I have spent the past 25 years being special and weird and strange because I was homeschooled, and now every kid in the world is gonna be the same as me! Not fair! I kind of liked being special and weird! UPDATE: I’m gonna go ahead and stick this to the top of the blog until after Labor Day, so you can all vent/discuss the rocky start to your school years. We have at least two teachers here, and 4 parents, and multiple students from high school up. Share your experiences and resources and complain about your stresses!
Let me start with “it’s all gonna be okay” stuff. First, you know your kid better than anyone else knows your kid, trust yourself. A teacher has years of training, they can adjust the same lesson plan so it will be one size fits all. But you have years of training in your particular kid. You may not be able to teach anyone else, but you can teach your child. Teach to them, in particular, not in general.
For some of your kids, that is going to mean being as hands off as ever, they deal with their teachers by Zoom, you make them do their homework, that’s it. But for some of your kids, they are going to be bored and giving them extra stuff to do beyond remote classes is good. For other kids, remote classes just will not work and you will have to improvise a bit to keep them on track. Trust yourself and your instincts, do what feels right to you for your particular child.
My sister and I were both homeschooled. She is two years older than me and was the main reason my parents started homeschooling, but I think I ended up getting a lot more benefit from it. We are about as similar as two people can be, but in terms of how homeschooling affected us, still totally different.
My sister likes challenges, likes competition in a school setting, likes working with others, likes showing off a little bit. By the time she hit middle-school, it was clear that the schools in our town simply could not handle her (no gifted program, no accelerated classes, teachers telling her to slow down and wait for the other kids to catch up). So my parents pulled her out of school and decided to try homeschooling. To make it work for her, they got her really challenging books, they found a kids book club at the library for socializing, and they even managed to keep her in Band at the regular school (the band teachers were wonderful) so she got that little shot of normal kid life around her on a regular basis. By the time she was 13, she had started taking classes at our local community college. There was still stuff she learned “at home”, but she had pretty much a full day of challenging fun classes with other kids around her and grades and competition and so on.
And then there was me. I was one of those sensitive kids where school was just exhausting. I hid it well, teachers loved me, the other kids asked advice from me, I did my work and so on. But I would come home and have tantrums, or freak outs because I thought I wasn’t doing my homework right, or just stop sleeping from the stress. Thank goodness my sister inspired my parents to pull us out of school! Once I started home schooling, I became a whole different kid. I talked loud, I laughed, I slept, I stopped having the crying jags, it was amazing. And I resisted SO HARD anything that felt like school again. My parents found a bunch of mail order lessons for me, so I could sit at home on the couch and learn by myself. It worked for me, I am extremely self-directed, if you give me a task and tell me to complete it by the end of the day, I will do it. Because that’s the kind of kid I was.
There’s a third kid too, the son of a close friend of ours. He got into kind of a bad crowd at school, not super bad (they were only 13), but heading towards skipping classes and stuff like that. So his Mom pulled him out of school. He wasn’t self-directed like me, but also didn’t thrive in the class competition with peers like my sister. My Mom taught him a lot one on one, really just making sure he did his work, his Mom got on him hard to do his homework in other areas, and then he landed in the best place. Turns out, the best place for him was GED classes. A group of really dedicated adult learners trying to get their degree was the perfect leavening to make him pay attention to the work without being distracted by the company.
My point is, you know your kid. If you have a kid that thrives on the competition and the classes, go after that. If you have a kid who is super sensitive and self-directed, go with that and let them work on their own. If you have a kid who tends to get distracted when with others but also can’t seem to work happily alone, think outside the box. You can do this, you know your kids better than anyone, and it’s a lot easier to find a school program that will work for one child than a program that will work for all children.
Okay, with that out of the way, here are some specific resources I can offer you:
Remote Learning Options
Elementary School Remote Learning Program I, Myself, Used
My first year of homeschooling, I was a little lost, because I missed the structure. And then we subscribed to Calvert Academy, and they were great! They gave day by day lesson plans with really good materials that I actually enjoyed using, and suddenly school was fun and easy for both me and my parents.
I’m not gonna promise they will work for every child, or that they are still as good as they were 25 years ago when I used them, but it’s a funky little resource you may not know about and which I wanted to share. Also, looks like you can do one month of homeschool resources for only $39.95, so might be worth it just to try it. Link below:
High School Program I, Myself, Used
Again, I can speak to nothing about the quality of it today, or price, or anything. But Indiana University provides remote learning options for AP classes and other challenging subjects. If your kid is super super bored at home, and loves school, here is a semi-expensive option for something that will keep then engaged and interested. Link here:
Program I Did Not Use Only Because It Wasn’t Available Yet
Khan Academy! The one everyone knows about, because it is The Best. And FREE! Check it out, and also DONATE. Link below:
Books! Not a full syllabus, but little extra resources for you and your kid, if you feel like they need extra
What Your —– Needs to Know
The Core learning books! There’s one for each grade, “what your kindergartner needs to know”, and so on. Gives you very clear laid out explanations for the goals of each year of school. You can’t use them to teach from, but you can use them to understand what you need to make sure you are teaching. I never opened them myself (as the kid), but my parents lived by them.
A History of US-10 Volume Set Joy Hakim
I LOVE these books! 10 volumes, so each one is easy and not scary (no big enormous overwhelming book to deal with). But at the same time, nothing is rushed, she really does include everything. There’s pictures of interesting artifacts, there’s little fact bubbles, and it is actual good history.
Cartoon History of the Universe
This is more for older kids, there’s some adult-y humor and stuff. But it’s also really solid history done in a fun easy way. If you have a teenager giving you a hard time about learning, you can offer this as a bonus book they might enjoy reading (when we were teenagers, our parents had us read Doonesbury for Modern American History).
Mike Venezia Artist/Scientist Books
Honestly, this is still how I know most of my art history. Simple short books with cartoons that tell you basic facts about famous artists, and include reproductions of their best work. If your kid likes art, or just likes learning, these are great bonus books to give them. The same author has branched out and did composers and scientists as well, so whatever you think your kid would like, here it is.
And finally, American Science and Surplus!
This was our science class resource, until we started taking actual science classes at the community college. I love this store. You can buy all the materials you need for whatever fun science experiment you want to do at home. Maybe your kids will learn something, maybe it will just be a way to keep them entertained and engaged, but it will be FUN! You can get a soil testing kit, a kit to make a solar powered robot, or the raw ingredients for a distillation lab. One of my favorite experiments was when we got a bunch of petri dishes and we each licked one and had the dog do one too, and watched to see which grew the most bacteria. Turns out, it’s true! Dog tongues are cleaner than humans!