Forty-eight hours from now our schooling year begins. I will have one young son hopping on the big yellow cracker box, headed to a year of fourth grade, and another that will need to be dynamited out of bed to begin grade seven-or-whatever-it-is-when-you’re-a-Stealth-Schooler. This school year arrived on the doorstep far too quickly for my taste, but as I’m not In Charge of All the Things…Yet, I will roll with these particular punches. Also? When did I become the parent of a fourth grader and seventh-grader-or-whatever-it-is-when-you’re-a-Stealth-Schooler? When I started this blog they were babies! When did they become tweens? And get off my lawn while I color these grey hairs!
This weekend I had a conversation with an old friend from Colorado, about the homeschooling requirements in Illinois. While honored that she felt I could answer her questions, I was
scared to freaking death more than a little concerned that someone would ask ME about homeschooling. Me? Really? I don’t know squat about homeschooling. I’m certified to teach in two states, but really? We’re only into month…using toes to count…something (more than 12, less than 24), and I could best be described as making it up as I go. But still. I’ve learned quite a bit since we started, lo those many and scary months ago. What if I did have something to contribute on how to homeschool? What if I did know more than I thought? Don’t I have an obligation to share those painfully learned bits of knowledge?
So share I will. How to Homeschool JUST LIKE ME. Your mileage may vary, consult legal council before proceeding, may cause unintended hair loss and armpit itching, watch your ass, keep your arms and hands inside the boat at all times, buckle up kids it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.
1. Learn your state’s homeschool laws. You don’t have to, but for the love of all things holy and green, CYA and know where you stand. Illinois has very relaxed homeschool laws, which makes my life bliss (riiiight…), but every state is different. If I had to provide lesson plans and portfolios and endure state testing I don’t know if I’d be homeschooling.
2. Give only the slightest of damns. Yes, this makes me sound like the worst of all the homeschoolers, but I have a reason. In parenting, this is called Pick Your Battles. In homeschooling, I call it Give Only the Slightest of Damns. Find your line in the sand and there, and only there, put barbed wire/electric fencing/rabid dogs. For me, it is called “you will do daily mathematics and don’t EVEN think of arguing this point dear child I brought you into this world and, as Bill Cosby once noted, I can take you out.” No, I’m not very strong in the math world, thank you for noticing. Everything else is slightly more flexible, but there will be math, end of story full stop. Note: this will be greatly influenced by #1. If your state has certain requirements you will be forced to adjust your giving of the damns.
3. Plan your year, then be prepared to set it on fire. I bought Tom a fire pit for Father’s Day this year; we’ve used it exactly twice. Yes, we’re still getting the hang of this “maybe we can pass as a normal family” thing. But it’s always good to know I have something in which I can burn all the detailed educational plans I’ve made for The Most Complex Child on the Planet™. Right now, for the beginning of the school year 2013-2014, I have plans for this and that and the other thing…and probably 65.682% of it will be toast by Thanksgiving. The surviving percentage (and no, I will not figure it out for you, see previous statement on not being terribly strong in math) will likely be math, Druidawn, Words and Their Stories, and Beyond Percy Jackson. This presents a slight problem, as we determined the other night that geography skills with our homeschooled child is, how to put this, a raging fustercluck.
4. Have line items in your budget for educational materials, personal care (proper hair care, massages), babysitters (we are ALMOST PAST THIS CAN YOU HEAR THE ANGELS SING), and alcohol. Don’t skimp. Remember you must care for yourself as well. (That said, I can count on one hand the number of babysitters I’ve hired in the last two years, and massage therapy is 100% therapy so my jaw doesn’t go cray-cray and cause me to crack even more teeth in my sleep. But still.)
5. Find a co-op, a tribe, an online PLN, a mentor, a guru, a casual gathering of other homeschoolers, a book club, or for crying out loud anything. Find something is my point. You do this homeschool thing alone and you’re going to find yourself barking at the chipmunks in your yard in short order, and we just can’t have that. I recommend searching Meetup or just lurk on #gtchat for awhile until you find something more local. Virtual is good until you need someone to take junior off your hands for a few hours so you can reconnect with your inner self as you wax your upper lip. I don’t wax my upper lip, but I also don’t have a certain birthday that ends in zero for another month.
6. Make friends with your library and all the librarians within. See if said institution has a homeschoolers library card program. Ours does, and when I remember to use it I can check books/videos out for significantly longer periods of time than the standard three weeks. And if you can read a stack of books in under three weeks I’m jealous and kinda hate you. I used to be able to do that, but then I had children, and now suffer from Adult Onset Child Induced ADHD.
7. Join the Homeschool Buyers Coop. Unless you just have money to burn (in which case I really want you to quit burning it and just send it to me), you will want to save money on homeschool materials (yes, that is what passes for an affiliate link in IL–I get points to exchange for stuff later, no money, but I’d tell you to join regardless, I’ve saved gobs of cash buying through this site).
8. Join Gifted Homeschoolers Forum. Yeah, like this wasn’t going to make an appearance. GHF saved my sanity long before we decided to homeschool A. I’ve found resources, ideas, comfort, and friends from the email list. I am a member, so I also get discounts on the awesome online classes now being offered. GHF Press published my book, and the one coming out next summer. And yes, GHF is involved in today’s BlogHop. Just go get involved with GHF.
9. Get everyone but you out of the house as often as reasonable. I work (and homeschool) from home, A homeschools from home, my husband works from home…I am almost never alone in my house. While that may not be a problem for some, for me it’s a big honkin’ zit on the tip of your nose before senior prom kind of problem. Out. Get out. Get out now. Go somewhere. Anywhere. I don’t care where. Just get out and come back later. Much later. No, later than that. I require a few hours of silence and nothing but the snoring dog to disturb me. Love you, miss you, get the hell out already.
10. Keep a schedule until you don’t. It’s kinda like having a newborn. You want to have a schedule, so you kinda have a schedule. But then you figure out toot suite that the kid doesn’t know or care about your schedule and goes about his merry way leaving your schedule crumpled in the dirt. So you dust off your schedule as best you can, then realize it’s just pointless, so you follow the kid’s lead within reason and just hope you’re not screwing him up in the meantime. A janked up naptime is one thing, a screwed beyond all recognition education is another. You hope you cover the important stuff, you comfort yourself with the realization that every kid has some sort of gap in his/her education, and just pray you’ve encouraged a love of learning, curiosity, and discovery above and beyond all.
Follow all ten of these steps, and you are guaranteed to homeschool just like me.*
*No, not really. There’s no way to reproduce the generalized chaos of Jen’s home life. Sometimes she exaggerates it, sometimes no, but even if you average it all out, it’s pretty nutso. You’d have to add a sweet but badly flatulent dog, a house they’re all pretending does not need as much work as it does, and the fact that she is trying to juggle too many concerns to mention. You know, like most homeschoolers.
Today’s post is part of the August GHF Bloggers Blog Hop. Go check out the other participants!