Home School “Hacks” Part 1

Volume 5

As a mom who has been homeschooling her son for fewer than 30 days, I’m hardly qualified to share hacks with parents who have been their child’s teachers since birth. However, as a newbie to this world, I’ve seen some super amazing things that blew the roof off everything I thought I knew about homeschooling. Here are a few hacks I want to share…especially with parents who think, “I could NEVER EVER homeschool my child!” I’m proof that yes….yes, you can.

1 – You can work full time and homeschool.

Sorta. If you have elementary age children, this could be a challenge. But if you have fairly-responsible middle schoolers, you absolutely can work full time. I met a mom who is a college professor and when she goes out the door to work in the morning, she leaves a schedule and list of assignments for her son. She Facetimes him throughout the day on her breaks to check in and see how he’s doing. At the end of the day, they review his work and determine the next day’s agenda. Other parents work from home a few days a week and bring their homeschoolers to centers or classes while they type away on their laptops at a local coffee shop, which is exactly where I am typing this blog. So it is definitely possible to homeschool and work a demanding full-time job.

2 – You don’t have to do any teaching. Like at all.

There are so many different flavors of homeschooling. For those of us who live in Virginia, the requirements to demonstrate that your child has made progress in their academics are (shockingly) lax. So, you can pretty much do whatever you think your child will enjoy and call it ‘school.’ There are entire Facebook communities of parents who homeschool their children using only YouTube and Netflix! There are groups who swap curricula every year with other parents to minimize costs. There are groups that co-op the teaching so each family teaches all of the kids one day each month and the rest of the time their children are off with other parents. There are at least three dedicated “centers” near me – and many more around the country – that offer one-off and seminar classes just for homeschoolers. The public library has literature programs for homeschoolers. The gym offers PE classes during the day. Home schooling can just as easily be called ‘taxi driving your kid to various places around town’ because parents aren’t actually teaching most (any?) of the time. And if you don’t live in an area with robust homeschool communities, there are a ton of online resources – classes, mentorships, virtual field trips, online chess tournaments, etc.  Most of us raising gifted kids know our children are way smarter than we are anyway so it’s a relief to realize we don’t have to try to teach them anything.

3 – Home school kids learn what they want to learn rather than what adults want them to learn.

If your fear about homeschooling your child is that they would end up hanging out in their pj’s all day playing video games or Snapchatting friends, fear not. After exactly one day of that, my son announced he was bored. I said, “Well what do you want to learn?” and he said, “Solving the Rubik’s Cube is something that I’ve always wanted to figure out…I think I’ll do that.” He dusted off his 3×3 cube and before I knew it, he was pouring over pages of notes he had taken on algorithms for Beginner Strategy (which is a thing in cuber land.) He was soon spending his piggy bank money on 5×5 cubes and Pyraminx and other weirdly-named and shaped puzzles. He watched dozens and dozens of YouTube and other videos online about how to shave seconds off his solving time. Within two weeks he was able to solve the 3×3 in under a minute and today he’s down to about 48 seconds (and dropping). The best part is hearing him say, “I’m so proud of myself” each time he achieves a new personal best. This is a kid who routinely said, “I want to die,” as he walked out the door to catch the bus for school. Will solving the Rubik’s Cube help him get into Harvard? Nope. Will it allow him to connect with other kids just like him at whatever non-Harvard college he attends? Yup – and that is A-Okay with me. His happiness and enthusiasm for self-directed learning will pay dividends for the rest of his life.

4 – Your child will relax and be more pleasant if they are not dealing with the stress of school.

This morning my son said to my husband, “Dad I’ve noticed we’ve been getting along a lot better since I left school. I’m really glad because I love you a lot.” My husband nearly fell over. When kids enjoy more time in the safety and sanctity of home without the stress of having to ‘suit up’ to head into a stressful school building every day, they are much more pleasant people. It’s not necessarily the stress of performing that impacts them, but the stress of performing in an environment which is not a good fit for them. Our son still attends his school six hours a week for high school classes and on those days he is generally less pleasant.

Homeschooling isn’t for everyone. I swore I would never do it. I couldn’t. I shouldn’t. But I did. And I am so glad we made this decision for this child at this time in his life. Six months from now I may have some real hacks to offer you but for now I just wanted to share some surprising side-effects and benefits of bringing your baby back home to the nest.