As an administrator of the local homeschooling group I often talk to people who are trying to decide whether to take their kids out of school. Many of these parents enrolled their kids in public school expecting that their child would make new friends, gain an education, and learn how to function in larger society (beyond the family), but they’re disillusioned by what actually goes on at schools these days.
Today’s post will be an open letter to parents who are hesitating to step out of the system. I’m going to answer the top five questions people have when they’re trying to figure things out.
Number Five: Whose permission do I need to take the kids out of school?
In Ontario, you don’t need anyone’s permission to educate your child without school. The law gives you permission to administer your own children’s education in whatever way you see fit. You don’t need permission from the teacher, the principal, the school board, or your mother in law.
If your child has been enrolled in school, you should send a letter INFORMING them of your intent to homeschool. This is not a request for permission. It’s just informing them not to expect your child anymore, and that your child is not truant.
There isn’t anybody besides yourself who has to the power decide whether you’re good enough or smart enough to be in charge of your own child. The law lays out your rights in this regard.
Number Four: What about curriculum?
You can choose to follow the provincial curriculum if you want, but there is no requirement for you to follow the Ontario Curriculum or any other curriculum. If your child is high school aged, you can enroll them in an online learning program provided by the school system. But you are free to use any method, any curriculum, any resources that work for your child and your family.
Many people find this aspect of homeschooling to be intimidating because of the array of options out there. But I feel it’s important to remember that the biggest benefit you can provide your children is a loving home with a caring adult. If, at school, the adults were not loving and caring, then bringing your children home, away from that damaging situation is a HUGE step in the right direction.
As an unschool proponent, my advice to people who are feeling overwhelmed by choice is first off, not to choose anything yet. Let your child wander freely through their days, doing things that interest them. Observe your child’s interests and help them explore those things further.
The next step is to add in things that don’t cost any money, such as library books on subjects they like, an account on Khan Academy, a meet up with your new homeschooling friends, a language learning account with Duolingo, or a trip to the woods. You’ll find out that everything in life is educational and you might not feel the need to add any formal curriculum.
That said, exploring formal programs is something that a lot of parents want to do. Get advice from friends, online reviews, and other sources and you’ll probably find something that you like to use.
Number Three: How do I accomodate my child who is really lagging behind/advanced?
Repeat after me: there are no such things as grade levels. There’s no advanced, and no behind. Outside of school, there’s no pitting children against each other in competition. If your child does not read as well as her friends of the same age, it’s no indication of the child’s innate ability to read well in the future. There’s no problem in that situation (except in rare cases) except comparing them to other people. Children learn things when their brain is ready as long as they have access to the information they need. (ie a child learning to read needs access to words. Easy to provide.)
Number Two: What if I don’t know how to teach [calculus/literature/physics]?
The internet has changed everything. If you’re worried that you don’t know enough to be a useful guide to your kids, don’t worry. The internet gives you and your children access to experts all over the world.
Number One: I don’t know if I’m cut out for being with my kids all day.
This was my biggest concern when I was deciding whether my kids should go to school or not. But 8 years in, I can say that having your kids around the house more often isn’t as bad as it sounds.
When your kids go to school, they’re different people. Just like when you’ve just gotten home from a long, tiring day you’re not your best self. Children who are able to eat and sleep when they need to and take a break when they need to are more likely to be in a good mood more often.
My kids fight sometimes, play and cooperate sometimes, and do their own thing sometimes. They annoy me about as often as most people’s kids seem to annoy them. But I also get to be with them for many delightful, spontaneous moments which I love, and I love that they have the freedom to be themselves, do their thing, and develop strong relationships together.
So don’t be scared, more and more people are stepping away from the failed experiment of public schooling and into the traditional way that people have learned for most of human existence: life learning.
Did I miss any important questions that you asked when you were starting out?
Are you someone who’s considering whether to send your kids to school or not? What do you worry about?