I thought I knew exactly how I’d raise my kids. I would fun but firm, indulgent but just, there for what they needed and encouraging of their independence. I would celebrate half birthdays, I would always make their lunch, I would stay up late watching movies with them, and I was absolutely sending them to public school. I am a product of public school, as is my husband, and we both did well and truly enjoyed our experiences. I was in band, choir, student government, National Honor Society, various clubs and AP classes… heck, I was the mascot. I loved my time in school and was so excited for my kids to make similar memories.
Public school was the only option – I knew I couldn’t afford private school, and homeschooled kids, well, they were just weird, right? Besides, my patience is pretty nonexistent and I valued my relationships with my kids too much to ever take on homeschooling. Surely we’d just fight all day, so I needed them to learn elsewhere. I was absolutely set on the plans for my kids’ education and there was absolutely no way I would ever even consider another option. Until I had to admit that I was absolutely wrong.
I’ve shared my story several times here, but it’s worth emphasizing just how much I did not want to homeschool. I was not just convinced it wasn’t for me, I was vocally, passionately anti-homeschool. Then I had a profoundly gifted, twice-exceptional square peg kiddo who just could not fit into the round hole of public school. We pulled him out, brought him home, and have been happily homeschooling for several years now.
Homeschooling wasn’t what I thought it was, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover just how much I loved it. Meanwhile, my other two children remained in their public schools and thrived. It sometimes meant for hectic schedules and overlapping commitments, but it worked for us and everyone was happy.
Then the schools shut down.
A pandemic swept the globe, baffling scientists and bringing school administrations to their knees. None of us were prepared, and parents everywhere were left scrambling, trying to piece together plans from the fragments of information we had. Pandemic schooling was a bust. Kids were isolated at home, missing friends, activities, and learning.
Fortunately we’ve made it through, survived the chaos of the last several months and are able to take a few deep breaths. Just before us, though, is an unknown future, threatening to be as chaotic as the last few months. Schools will begin opening back up soon, signaling the start of a brand-new academic year, and us parents are faced with decisions, left to choose between options we never even imagined. Suddenly those who never thought they’d homeschool may find themselves considering doing just that.
From one homeschool naysayer to another, allow me to make a case.
The current options presented by most school districts right now leave a lot to be desired. Parents are asked to choose between in-person learning that stands to be as traumatic as it is risky, or online options that are inflexible, disorganized, and offer little to accommodate for students who need more challenge and differentiation. Some districts are offering a hybrid of those two, but none of the options leave parents feeling very comfortable, and none of the options offer a sense of normalcy to the students.
A lot has changed in the classroom, and it’s causing a lot of parents to change their mind about even using the classroom.
Right now, more than ever, families who were convinced they’d never homeschool find themselves considering it, researching it, and realizing that it may just be the best thing for them.
Okay, maybe you’re not quite convinced yet that homeschooling is the best thing for your family. Maybe you’re viewing homeschool as option C, the least-worst decision, the scenario you were forced into when none of the other options looked appealing. That’s okay, too. You don’t have to start homeschooling with a conviction or passion for home education in order to excel at it. And you don’t have to excel at it for it to work. At least, not the way you think.
Homeschooling is not what you may have always imagined. It’s not milking cows, denim jumpers, and watered-down curriculum. Homeschooling doesn’t mean gathering in a circle and teaching your children in front of a chalkboard – unless you want to. It doesn’t mean throwing all schedules out the window and learning on a whim – unless you want it to. It doesn’t mean depriving your children of vigorous learning or social interactions – unless for some reason you want it to.
With homeschooling you no longer have to advocate for more challenging work for your gifted children. Instead, you have the freedom and flexibility to meet your child where they’re at, no matter how asynchronous their abilities! You can select advanced math work and a more gentle language arts program. You can introduce philosophy or dive deeply into history while incorporating executive function skills practice. You can play games that are stealthily educational, watch documentaries in your pajamas, visit museums and dig sites and dance studios and ponds. Any bit of life lived with a child can be an educational opportunity. Whatever your child needs, wherever they fall on the educational spectrum, and whatever excites or interests them, homeschooling allows for your child to receive the most individualized education possible!
Homeschooling can be unstructured time in the woods or scheduled online classes. It can take place in the evenings if a parent needs to work, on the road if a family travels, or on weekends if various needs prevent a “typical” school schedule. Kiddos with sensory issues can learn in the peace and comfort of their homes, while wiggly kiddos can take as many breaks and run and jump as often as they need. You can skip the busy work that leaves so many gifted kids bored, and you can study whatever sea creatures your children are intrigued by.
The attempts to toss together an effective learning program during the chaos of pandemic schooling revealed an enormous gap in most school districts’ abilities to translate classroom learning to online. Rather than receiving individualized attention and education, students of all abilities were sent on virtual scavenger hunts, searching for missing links, old posts, and videos that might explain what was being skimmed over in a lesson. Parents with no applicable or prior experience were suddenly the keepers of the curriculum, expected to guide their children through a program no one was familiar with and fill in whatever gaps remained. With homeschooling, however, you are not alone.
Community and support for homeschoolers isn’t only found in local co-ops. Fantastic groups exist online, where families with similar kids can share resources, ask for help, work through issues, and encourage one another. Colleen has created some great resources to help families as they homeschool gifted and twice exceptional kiddos, such as The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling Gifted Kids, dozens of product reviews, activity ideas, STEM challenges, and even a new and incredibly helpful course she’s created just for getting started with homeschooling your differently-wired child.
We are all in this together, truly. We’re all facing similar options and sharing similar concerns about the choices we’re left with. We know we have kiddos who need and deserve more than what is currently offered. We know this school year is likely to not resemble any school year we’ve experienced before. But now we hopefully all know that homeschooling isn’t a least-worst option, it isn’t the worst-case scenario, and it isn’t plan C. Homeschooling looks however you need it to, is as flexible as your family requires, as challenging or structured or unplanned or specific as you want. Homeschooling isn’t taking something away from your child, it’s giving them so much more than they could get elsewhere. Homeschooling may just be exactly what your child needs, and you may end up becoming a convert yourself.