As we approach the new school year, numerous polls continue to show a newfound interest in homeschooling. Perhaps it’s because parents are nervous about their children getting sick, or maybe they don’t like new regulations at school.
Whatever the case, there is the potential for a major shift in the education landscape in Mississippi and across the nation.
New polling from Heart + Mind Strategies reveals that 16 percent of government school parents and 10 percent of private school parents are considering homeschooling. This is down slightly from a May peak as parents are closer to making an actual decision, but we could see a lot more homeschoolers this fall.
If those numbers played out in Mississippi, more than 75,000 children would leave government schools and about 5,000 would leave private schools. All to homeschool. Keep in mind that somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 students are homeschooled in Mississippi today.
Are you one of those families considering homeschooling? My wife and I (mostly my wife) will be going into our third year of homeschooling this fall. We’re no experts but wanted to share our thoughts for those considering or ready to make the switch.
Some call this de-schooling, but the thought is you need to get away from the traditional schooling mindset. The longer you’ve been in a traditional setting, the longer of a break you need to take.
But the idea is this: You’re probably used to a schedule, calendar, or even grades and will be tempted to bring this to your homeschooling. That’s fine, but you don’t need to. You have more than 40 or 60 minutes to tackle a subject one day. Or you could take less time. Or you could decide your child isn’t getting it and you need to take a break for a few months. Or buy different curriculum. You might like the idea of structure, but homeschooling is about having the freedom to doing what is best for your child to gain an appreciation for learning.
We’ll often get questions asking how long our homeschool day is. We’re not being flippant when we say it depends. The more flexible you are, the more you will like it.
2. Play to your child’s strengths
This is one of my favorite homeschooling benefits and should become yours. Especially as your children get older. What are they passionate about? Where do they excel? Homeschooling gives you the ability to play that up. It could be as simple as a book series they love or maybe they want to learn about how computers work.
This might sound silly at first glance, but YouTube has a world of informative videos that will teach you everything from A to Z on how to build computers, websites, or maybe just do graphic design or video editing. The opportunities expand the imagination of you and your child.
3. Get out and explore
Though many of our favorite places to visit have been closed or limited, take advantage of what is beyond your four walls. Sure, it could be your backyard – a fun place to do school in the fall or spring – but check out museums and zoos. When we go to Gulf Shores or Orange Beach, we still check out the zoo, the state park, or the historical sites. Sure, it’s education on vacation, but it’s still fun. And well worth it. And just to let you know, your local library will likely become your best friend very soon so plan on buying or building more bookcases.
When I was involved as sports as a kid, we had to run for punishment. Therefore, running isn’t something I do for fun as an adult. A lot of kids could have the same approach to learning. In the closed structure of a school, fun isn’t really something we’re supposed to take part in. Or that’s what we’re told. But we know it shouldn’t be that way. Explore. Make learning fun again.
4. Find homeschool friends
Homeschooling is the kind of thing you can do as privately or as publicly as you’d like. But for your own sanity, search out homeschool friends. This doesn’t mean you need get involved in a co-op, or something similar, but you certainly can.
But because of Facebook, you will likely find homeschooling groups. Even unofficial groups plan outings and field trips. If you’re the mom running the show, as is usually the case, find other moms. Keep up with them. Share your struggles. Get advice. Ask questions. Offer feedback. You don’t need to do this alone, unless you want to.
5. Look for outside activities
If you look around, you will find plenty of activities for your child. Yep, homeschoolers socialize. If you live in more of an urban area, it will naturally be easier for find such activities, but be on the lookout regardless. We do piano lessons from a local instructor who mostly serves homeschool students during the day. We also do P.E. at a local martial arts studio that offers the program for students during school hours.
These are some of the fun, social, and educational activities that are out there. What your child does is up to you and his or her interest.
6. Don’t worry if everything isn’t perfect
I would suggest you don’t go to Pinterest to get ideas on the perfect homeschool room or setup. Because there isn’t a perfect room. If you want your room to look a certain way, have at it, but it’s not that important in the grand scheme.
Instead, focus on the functional. We have a dedicated homeschool room, but it’s more of our office. Most of the instruction takes place on the dining room table with younger brothers gathering around. Maybe for you it’s the kitchen or living room or back porch. And even if you don’t have matching pillows or inspirational signs, everything will be okay.
7. Take advantage of free online resources
As we mentioned, YouTube is a great platform for educational videos on specific subjects of interest. But if you’re looking for more, free online learning resources, here is a comprehensive list from Kerry McDonald:
- Khan Academy – Perhaps the leader in free, high‐quality, online learning content for kids, Khan Academy offers no‐cost YouTube instructional videos in a wide range of content areas, including all levels of mathematics, English language arts, science, history, computer science and programming, and SAT preparation. Content is aligned with state curriculum standards, and parents can view and track their children’s progress. Khan Academy is widely used in schools across the country and can be a great resource for in‐home learning.
- Prodigy Math – Also used by many school districts, Prodigy is a free, online math program that uses a fun video game‐style interface to engage learners. Users create their characters and conquer challenges while doing math along the way, tied to their skill level and aligned with core competencies. The paid version offers more math and allows parents and teachers (parents can register as teachers), to run tests and diagnostics, emphasize certain mathematical concepts, and assess progress behind the scenes, while the learners happily play the game.
- Duolingo – If you or your child are interested in learning a foreign language, Duolingo offers free online learning tools in 36 languages.
- No Red Ink – This free, online writing and grammar resource helps learners of all ages to practice and refine their writing skills. Sign up as a teacher (you can use your home as a school), create a learner profile for your child, and then allow your child to log in to the student account and get practicing.
- Mystery Science – Mystery Science is offering free memberships for up to one year, with engaging lessons in a variety of science‐related areas, including timely topics such as, “How do germs get inside your body?” Video lessons are complemented by hands‐on experiments and downloadable activities.
- Codecademy– This spring could be a great time for young people to learn in‐demand skills like coding in different programming languages, web development, design, and data science. Codecademy offers free access to basic lessons, with the option to pay for more advanced courses if your kids get really into it.
- Marginal Revolution University (MRU) – Economics isn’t always taught at the K-12 level, but the dynamic, self‐paced introductory economics courses offered for free through MRU are likely to pique your older child’s interest. These are also great classes for you to learn alongside your child.
- Lynda.com – Available for free through many public libraries, Lynda.com has an array of online learning resources in subject areas ranging from photography to business to web development. Check with your local library for access details, and while you’re at it, explore the many other digital resources your local library likely offers. Many public libraries provide free access to e‐books, streaming films and music, digital magazines, and even language learning resources, such as Mango.
- TED‐Ed – TED‐Ed offers a free suite of high‐quality videos on a variety of topics for learners of all ages, including supplemental materials, discussion questions, and opportunities to probe deeper into areas of interest. Register as an educator and you can help to customize your child’s learning experience, or let your child explore independently.
- Smithsonian Institution – Many museums, including the Smithsonian Institution and especially its open access Learning Lab, offer free, online resources and activities for learners. Check out the websites of your favorite museums to see what free, digital education tools are available.
- Open Culture – Access 1,500 free, online audio and video courses from top universities, as well as 1,000 free audio books.
- Edx –Edx offers access to free online courses delivered by a consortium of leading colleges and universities. Learn college‐level content in computer science, engineering, and robotics, among others. Similar to Edx, Coursera also provides a wide range of courses created by various colleges and universities, including many that are free.
- Academic Earth – View hours of free lectures and course materials from leading universities.
- Alison: Offering a range of free online courses in all subjects.
Do you want to share your story?
At MCPP, we believe your ability to raise your child as you see fit is a fundamental right that cannot be restricted by government. We have been sharing stories of new homeschoolers who have made the decision to leave public or private school this year.
Is that you? We’d love to share your story. Just fill out this form and we’ll follow up with you!