By Judith Jolma
Choosing to homeschool mid-year can feel like a crisis. After all, you wouldn’t impose such a dramatic life change unless circumstances compelled you. But knowing that something has to be done and knowing what to do are two different things. Here are a few tips on managing the transition gracefully to ensure the best possible outcome for everyone.
Trust your gut
If you think something is not quite right for your child in his current school and you can’t shake the little voice that has led you to consider homeschooling, trust yourself. No one will ever love and want what is best for your child like you do. Your instincts are fine-tuned to demand the very best for your child. So if those instincts are telling you to bring your sweet child under the protection of your own roof and manage his education yourself, DO IT! Kudos to you for paying attention and being willing to do whatever it takes to see your babies thrive.
2. Slow down. Don’t rush the transition
The transition from school to homeschooling will make or break your entire experience. Manage it with care. One powerful analogy I like to use is of a deep-water diver who ascends too quickly. Proper assent is a matter of life or death for a diver. If the diver rushes to the top rather than calmly, methodically, and patiently moving toward the surface he could develop air bubbles in the bloodstream and on the brain, a potentially fatal condition known as the Bends. This is a helpful image to keep in mind when releasing the pressure valve the family experienced under the weight of a wayward school year.
Whether the reason to transition was because of bullies, unreasonable teachers, an offensive curriculum, or any number of learning or social challenges, the last few months have likely felt traumatic and a period of depressurizing is critical to prevent long-term emotional damage. Solution: Take a break. Honor the space of time after leaving school and before your homeschool routine kicks in. Use that time to recover, assure your child of your love for him and intensely observe his needs.
How long should this transition last? As long as it takes.
3. Use the downtime productively
As you slowly ascend, you may feel restless and impatient to get on with your new life. So what should you do with this time? Unschool! Never, ever, under any circumstances feel the need to educate your children the way the schools educate. After all, you left the school because it was not working. Examine your child’s actual needs -- emotional, spiritual, physical, social, and -- of course -- academic. What makes him laugh, engage, and come alive? Your child may be totally closed off and seems to only enjoy video games. Start there. Play with him. Enter his world. Use these activities as opportunities to restore confidence and strengthen your relationships with him. Take advantage of his interests to segue into learning. Become his hero!
Whatever you do, do NOT make it up as you go. Learn your strengths, your child’s needs, what
resources will help, and create a plan. You do not need teacher certifications but you do need a set of skills that are unique to homeschooling. Fortunately, the Foundations of Homeschooling Masterclass has you covered and will gently guide you from ground zero to enjoying the best homeschool lifestyle possible. Remember, you are your child’s education. Investing in your personal development and mindset is critical to success.
I believe that teaching normalization in the home is both the most difficult and the most rewarding task a parent can engage in.
It can feel frustrating because, as new routines are required, a whole new season of orientation is too. You can also expect setbacks after disruptions such as vacations, illness, teething, and developmental transitions. But the reward of seeing your home hum like a peaceful bee hive is one of the most thrilling accomplishments a parent can enjoy because it means that your children are truly maturing into, capable, happy adults as you watch.
Montessori instructors know “Normalization” as the point at which the children have become acclimated and know how to behave in the environment and feel that they are contributing members of their community. Children of all ages need time to reach normalization in any new environment. The prepared adult must give her full and diligent attention to bringing her children to this point as quickly and thoroughly as possible because it is a prerequisite to any meaningful learning.
Maria Montessori famously said that the highest achievement a teacher can arrive at is to be able to say, “The children are working as if I do not exist.” This happy independence is the fruit of normalization. Getting to this point is, perhaps, the most labor-intensive task for any Montessori instructor. I have seen classes that fail to reach this stage all school year. These are very sad students in an unrestful environment with a frustrated instructor, showing just how critical the task is.
What is true in the classroom is true in the home. Parents who invest regular effort to normalize new routines, disciplines, and manners enjoy far more peace and rest in the home.
6. Take your time!
Your child's formation is not a race. It is common to hear parents fret over the fear of their children “falling behind.” To that, I ask, “behind whom?” The schools have created arbitrary standards that they decided upon by asking, “What skills do we think every contributing worker needs to know to be of most use to society?” Then with this list they created, they worked backward 12 years looking for the best way to fit all these lessons into your kid’s childhood. They never asked, what is the human person designed for? How do they learn best and at what age are they developmentally ready to receive these lessons? They certainly never asked, “What is THIS child called to do in his life and what are his needs TODAY?”
You are the parent, the only one in the whole world who wants the very best for him and who knows him as deeply as anyone possibly can. You desire your child to be whole. There is no race for this. The lessons your child learns from helping you bake a cake may be more powerful than any textbook work you or the school will ever give him. Take your time. Let his petals unfold naturally. And remember that education “does not aim at preparing him for school but for life.” -- Maria Montessori
So let’s break it down step-by-step:
Take a break and use this time to rebuild your relationship with your child (plan to homeschool through the summer if needed. But a break is necessary)
Learn to observe yourself and your child
Enjoy your new life! You are your child's hero!
Sophia Homeschool teaches parents how to homeschool. Learn more about our training at Sophiahomeschool.com
Learn how to create a homeschool method and environment based on your family's needs so you can thrive. My Foundations of Homeschooling Masterclass teaches parents to work with their budget, schedule, learning style, teaching style, and resources so each member of the family has his or her needs met— including yours! Learn to create a peaceful and joyful learning environment that lasts a lifetime. Identify learning differences and adapt your educational plan accordingly. Unlock the mysteries of teaching multiple grades at once. By knowing what your needs are, you will save thousands of dollars, time, and energy on methods that do not work. We will end homework battles and restore your relationship with your child.