A Few Thoughts on “Now What Do I Do?”
These are frequently the first works greeting me upon answering the telephone. On the other end of the line is a desperate parent who has reached the end of his/her rope with organized education. Their child who was once a bursting joy of inquisitiveness has now mutated into a sullen, despondent drone.
The parents of younger children are unusually hyper vigilant because the child’s teacher has referred to the child using such phrases as “learning disabled” and “difficulty concentrating.” Teachers and school counselors further warn of the necessity for early intervention to ameliorate junior’s inability to color within the lines at age five – after all, this could have long lasting repercussions on his ability to function later in life. While our intuitive parental voice tells us that this notion is ridiculous, we still worry for our child’s well being and ability to learn. Far too often, well-meaning parents follow the advice of educational or mental health experts, only to realize years later that despite the early interventions, the child has still fallen between the educational cracks.
More and more families have decided to take charge of their families lives by telling schools “As a parent I know what is best for my child and this setting no longer meets our needs, we’ll be moving on, thank you very much.”
Taking Your Child Out of School
Now that you’ve made the decision to homeschool, removing your child from the school is the next step. Homeschooling is a legal and viable educational option, unfortunately many individuals and institutions do not realize such. While it is certainly a noble and important cause to champion and educate others about, at this early stage of your own homeschooling, it is best to focus primarily on removing your child from school in the most expedient and angst-less manner.
First of all, do not tell school officials (public or private) that you will be homeschooling as they will probably tell you that it is illegal to do so. It is not. There are a number of ways to legally educate your child at home and unfortunately, many school personnel are not aware of these options.Simply tell the school that you will be removing your child from school and that he/she will be attending a private school, who will be requesting the student’s cumulative files. Turn in any school books and pay any outstanding fees … that is it! It is best to not offer a lot of details as to why you are removing your child from their school. You want your departure to be as amiable as possible.
What if you have already blown off steam and told the school principal that you plan to homeschool? Has irreparable harm been done? Probably not. If you are asked if you still plan to homeschool, respond that you have reconsidered your previous position and have located a wonderful private school (they don’t necessarily need to know that the “school” is in your home). Another useful (and truthful) response is: “We have found a private school that will better meet our child’s needs. The school does offer an independent study program which is an option we intend to investigate further.”
Do I Need Workbooks?
No, you do not need workbooks unless they are an educational activity that your child just ADORES. So, if you don’t need workbooks …what should you do all day long? The first step (regardless of whether you plan to use a set curriculum or follow a more unstructured approach) is to allow ample time for you and your child to recover. In other words, don’t do anything that feels like drudgery – yes … do something FUN!
“But,” you protest “we’re supposed to be doing something!!” You will be. Go to the library, allow your child to choose books (without you pointing out what she/he likes). Read aloud to your child (regardless of his/her age). Visit museums and go for long walks on the beach (or in the mountains, the desert or more urban environments). Act silly. Cook or bake something new together. Visit with someone who is shut-in. Plant a garden. Most homeschool veterans suggest one month “off” for every year that your child has been in a formal classroom setting.
These are only guidelines as every child will have varying needs. Essentially this down time is intended to illustrate to parent and child that learning can take place anywhere and at anytime and is not only limited to what takes place in formal school environments. By doing what seems to be “nothing” for a period of time, you are reclaiming your life as a family and you are also providing yourself with a valuable assessment of your child’s interests and skills.
©1995. By Lenore Colacion Hayes, M.S. All rights reserved.