If you have kids and weren’t homeschooling before the coronavirus lockdown, you are now.
I’m sure there has been a broad mix of experiences among the millions of unexpected (and perhaps reluctant) homeschooling parents all across our country. I’m guessing some have found it a surprising blessing, while others have undoubtedly loathed every minute of it.
If you’ve been a reluctant homeschooler these past several weeks and have come to the conclusion that you would never do this on purpose, allow me to encourage you to take a second look. After all, there are several huge reasons why your experience in the midst of this pandemic isn’t typical of the more traditional, voluntary homeschool experience thousands of families enjoy every day.
Before you decide to never try homeschooling again after the lockdown ends, I would invite you to consider how enormous some of these differences are and how they’ve impacted your experience.
You Didn’t Have Time to Prepare
Many parents would spend weeks—or months—preparing to jump into homeschooling. They might research teaching methods and learning styles, curriculum options, extracurricular activities, and the like. They would think about their schedule and routine. They would talk to homeschooling friends, think about their goals and vision, and perhaps even attend a homeschool convention to listen to homeschooling veterans share their wisdom on everything from how to teach multiple grades at the same time, to balancing homeschooling and housework.
In short, homeschooling is a huge undertaking and benefits from some advance preparation. You didn’t have that benefit.
It Was Unexpected
It’s not like we had a lot of warning that the schools were going to shut down and that every parent would suddenly be homeschooling whether they wanted to or not. Not only were you unprepared for the day-to-day responsibilities of homeschooling (see previous point), you were emotionally unprepared. It was sudden and unexpected—not exactly the best context for a major change.
It Wasn’t Your Choice
Most homeschoolers decide to teach their children at home based on a variety of factors. Among those of us who are Christians, the decision will often involve prayer, perhaps some study of what the Bible says about teaching and training our children, and so on. Making the decision is a process—sometimes one that takes a long time to fully work through.
You didn’t have the benefit of that process. It wasn’t a voluntary choice. It was a forced reaction to a global crisis you couldn’t opt out of. Again, not the best context for such a massive undertaking.
You’ve Been Trying to Fit Someone Else’s Mold
If your kids are supposed to be keeping up with the lessons they would have been doing in school, keep in mind that those lessons were planned by someone else and for a completely different context. You’re suddenly the overseer of plans you didn’t make, expected to implement an agenda you didn’t create.
That’s radically different from more traditional, voluntary homeschooling where you have the opportunity to make plans based on the unique needs of your children and the overall dynamic of your home and family. That’s one of the blessings of homeschooling: you have flexibility to choose from many different paths. But in your current context, you’ve perhaps been forced to forego that blessing—one of the biggest that homeschooling offers—to fit someone else’s plans and agenda.
You’ve Missed Out On the Benefits of In-Person Support
The homeschooling community is large and robust. Under normal circumstances, you would be able to benefit from in-person fellowship and support from other parents on the same journey. You could get together with a more experienced homeschooling mom to get wise, seasoned counsel on how to handle the challenges. You could enjoy a field trip with other homeschooling families. All of these in-person opportunities and benefits are off-limits right now. You’re unexpectedly trying to be a homeschooling parent without the support system homeschoolers traditionally are able to enjoy. It’s a double whammy.
Homeschooling May Not Have Been the Only Massive Change in Your Life
If you’re like many families, there may have been multiple big changes happening all at once for you. Perhaps you and your spouse are both working from home and have to juggle schedules and responsibilities while everyone trips over each other competing for a quiet spot to study or have a meeting. Or maybe one (or both) of you lost your job and you’re trying to figure out what to do.
Many homeschoolers know that during times of upheaval (job loss, relocation, a new baby, major illness, etc.), it’s okay to cut yourself some slack with the daily lessons. You can always make things up later if you need to. But (and this goes back to the earlier point about fitting into someone else’s mold) you may not feel you have that flexibility. So you’re navigating multiple major changes all at once with limited ability to cut yourself some slack and focus on the overall wellbeing of your family. Not an easy place to be.
You’re Probably More Stressed than Usual
Lastly, considering everything that’s going on, you’re probably feeling more stress than usual. Even if you’re generally handling the stress well, it can make things feel harder and more challenging—including your new responsibilities as a reluctant homeschooling parent.
It’s All Different
The bottom line is, what you’ve experienced these last several weeks as a newly drafted, reluctant homeschooling parent is probably very different from what most voluntary homeschoolers experience. You’ve been laboring under some very real difficulties that aren’t typical of more “normal” homeschooling.
That’s why I would encourage you to be cautious about judging long-term homeschooling based on your experiences thus far. The truth is, there are some very solid reasons to consider long-term home education (here’s one of the biggest). There are many blessings to be enjoyed, and it would be a shame to dismiss them too quickly because of the unusual circumstances of the past several weeks.
My encouragement to you would be to prayerfully consider what God wants you to do as you move forward. Study what the Bible says about education. Talk to an experienced homeschooling parent about what they appreciate about homeschooling and how to better prepare for the experience. Make a prayerful, well-informed, God-led decision about what you should do.
As a homeschool graduate and second-generation homeschooling dad, I don’t envy you your sudden introduction to the responsibilities of home education. Just know that when you make the choice for yourself and get a vision for what God wants to do through it, the blessings can be enormous—for you and your kids.
The Illinois Christian Home Educators are hosting a FREE virtual Conference later this month!
Want to know more about homeschooling? Take advantage of this amazing opportunity: