Guest Blogger Erica Shultz

We haven’t always been homeschoolers. When my children were coming to school age, it wasn’t even something I had considered. My friends and family had all attended public school, and many of my friends were public school teachers. It wasn’t until my oldest daughter was ending 3rd grade and my youngest daughter ending 1st grade that I started looking into homeschooling. A few things prompted our transition into homeschooling, the first being that the stress and pressure of testing throughout the school year seemed to have a major effect on both girls’ self-esteem and their previous enjoyment and desire to learn. The second reason we started looking into homeschooling stemmed from my youngest daughter being diagnosed with Type One Diabetes. While the school was fantastic with making accommodations for her and making sure she had the flexibility to take care of her medical needs it was the push we needed to reevaluate how things were working for us in our lives. 

Starting out on our homeschool journey was exciting and terrifying at the same time. I feel like as a parent you are constantly wondering if the choices, we make are going to mess up our children forever. Every choice prompts the thought “is this going to make them hate me when they’re older?”.  On top of that I wasn’t completely certain of where to start. The majority of the resources I came across were for Christian based homeschooling which wasn’t what I was looking for in terms of curriculum. I was lucky enough to have a friend who had started their own secular homeschool journey to help guide me through, although they lived two hours away. We have now been homeschoolers for going on our fourth year and we have had plenty of changes and growth while on our journey. 

When we first started as homeschoolers, we started with an all in one computer-based system where everything was planned out for us in advance. This worked great for us starting out because all of the stress and planning was taken care of for us so we could find our own stride. From there, our curriculum has evolved into a blend of computer-based programs, mixed with literature, and hands-on learning. We have found that homeschooling really allows us to take into consideration learning styles for each of the girls and be able to adapt our teaching to the best style for each of them. Also, interestingly enough, I have found it allows us to have more control of our own narrative. Homeschooling allows us to dive into difficult topics, explore histories from different viewpoints than our own, as well as be able to pivot and start learning about relevant topics of the day such as being able to learn about pandemics and viruses when their whole worlds seemed to change almost overnight. 

Many people think that with being homeschoolers the changes that COVID-19 has brought wouldn’t affect us much, however a majority of our learning doesn’t necessarily come from inside the home. As it turns out socialization isn’t so much of an issue when you’re attending gymnastics, nature classes, art camps and karate. COVID-19 has put a pause on all of those things for us so we have had to look back online for a replacement in the meantime. Luckily, we live in the age of the internet and we have been able to utilize website such as Outschool and Varsity Tutors to be able to attend virtual group classes in a variety of subjects. This hasn’t been an exact replacement to our previous extracurriculars, but it has allowed us some unique opportunities like being able to take a class on insects with Coyote Peterson, one of our favorite wildlife educators. 

Homeschooling isn’t always perfect. We’re still individuals who have our good days and our bad days. Not every day inspires great learning. We have our days when hormones of preteen’s changing bodies take over and there seem to be tears around every corner. However, homeschooling has brought us a renewed love of learning. There is great power in being able to dive deeper into topics that interest you and being able to take the time you need to explore it. It also has allowed us to follow our curiosity and take a detour from our original learning paths to indulge in topics that pique our interest.

There are many people this year faced with the difficult decision to send their children back to school or keep them home for remote learning or homeschooling. I would encourage those who decide to choose learning from home to keep an open mind and to remember that home learning isn’t supposed to mirror learning in school. Learning in public school is geared to teaching several children at multiple levels of learning at the same time. Homeschooling on the other hand allows us to teach children as individuals. If something isn’t working its okay to try a different approach. If they’re having a bad day it’s okay to change the learning environment. One of the easiest ways we have found to make a day more enjoyable is to just take our learning out into the sunshine. Use this time together to develop your strengths of perseverance, creativity, curiosity, and love of learning.

For any parents interested in getting started homeschooling there are a variety of resources available ranging from where to start to support groups and class offerings.

Ohio Homeschooling Parents is a great resource to help you get started.