Melissa Schumacher, SPED Homeschool Team Member
How long did you consider homeschooling before you actually did it? What events or factors made you finally decide to homeschool? I considered homeschooling for years. But, it took a once-a-century global pandemic for me to finally start. Our journey to homeschool spans nearly ten years, two continents, and three moves.
As an active-duty military family, there is always change. I admit I looked to public school to be one of the more stable parts of our lifestyle. Certainly, with federal laws like IDEA, education and special education should serve my kids well. Over the years, I have met many military families who homeschool. When I was still pregnant with my son, I sat with a homeschooling mom who talked with me about how homeschool was a natural fit for her boys who loved to explore nature. Or families who lived overseas and traveled to see history, rather than just reading about it. There was so much appeal.
One of my parenting mottos is “Begin well, end well.” We don’t have a lot of control over where we will be stationed, how long we will be away from family. But we can begin well by planning as much as possible and having a good attitude when things are difficult or plans change.
We moved from Ohio to Texas during the days between Christmas and New Year. A mid-year move is always difficult, but the added stress of my husband returning from a deployment, moving during the holidays, and re-establishing medical care and therapies for my son with special needs was another level of challenge. Before our move, I had multiple meetings with both schools to ensure a smooth transition.
But, let’s just say it wasn’t smooth. The following two years were very bumpy. But I held on. If we were to homeschool, I didn’t want to abandon public school or leave over my frustration. I wanted to end well.
I also held on because my husband traveled frequently; I worried about how I would get a break during those long stretches of parenting by myself. I held on because I had a father fighting cancer, and I was his primary caregiver. I held on because I wanted both of my sons to have the same opportunities, even though they are very different children.
While my children were technically enrolled in our public school, I let go in March 2020. Just two weeks before the pandemic shut down our city and our schools, my father passed away. My husband’s upcoming travels were canceled. In one month, our lives and the entire world changed, and I found us at home homeschooling.
While there was no beautiful ending to our public school experience, we had a beautiful, yet unplanned start into homeschooling. We started our days with nature walks and had home-cooked lunches. We sat at the kitchen table together and worked on all our subjects together. We focused on cooking, drawing, and building. I used this time to observe my new ‘students,’ and my kids adjusted to a new ‘teacher.’ This was an enormous shift for each of us. I don’t regret that we waited to start homeschooling.
“…we can begin well by planning as much as possible and having a good attitude when things are difficult or plans change. “
We know that homeschooling is a wonderful choice for our family during this season. We also know that seasons change. If you are considering homeschooling or are approaching a new homeschool year, what do you need to begin well? Some moms find a weekend retreat for resting and planning for the upcoming year to be most beneficial. Or maybe finding other homeschool moms in your community to connect with will set you up for success.
What will your children need to begin well this school year? Do you have a tradition for the first day of school? Whether your kids have always homeschooled or new to homeschool, how can they contribute ideas to your homeschool plan? In military terms, we do a “hot wash” where my sons can talk about their likes and dislikes and strengths and challenges with our homeschool journey. This helps us make adjustments together.
As we start to think of the end of summer, the beginning of a fall, a new school year, I think of all the big and little transitions in my children’s lives, our home, our community. And I’m thinking of all the mothers like me who may be entering a new season of homeschooling. I’m wishing you a wonderful beginning.