by Melodie Sontag, SPED Homeschool community member
My first year of homeschooling was initiated by the public school’s response to COVID. My son was in 3rd grade and, following spring break, we started virtual learning through his elementary school. The assignments sent for the remainder of the year were simple homework suggestions. Grades 1 to 3 received the same assignments. We started supplementing with weekly science and math projects at home. Thinking this would be temporary, we finished 3rd grade this way.
When we learned that the next fall would be virtual learning again, my husband and I knew something had to change if we wanted our son to get a decent 4th-grade education. Luckily, I have had contact with many homeschool families throughout my life. My youngest sister was homeschooled through middle and high school. My other sister has special needs children that she homeschools. In high school, I babysat for a family that homeschooled five children. My eldest son’s best friend homeschooled from 1st grade through graduation. I was able to ask these friends and family members many questions about the choices they made and get good advice on a variety of homeschool options. Some chose to buy textbooks and create their own syllabus and schedules. Some chose homeschool co-ops or pre-recorded classrooms with independent lessons that offered a classroom feel. Since my husband and I both work, we selected an online program that provided quick pre-recorded lessons and grading alongside independent projects. It turned out to be a great fit for our family.
We started our days early with breakfast by 7:00 am and sat down for schoolwork by 7:30 or 8:00 am. This gave us almost two hours of school time before I went to work at 10. We tried to tackle the more challenging subjects first. If my son was with me at work, reading and free writing were encouraged. If he went to the grandparents’ or cousins’ houses, the focus was on physical or imaginative play. My husband completed his workday midafternoon and followed up on any uncompleted assignments. Early on, we decided to limit TV time, gaming, video chats, and biking the neighborhood with friends until his daily work was done. This was terrific motivation for my son.
We really enjoyed the variety of classes. In addition to core classes, our son had the option to take STEM classes such as engineering and coding, which were of great interest to him and not offered at his public school. He took his laptop with him to our work offices, on vacations and trips, and during time spent at the grandparents. The lessons were thorough and challenging without being frustrating. The projects were fun to do together. He will tell you the best part was that he did not have to sit through hours and hours of school. Overall, we completely enjoyed this opportunity to spend more time with him in a brand-new aspect of his life. Being a part of his educational journey at this level is priceless and we cannot imagine giving it up in the future.