When we became home educators, there was a number of nuggets, i.e., bits of timeless wisdom, that we were blessed to receive very early on in our transition. One of those nuggets was that if your child was in a traditional school environment, it would take about a year for them to “deprogram,” so to speak, and begin to accept homeschooling, with all its nuances, as a part of their everyday routine. If you are beginning a homeschool journey mid-year, you might anticipate some of the adjustments you will make in your home. The reality is that there might be a different set of bumps in the road than you think.
There is a wealth of insight available regarding the practical steps to take when starting to homeschool in mid-year. You must become your first student, understanding the laws regarding homeschool in your state. If you are withdrawing your child from a traditional school setting, that process involves more than just not showing up in January; find out what forms must be completed and who has to be notified. Also, realize that school systems have priorities and agendas, too. Seek information, and pray about how to come against the unsolicited advice about why you are making a mistake to “do this” to your child—especially from those closest to you. Remember the Word gifted to us in Ephesians 6:12 that we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
There is also a wealth of curriculum available. I often laugh when I hear stories from those who have homeschooled much longer than I have. They speak of the horrors of trying to find a supplier who would sell a book to a homeschooling family. As homeschoolers of the new millennium, our task is now to sift through an almost endless supply of vendors and e-mail solicitors.
What I have described above are a few tactical steps to begin the homeschooling journey. Liberation from the public school system is one thing; successfully educating your child at home is another. It takes time, it takes patience, and most of all, it takes grace and mercy—on the parts of you and your child. This is the transition on which I would like to focus—not the tactical moves, but the move that might be more taxing—that shift in your hearts and minds.
Socialization in the traditional school system teaches your child one thing—to spend time with kids his or her own age. As a personal reference, I can remember when our son spent a day with a group of kids at our neighbor’s pool. Our son, determining that he was a “big kid,” wanted to play with the other big kids; the neighbor’s kid was more insistent that only kids his exact age could share in this level of fun. I said this to say that your pre-teen child may or may not adjust to his new elementary school siblings as friends.
Additionally, your child has to step up to a different level of expectation at home. Chores and the teamwork that are par for the course as family are one thing; performing as a student is another. And though a child’s heart is to please his parents, completing schoolwork is a substantially different task, not to mention the adjustment to having school at home.
As much as your child must de-program from his previous environment, you, too, as a parent must make significant adjustments. Once that “yes” answer resonates in your spirit, there are still a number of tactical decisions that must happen, either now or later. How will you actually do this? What are your goals? What are your children’s goals (if they are old enough)? Where will you school? What are the rules—written (i.e., formal) and unwritten? How will you balance homeschool with the other activities in your day?
You also have to learn to exercise a level of tough love with your child. What happens if they resist performing? How will you handle the child that is planning mutiny until he can get on the school bus? Can you fail a child who is not performing well, and if so, what happens next? Again, some of these decisions can wait (and prayerfully, some of them you will never have to handle), but I am saying that, in essence, buying curriculum is much farther down the list than you might initially think.
If you are now second-guessing your decision to begin homeschooling in mid-year, bear in mind this one thought: you can do this. Every parent has to, in some form or fashion, face the reality of your creation as authority figures in the home—good, bad, and ugly. The task is now to fix what has been broken, and to rejoice for what is working well. Under whatever circumstances that present themselves, you can do this. Happy transitioning.