by Jenny Smedra
Last school year, our family decided that it was best to switch to distance learning during the pandemic. While there is a distinct difference between distance learning and homeschooling, it is a frequently discussed topic in our household. Every day I ask myself, “Is homeschooling the right option for us?”
Choosing homeschool is not a decision that should be taken lightly. There are many benefits to becoming more involved in your children’s education. But it’s a decision that affects your whole family. As we continue to weigh our options, I wanted to share some of our personal challenges as well as free online resources that have helped complement our home education.
Benefits and challenges of homeschooling
The greatest benefits of homeschooling
1. Your children receive more individual attention.
One reason we turn to homeschooling is because I can give more individual attention. Not all children learn the same way. Since we’ve been working one-on-one with my nieces at home, we’ve been able to adapt the curriculum to their learning styles. In addition, we can work at our own pace. This allows us to spend more time in areas they are struggling with and blow through areas they are quick to grasp.
2. You have more flexibility.
Homeschooling also gives you more flexibility to bypass your family’s schedule. While maintaining a constant routine is important, you will be better able to adjust when emergencies arise. When bad weather or family emergencies interrupt the school day, you can easily adjust it to suit your schedule. For many families who need more flexibility, homeschooling is the right choice.
3. There are more opportunities for experiential learning.
Another reason I believe homeschooling is right for us is that it offers more opportunities for experiential learning. I firmly believe in learning through learning. Excursions, experiments, and hands-on activities make teaching more understandable for real life. Studies show that the content is more meaningful when children can experience it for themselves.
While there are government standards that every homeschooler must meet, it also offers more opportunities for self-directed topics. You can use these free school education resources to help your children explore their interests or find their passion. Promoting a supportive environment could open new doors not available to them in the traditional education system.
The greatest challenges we face
1. Balancing everyone’s needs can be difficult.
To be honest, balancing the demands and needs of every family member is a daily struggle. Mainly because each person’s needs change from day to day. However, it becomes even more difficult when you share the same room every day.
For a few weeks I am completely exhausted from balancing the responsibility for our personal, professional and school life. Sometimes it takes every ounce of my patience not to raise my voice when the children argue or misbehave. That’s why we also make time for fun – activities that we enjoy both as a family and alone. It’s important to remember that balance has a huge impact on maintaining a healthy lifestyle and learning environment.
2. There is a constant fear of failure.
When deciding whether homeschooling is the right solution, I constantly worry that I will not be able to pass it as a teacher. I doubt my abilities and wonder if I’m doing enough. One of my biggest fears is that I will not be able to prepare them for higher education and life in general.
However, every parent I know who has home schools has felt this way at some point. The advice they give me is to remind myself that no one is perfect. I have to trust my training to be a teacher and know that we all give the best we can. Instead of focusing on the failures, we should celebrate each success and achievement while continuing to work on our problems.
3. Some lessons can only be learned through peer interaction.
Any psychologist or educator will tell you that interaction with peers is vital to the social development of children. Home-teaching families understand this too, which is why there are numerous after-school activities available to them. Unfortunately, there are some life lessons that can only be learned through interaction with peers.
Homeschooling can protect your children from many negative influences. However, it also prevents them from learning to deal with and resolve conflicts. In addition, it is difficult to mimic group projects where they have to work together to achieve a common goal. Learning how to communicate effectively within your peer group is a life experience that is hard to repeat at home.
4. Homeschooling is a full time job.
Although you don’t get paid, homeschooling is a full-time job. Most families I know have someone who stays at home to take care of the children’s education. However, leaving a job also means a greater financial burden due to the loss of income. Once you choose a school, you may also need to get used to living on a budget.
Free homeschooling resources by subject
One thing that was very encouraging during this family discussion is the number of resources online. With more than 2 million children now teaching at home, there is a thriving community and support network for parents and teachers.
The mere mention of the subject caused a little panic. Although math was never my forte, Homeschool Math made it manageable. With e-books and curricula for parents and teachers, they have tons of free resources to complement home education. You can easily review difficult lessons or find worksheets and games for additional practice. The website focuses on mastering the concepts rather than simply memorizing rules for a more comprehensive approach.
If you’re looking for ways to get your kids involved in the science, Howtosmile is a great source for kids to explore different areas. It has 3,500 STEM activities on a range of topics that are free for everyone. Many of the activities come from the best science museums, universities, and educational organizations across the country. You can customize the search filters to find the perfect activities for your lesson plans.
While I’ve always been a bookworm, getting some kids to read is a never-ending struggle. Fortunately, the Reedsy blog has provided much-needed support. Your team has compiled 20 different websites with thousands of free e-books for you to download. New titles are added every day and hundreds of genres to choose from. You can search for specific books to save money on school projects or use the quiz to find new reading ideas.
Getting started with homeschooling
If you think homeschooling is right for you, it is a good idea to talk to other families first. I started with family friends who taught at home and found others in our ward. They showed me where to connect with local groups and online forums dedicated to homeschooling. By asking questions and looking at their lesson plans, I hope to get a sense of what our daily routine would be like to help make the decision.
The next step is to familiarize myself with the homeschool laws for the state we live in. My logic is that you need to make sure you know what to expect so that you can choose the best curriculum that suits your family’s needs. The HSLDA website is the best place to start and provide assistance to help your children get the best homeschooling education possible.