Many people don’t plan to homeschool, but if your child is bullied or ill, you may find yourself suddenly making the decision to keep your child home from school, with no planning, no preparation.
You’ve got this. You can do it. Of course it will be much easier if you can be home with your child during the day, but if you can find a safe place for your child during the day, you can do it. There are many single, working mothers who homeschool. It is much, much harder than it is for stay at home parents, but it can be done.
Here are some suggestions to help ease the transition. You do not have to figure everything out before you pull your child from school. If it’s an emergency, especially if your child is in danger, just do it.
This first section covers homeschooling for a few days or weeks, with the intention to return to school at the end of that time. It’s more school intensive, in order to make the transition back into school as easy as possible for your child. So you’ll see some contradictory advice — I recommend taking some time off for parents planning to homeschool for the rest of the year, but not for those who are thinking about doing it for only two weeks. You may find you start with the plan of keeping your child home for a day or two, and then shift to longer term plans – that’s fine. Skip down to the second section for homeschooling for the rest of the school year (or beyond).
Do you think you will be homeschooling for a few days or a few weeks?
- Get as many of your child’s school books as possible. Math is the most important subject for the sake of fitting in with school when he or she returns to class.
- Talk to the school. If you do not feel comfortable talking about the real reason for pulling your child out of school, “family emergency” is a generally accepted excuse for missing school and may be sufficient.
- Teachers may be willing to help. Turning in assignments to them will help with any future problems with truancy issues.
- Doctors can help with excused absences. If the time off is a result of a head injury, it is particularly important to consult a doctor, as it may be important to do as little mental work as possible during the recovery time.
- If you have access to your child’s school books, continue to work through them.
- You can find explanations here at Khan Academy/math. (Some people use Khan Academy as their sole math program; you can log in as a teacher and set up assignments for your child.)
- If you don’t have your child’s math book, you can download a free one here [www.CK12.org].
- If your child seems to be having a lot of trouble with math, don’t push on. You can find free placement tests here [MathMammoth.com]. Don’t be afraid to go back a bit and work on earlier grade skills. Many students are pushed too fast in math, and firming up the foundations could be an unexpected benefit of your homeschooling.
- For younger children, find a box of poker chips. These are excellent for teaching the concept of mathematics, place value, and double digit addition. Pick a color for ones, a color for tens, and a color for hundreds. Place value is much easier to explain if you use piles of chips, and exchange the ones for a ten, break up the ten into ones, and so on. Physical examples of math are much clearer than scratch marks on paper. (You’ll see these called manipulatives on homeschooling discussions – sounds complicated, but all it means is poker chips and blocks.)
If your child can read independently, reading (reading aloud to you at first, later silently and independently) is the best way to advance reading skills. Don’t worry about lots of skills work, reading comprehension questions, and so on. (You can find my full discussion of that here [katelairdbooks.com].)
Here are some places to start looking for free resources for early readers http://www.clarkness.com
Project Gutenberg is an excellent resource for free books for older readers. This is a legitimate site, using all off-copyright books. Be wary of sites offering free downloads of recent books – they may come with a bundle of malware.
If you have access to a library, most children’s librarians love children who want to read. They will help you negotiate difficulties – even if you don’t have a fixed home address, they may be able to help you get a library card, or at least provide a safe place to read even if you can’t take books home with you. The library may also have online subscriptions to ebooks and programs you can access from home or on library computers.
Typing DanceMat Typing
Summaries and journals can suffice for most of the writing during this time period. Ask your child to start a notebook or a computer file and write a page a day. Summarizing readings or simply a journal entry about what is going on is his or her life is sufficient. You don’t have to read this, you don’t have to grade it.
If you want to read my chapter about teaching writing, you can find it here [katelairdbooks.com].
ReadWriteThink is another free source of suggestions.
If you find that you need to keep your child home more than a week, you may find this list of state by state homeschool requirements helpful. Each state has its own homeschool laws, but every state allows homeschooling. Some have reporting and testing requirements, some do not. No state requires teaching parents to have a college degree. Many states require a formal withdrawal letter, which should be done as soon as you know your child is staying at home for more than two weeks, unless you are fortunate enough to have a very close working relationship with your child’s school. (That two weeks is an arbitrary figure – it’s not law, simply my opinion on what you can expect most school districts to tolerate.)
If you formally remove your child from public school in order to homeschool, you may return that child to the public school at any time. Homeschooling does not have to be a long-term commitment. Likewise, you do not have to wait until a certain time of year (end of semester, etc.) to pull your child from school.
High school students need to be a bit more cautious about receiving credit for work done at home if they return to the school system. I’ll talk a bit more about that below. Middle school and younger children are normally accepted into the school system based on their age alone.
Any child — but especially those who are in emotional distress — may benefit from some time off school before you begin structured homeschooling. Take some time to be together as a family, relax, and plan the school structure together. This will give you plenty of time to think about different types of homeschooling — it can range from completely unstructured “unschooling” to rigidly academic “Classical Education” to everything in between. You don’t have to figure it all out before you begin.
In addition to the free resources listed above, I’ve written a separate blog post about our approach to elementary school, which you can find here.
Here are some free resources to get you started.
On the importance of free choice reading [katelairdbooks.com]
Free textbooks from CK12.org
Fluent Forever for more second language resources.
In addition to the resources for Middle School, it’s important to look at your state’s requirements for high school credits. Your local high school is under no obligation to accept credits for work done at home, so if there is a possibility your child will return to the public school system, start off with some deschooling or the limited school activities described above, and then start the conversation with your local schools. Try to get their responses in writing, describing what you have to do to make the work you do at home count in your child’s transcript.
- Some states have virtual schooling available at no cost.
- Some states offer public charter or umbrella schools, which let you work officially, provide accredited transcripts, and will generally ease the way for meeting graduation requirements. In many cases, they offer funding to help purchase curriculum materials.
- Programs such as Oak Meadow and Calvert offer secular, accredited programs with teacher support. These are not inexpensive, but they may be worth it to families who need to be able to transfer credits back to high school. (Both programs offer their materials without teacher support, however this will not be accredited, which may be important to your school district. Speak with your district before buying anything.)
- Some districts, especially those with many homeschoolers, may offer credit transfer for parent-created or online coursework.
- Doctors may be able to help you receive “homebound” services through your local school district.
(You’ll see the word accredited a lot. This means that the school program has been approved by a regional accreditation group. It is not national, and not sponsored by the Department of Education, but it is generally accepted nationwide, despite being a regional approval. Depending on your school district, it may be important for returning to public high school, but it is usually not a requirement for college admissions.)
Find a homeschool association in your state. This list from Homeschool World may be a helpful starting point. Ones that are secular or inclusive are likely to be the most helpful to emergency homeschoolers. Secular homeschooling is for families motivated by academic, social, or health reasons, rather than religious reasons. Inclusive means they support any kind of homeschoolers. If neither is mentioned, the group is usually promoting Christian fundamentalist homeschooling.
Many thanks to the homeschool teachers of seahomeschoolers.com who helped me with the resource list.
Featured Image from Galaksiafervojo via Wikimedia Commons