More and more parents are choosing to take their kids out of the public school system. However, unless your child is struggling in school you probably don’t have a reason to consider making the leap from public to home schooling or any other school alternative.
At Solimar Academy we find that most parents of struggling students wait too long to leave the system. This causes more pain and suffering for the child and family than is good for either. Parents are ready to consider a change only after years of threats and punishments or bribes and rewards to get homework done; after endless arguments about how homework should be done, forgotten homework, and lost home work; after numerous diagnoses (A.D.D., A.D.H.D., LD, etc.) and interventions (special education classes and IEPs (Individual Education Plans) that never get implemented); after counseling for the child and counseling for the parents; perhaps, even after changing schools one or two times. Exhaustion from years of tears, shouting matches, apologies, discouragement, helplessness, and hopelessness takes its toll and that is often when parents start looking for public school alternatives.
By this time, the child is about eleven or twelve years old and has a long list of disabilities and a long record of failures. With their self-esteem, curiosity, and motivation to learn completely shot, these kids shuffle into Solimar Academy —shoulders drooped, head hanging. Here they are for yet another evaluation and prescription. It’s often a last ditch effort to turn things around. Yet, in less than an hour most kids are sitting up straight, looking us in the eye, talking freely, and smiling. Both parents and students finally have a ray of hope. In fact, after several months of working with us, the comment we most often hear is, “Thank you for giving us back our child!”
To make the leap from the public school system and experience the benefits of home schooling, however, parents have several misconceptions, stresses, and struggles to overcome.
The most persistent misconceptions about home schooling are that there is a lot a red tape to go through, and you have to be a trained teacher to make it happen.
Laws from state to state vary, but home schooling is legal in every state. In California, where we are based, parents can sign up to be an R4—registered private school with the state. A choice like this might be available in your state, too. Parents can also sign up with an “umbrella” home school program that offers various kinds of services to assist in making the transition.
If you believe that home schooling means carrying out a school schedule and curriculum at home it’s logical to think that you would be playing the role of teacher. In actual fact though, there is no requirement that parents have teaching credentials, and you can do something much more than mimic a public school schedule and curriculum, and you don’t have to play the role of teacher. You can design your curriculum to be interest-driven and set up a learning environment with lots of learning materials that your kids are naturally interested in. Your role can be to give your kids access to spaces, materials, and tools; to make plans about how to proceed, to have regular discussions about progress—to encourage and support through challenges. You are the coach, mentor, facilitator, and guide. Some of the standard school subjects can be covered in any number of alternative, more interesting ways. And you are free to have your kids work with friends or tutors who have special skills and knowledge. No longer tied to the public school calendar, you are free to take field trips and travel to expand learning opportunities.
Another major misconception is that a child returning to school will be behind other students and will have a lot of catching up to do. It’s just not true. After more than twenty years of supervising the homeschool programs of hundreds of students, the evidence shows that most often when home-schooled kids return to public school they are actually ahead.
In addition, they are usually more self-directed, curious, and motivated than their classmates, which gives them an edge in any learning environment. Did you know that Harvard has actively sought homeschoolers for years, precisely because of this?
Stresses and Struggles
Most of the stresses and struggles parents experience are the result of long held assumptions and beliefs about education.
Parents, who attended public schools—even if their experience wasn’t good—usually want their kids to know what it’s all about. Everyone else is doing it. It’s just the right thing to do. In addition, to prepare kids for the real world there is a belief that they need to find out how they measure up in the great melting pot that public schools are. Plus, many parents want to put the taxes they pay to work for their own children. Letting go of these beliefs and expectations can be a challenge. However, they are beliefs that don’t serve a struggling child.
Most students struggling in school don’t do well with textbooks and tests. These are the two most familiar drivers of the classroom experience, and most parents believe that they must use these tools in their home school program. In fact, without textbooks and tests they have trouble trusting that their kids are learning. With a firm belief in the no pain, no gain principle, if they see their kids having fun learning in new and novel ways they are tempted to think that there can’t be any learning going on.
When one mother of a student at Solimar Academy finally let go of her misconceptions and saw how simple and fun a home school program could be she exclaimed, Can it be this easy?!
For tens of thousands of families who have made the leap from public school to home school, freedom and choice are among the primary benefits. You and your kids have freedom to choose the curriculum, schedule, and materials that are best for your child’s learning needs. There are no bells ringing every 40 minutes to remind you to change classes. If your child loves reptiles you can take as much time on a subject as you want. Your classroom is your neighborhood, city, state, country, and even the world, especially with the opportunities for exploration the internet provides.
The result is happier kids, more content, interested, hopeful, and curious kids—which, for parents, means fewer hassles, arguments, and stresses or, more peace, harmony, and contentment.