Windy, colorful October is beautifully nostalgic for me: it’s the month in which our family uprooted from the East Coast and relocated to Kansas City (10/2014), and also the month in which we were abruptly called out of Kansas City and back to the East Coast (10/2018). In between those two interstate moves, we moved locally one more time. And after we returned to the East Coast in 2018, we moved 6 months later. We’ve moved 7 times, to be exact, in my 16 years of marriage. Each home we lived in was different and unique and had “its silver lining,” as the Nester Myquillyn Smith says. I remember each home for the season it represented and for the stage in life I was in. The townhouse with the olive berber carpet was my diapering season. Central Street with its 7 bathrooms and bright green basement carpet was my first foray into Midwest living with 3 kids under the age of 7. Walrond was my Little Blue House on the Prairie and the first home I really fell in love with. Returning to Barnum Road was a return to my roots where I grew up as a kid; it marked a new season of restoration in my heart and in my family life. Each home represented a particular season of life I was in and had a different tone, atmosphere, and purpose.
When you think about your home, how would you describe it? Do you know what season you’re in? This is such an important question because knowing which season you’re in, and what limitations come with that particular season, will directly impact every facet of your homeschool. Are you in a diapering, sleepless nights season? It then might not be a good idea for you to try and “spread the whole feast” every single day, as Charlotte Mason puts it, of 12 different subjects including nature and composer and hymn study (maybe you do only a few of the extras and call it good). Are you caring for an elderly parent or dealing with a chronic illness? It then might not be the season for you to teach every subject to every child at every grade level, especially the subjects you don’t enjoy teaching (that would be math instruction for me – this is where I would outsource!). And are you brand new to homeschooling? It then might be a good idea to buy a boxed curriculum to start out with, instead of trying to piece it all together yourself (and that would be perfectly okay!!) Or perhaps you are juggling a part time or full time job. You might have to get creative with scheduling and even outsource instruction of a few subjects (and again, that doesn’t make you any less worthy of homeschooling!) So, really knowing which season you’re in is starting place #1 when it comes to figuring out, “what will my homeschool look like?” and “how should I do this thing called homeschooling?”
And by the way? In case you didn’t pick up on this homeschooling truth, let me say it loud and clear: you don’t have to teach every subject to every child in order to be a good homeschooling parent. Let’s just burst that illusional bubble right now!
I’ll say it again: there is freedom in your homeschool! Please, new homeschooling parent, please take this to heart. Regardless of whether you choose to teach all of it, most of it, or some of it, your willingness to step into the role of home educator is monumental. The impact you will have on your child will be lasting!
Okay? Are we agreed? Good. 🙂 Now, once you’ve determined which season you’re in, and also your capacity for teaching, do take the time to find out what your state requirements are. The Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) is a great place to start. When I lived in Maryland, I was required to teach 5 core subjects as well as health and PE – and keep a portfolio of all work, that got reviewed by either the local county or an oversight organization. In Missouri, I had to keep 1,000 hours of school time documented by the hour, for each child – and a certain percentage of those hours needed to be completed at home. And now here in Virginia, I am required to submit annual testing scores for reading and math, but the other subjects I teach are left up to me to decide. Each state has very different expectations of homeschoolers so it’s important to know your state’s laws!
Then decide: of those subjects required, which ones do you want to teach, and which ones you would rather outsource or have someone else teach. Take your time deciding. There’s no rush! (And to be fair, sometimes you won’t actually know until you try to teach those subjects!) Be aware that you have many options. You can share teaching duties with your partner, if you work full time. You can outsource essay writing and math instruction if you don’t want to or feel confident teaching those subjects. There are co-ops to join. My co-op offers core science, history, and elective courses for all grades. There are even online high school science courses with labs available for you! (Yes, these do cost more – and pricing will vary from co-op to online course – but sometimes the price is worth your sanity!) The problem easily becomes which option should I use because there are so many online courses and video-based curriculum available these days!
Just remember, most of us begin with great aspirations to be the mom or dad who can “do it all” – because who wants to fail at this daunting job? No one, of course. And to that end, it’s actually better to be realistic about your life season and your capacity/ability to teach, before buying all the shiny new curriculum (ask me how I know!). After moving 5 times in my 9 years of homeschooling, I’m of the opinion that less is more when you’re first starting out, and it’s better to be in a position to be able to add more to your plate, than to realize you bit off more than you could chew. With that in mind, let’s talk next about things I’ve learned about choosing curriculum!