Tuesday, March 10, 2015

If You Are Nervous about Homeschooling, Don't Be: Lessons Learned

Kirsten is an Administrator at PACT, a home school charter program that is a part of Natomas Charter School. PACT offers all students a campus to call home, site based enrichment workshops, a variety of curriculum choices, access to special education programs, and a credentialed teacher who serves as an Educational Adviser.
image of mother working with children on the floor
Working with my son and his friends at a 
PACT community Science Challenge.

In the past week, I have spent a lot of time fielding phone calls and emails from parents who are considering homeschooling their son or daughter. Many of their concerns and fears are the same that I had two years, when I made the decision to homeschool my son. During my first year of homeschooling I made some discoveries that I always share with them.

My first discovery was that I needed to build a strong team. As a working mom, I had to figure out childcare. I recruited my mom and dad to take him one morning a week. They had no interest in teaching him, so I worked with him on his school work after I got home. I reserved educational videos or games for the weekday mornings he spends with Grandma or Grandpa. I also hired a college student to work with him for two days a week for a few hours while I am at work. This combination allowed me to keep my childcare affordable, maintain control over his curriculum, and give me peace of mind while I was at work.

I learned to lean on others. My Educational Adviser is a credentialed multiple subject credential who is well versed in a variety of homeschooling philosophies,a variety of curriculum, learning styles, etc. I leaned on her at the beginning to make sure that my curriculum and expectations were appropriate for my son. I had to adjust to a 7 year old’s attention span and try new things without fear of failure. She encouraged me to try more hands on activities and integrate things he already enjoyed doing with academic subjects. I also learned that it does not take 8 hours a day to teach one child. After subtracting the waiting in line time, waiting for others to finish time, busy work time, and recesses it left 2-3 hours at home to move through the academic content that we needed. This left a lot more time for my son to explore the outdoors, jump on a trampoline, read, talk, draw, and explore other creative outlets.

The biggest surprise discovery was that time was not hard to fill. As part of the PACT program, my son took several on-site workshops. These hour long experiences gave him a taste of drawing, dance, music, and etymology. He worked with students in a variety of age groups and made friends. Many of these friendships extended to outside of the classroom. We started a Lego Club and held weekly build meetings for PACT students. Later in the year, he joined the Minecraft club. I found that I actually had to cut back and limit ourselves when planning our day.

My team also included the wider homeschooling community. We are lucky in Sacramento to have several Facebook groups, local co-ops, and meet up groups which are active. I will soon be speaking at the Adventures in Homeschooling Conference to share with other homeschooling families ways to integrate technology into their lessons. I never knew the homeschooling community was so large and active until I became a part of it.

As we reevaluated our own family's educational choices at the end of last year, it seemed the only one who was not questioning our decision was our son. When he overheard us talking about the decision to stay at PACT or go to a more traditional classroom model, he adamantly stated, “No, I am staying at PACT. I like it there.” That was the end of the conversation and will be as long as this is the model that fits his needs.

If you are thinking of homeschooling, please feel free to contact me. kspall@natomascharter.org or stop by the PACT campus at 1172 W. National Dr. Suite #30 Sacramento CA.