So you want to homeschool?
You wake up one morning nursing a bruise too many after battling an education system that’s sucked the joy of learning out of your child. Now you’re thinking Homeschool seems like a genuinely attractive option. So what’s a parent to do if she’s ready to take the plunge? What’s the next step like?
Here are a few words of advice:
10 Things To Think About Before Taking The Plunge
1. Take a deep breath. Count to 10. Or 100. Homeschool is DIY education that takes place at home, mainly. So the worst thing you can do for yourself is to act rashly, pull your child out of school, keep her at home, and then discover it’s more trouble than you’d prefer.
2. Do some research. Read up as much as you can about homeschool and get acquainted with its concepts, its pros and cons (which to me are all a matter of perspective and conviction), various homeschool methodologies or approaches, and legal issues relevant to schooling and education in the country. Talk to as many homeschoolers as you can; you’ll see that no two homeschools are alike!
Scroll through Homefrontier for resources and articles about homeschooling in Malaysia. Here are a few other sites to give you food for thought:
- Homeschooling philosophy: Education is a Lifestyle of Establishing Relations
- Methodology and approach: Which one is right for you?
- Curriculum: Choosing a Homeschool Curriculum
- Child development: Growth Milestones
- Playing and Learning: The Importance of Play
- Natural Learning: Nurturing Children’s Love for Learning
- Learning styles: Multiple Intelligences Explained
3. Talk to your spouse. It’s essential to have parents who are on the same page and who are prepared to make education at home a joint-responsibility. It may be cool in this age of gender and spousal equality to put your foot down and go it alone in the event your spouse is not supportive. But seriously, that’s starting off on the wrong footing. It gets even trickier when a parent – usually Mom – realizes that someone’s got to quit her 9-to-5 and be a homemaker for the family’s sake.
I can’t say this often enough because for homeschool to work it is preferable to have one of you at home, as a stay-at-home or a work-from-home parent. It’s important to understand that homeschooling is more than an alternative educational methodology because, at its core it’s about parenting, nurturing lasting values, and building strong families. This means both Mom and Dad are critical to homeschool education success.
Some articles for parents to talk about:
- The Role of Homeschooling Fathers
- Family Relationships in Homeschool
- Parent’s Involvement in Children’s Education
4. Keep your child in the loop. Remember, she is the reason you want to homeschool anyway. Now, for a lot of younger children, not going to school is an answer to prayer! However some older children who are already in school may resist the idea, especially when they think about the friends they’ll miss. Or the school clubs they belong to.
Telling a child her parents have abolished school as she knows it is not quite enough. Be prepared to explain with all the conviction you can muster how homeschool works, where she’s going to find new friends, where it’s going to lead her, and – if she already has an ambition in mind – how she’s going to get there.
5. Pull your child out of school. If your child is in school, that is. Generally, transferring a child out of secondary school doesn’t bother our local school authorities as much as taking a child out of a primary school. There are folks who have had no problems, but I know others who had had to face unfriendly school heads. But one thing everyone agrees: keep the homeschool word out of your conversation or the letters you may have to write.
6. Give yourselves time to adjust. A child who has been schooled conventionally will need to adjust: she is not simply adjusting to a new way of doing school, but the whole idea of learning. She will have to wean off acquired habits and attitudes towards learning as a sit-down teacher-instructed approach. No more spoon-feeding! It may be easy for some, but a child who is not as convinced as her parents about homeschool will test everyone’s patience. All the more reasons to go easy – on your child, as well as yourselves. At least for a few months, or as long as necessary.
7. Get organised. Most newbies to homeschool prefer the comfort of a structured curriculum and routine, but some will prefer the non-regulated unschooling choice. Whatever your inclination, remember homeschool is a completely new paradigm, sometimes resembling a state of free fall!
You’re not replicating traditional schooling at home so don’t bring school home. Set your own pace, experiment with different approaches. Be kind to yourself. Nevertheless, you’ll go further if roles and expectations are clear and boundaries are spelled out. Someone once said, “Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” There’s a lot of wisdom in that saying.
Some areas that need attention:
- Set aside a learning space. Demarcation of spaces for work and play differs for everybody, but a defined area for formal learning lets junior know you take homeschool seriously.
- Agree on a daily schedule. A simple timetable listing learning hours, household chores, play or recreation time, extra-curricular activities or support group meet-ups, is a discipline that pays off in the long term.
- Keep records. The syllabus you are using, the subjects mastered, projects completed, and the milestones covered. Consider also a portfolio of your child’s activities and achievements outside formal learning at home – volunteer service in your community; acquisition of skills such as language, the performing arts; sporting activities like soccer or gymnastic; or participation in competitions (science fairs, debates, talent contests) and conferences. Related articles:
- Special needs. There’ll come a time when you realize you need help. Of course you’re homeschooling, but it shouldn’t prevent you from engaging tutors for subjects such as language (Bahasa? Japanese?) or the sciences.
8. Connect with support groups. Or start one yourself. I know this sounds pretty daunting, but what’s a support group but a fellowship of like-minded friends who have agreed to help one another? You don’t need to be an expert to lead one, but you’ll become one soon enough if you stick at it. Meanwhile, get connected with the bigger community of homeschoolers at home or abroad. In Malaysia, our fledgling groups of homeschoolers are part of one or more of several local networks:
9. Begin with the end in mind. So says Stephen Covey, and I can’t agree more. Keep an eye on what you’re homeschooling for and the other on where your child is heading in the matter of her education. With the Big Picture in mind, the details (such as curriculum, methods, grades, etc) though important, will be like furniture in your house: if you have to, go ahead and move them about. Modify, rearrange, or simply replace them if things aren’t looking good or working out.
Being focused on the end (or the Big Picture) also means not merely looking at Homeschool as an inconvenient phase in your child’s life (“Oh dear, I wouldn’t be homeschooling if we had a world-class education system in Malaysia!”) It means having a commitment towards learning as a lifelong lifestyle. A family is richer for it when parent and child share a common passion for deepening personal relationships as well as expanding one’s horizons through a love for learning.
10. Have fun. What’s the point in anything if you’re not going to enjoy the ride? But homeschool is such a liberating experience everyday will be an adventure! Think about it: you’re freeing yourself to cultivate and develop values that really matter while giving your children the parents they need and the life they deserve. Cultivate a sense of humour. Enjoy your kids. Have fun. And be thankful.
Some related Homefrontier articles: