may be a sense of loss before the “new normal” is established.
Make it a point to ask your child what he or she is missing, and allow him or her the process of grieving and letting go.
If your child is feeling sad and missing school, here are some things to consider as you make the transition to homeschooling.

  • Structure. In school, each day is typically heavily structured and predictable. Some children thrive on less structure (and that is one reason some parents choose to homeschool), but others have a deep need for solid daily structure to feel secure and function well. Pay close attention to your child’s individual needs, and consider whether they might need more or less structure in their homeschool day. Don’t be afraid to go through some trial and error to find the rhythm that works best for your child.
  • Photo credit: Chandang Tsering. (Oak Meadow archives.)
    Photo credit: Chandang Tsering.
    (Oak Meadow archives.)

    Social network. School is full of same-aged peers, and your child may be missing that regular social stimulation. Be proactive in reaching out to create a new social network of homeschoolers and other community members. Many homeschoolers gather at local parks for active outdoor play that looks and feels a bit like recess.
  • Lunch. Some children really like having a packed lunch, and the foods you might put in a lunch bag might be different than those you’d make for consumption at home. Engage your child in coming up with a weekly lunch menu, and if it’s important to your child, let him or her “pack a lunch” each morning.
  • Supplies. School-bound students end the summer armed with a pile of brand-new school supplies, often purchased to satisfy a list provided by the school. Does your child miss having new notebooks, pens, etc.? Good news! School supplies are often clearanced right after the start of school. New supplies can be exciting for homeschoolers, too.
  • Teachers. Your child may miss having adult mentors around who are not his or her parents. Foster your child’s relationship with adults who are willing to take on a mentoring role, even if it is as simple informally helping a neighbor out regularly. Some organizations, such as scouts, provide a more formal opportunity for a child to interact with a mentor who is not a teacher.
  • Adventure. Riding the school bus can feel like a big adventure for younger children. Older students enjoy field trips, special assemblies, and other school-sponsored activities. Weave some adventure into your homeschooling plans. If you live out in the country, visit the city and ride a public bus. Many museums, historical sites, and arts organizations allow homeschoolers the same privileges as school groups, so be sure to call in advance and let them know you are homeschoolers.
  • Responsibility. At school, when parents are absent, students may feel more grown-up and responsible. At home with Mom or Dad around, old patterns might reign. If your children seem to be resisting your involvement, try giving them more autonomy. Ask them what they’d like to be in charge of, and give them the opportunity to try.

Photo credit: Kara Maynard. (Oak Meadow archives.)
Photo credit: Kara Maynard.
(Oak Meadow archives.)

Transitions take time, and the transition from school to homeschool can feel like a really big deal to both you and your child. Take it as gently and slowly as you need to. Find some ways to mark the transition and ensure that the next few weeks are especially fun and enjoyable for both of you.
If after this year you decide to homeschool for next year as well, chances are good that your child will have embraced it and will be looking forward to it. And when the school bus goes by on the first day of school next year, you might well hear your child say:
“I’m so glad I don’t have to go to school today!”

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