Surprise! We’re Homeschooling: A Mid-Year Transition Guide

Life is full of surprises! Whatever brought you to this point of disenrolling your child and beginning the home education journey, you’re in just the spot you’re meant to be in right now. Welcome!

Homeschooling can be challenging, but it also can be absolutely wonderful. Let’s get you started off right by discussing the legal aspects, delving into the concept of deschooling, and offering practical advice to make your mid-year homeschooling transition a success.

Whether your reasons for leaving public school are safety issues, wanting an education more in line with your own moral or religious values, not being satisfied with the current academics or social set up, needing more attention for children with special needs, wanting closer relationships at home, or just wanting to slow down a little, homeschooling is a viable alternative.

Steps to moving from public school to homeschool in the middle of the year:

Step 1: Know the Legal Requirements

Before diving into your homeschooling adventure, it’s crucial to understand the legal requirements in your state or country. Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, but it is easier in some states than others. Begin by looking at HSLDA’s compilation of all 50 states’ homeschooling regulations.

You’ll also want to look up a homeschooling association for your state (e.g., Georgia Homeschooling Association or Homeschool Association of California). Your state’s homeschool association will be very knowledgable about your area and will answer any specific questions you have regarding the laws.

Step 2: Notify the School

Your first act as a surprise homeschooling family is to contact your child’s current school and let them in on your exciting decision. It is helpful to know the laws before you notify the school, so that you approach the school in the way that will makes the most sense to them. Most schools will require withdrawal paperwork; some will require a letter of intent to homeschool.

In California, independent homeschooling is done by registering your homeschool as a private school with the state. When notifying a school of removal of a child from a public school in California, it might go over better to state, “We are transferring to a private school,” instead of “We are homeschooling.” Knowing your local laws will keep you from being nervous or misinformed when speaking with school staff.

Step 3: Embrace Deschooling

Deschooling is a vital concept for families transitioning from traditional school to homeschooling. Before beginning homeschooling, you should consider taking 1 week to 1 month to “deschool” for every year of brick-and-mortar school attended. 

Deschooling is about breaking free from the confines of traditional school expectations, schedules, and pressures. One homeschool mom refers to deschooling as “detoxing” from thinking in a schoolish way. I’ve heard other homeschooling parents refer to deschooling as decompressing.

Deschooling:

  • Breaks rigid schedules: In traditional schools, students often follow a strict schedule with set class times and breaks. Deschooling allows children to break free from these rigid schedules, giving them the freedom to learn at their own pace and on their own terms.
  • Redefines success and failure: Public schools often emphasize grades and test scores as measures of success and failure. Deschooling helps children understand that learning is a journey, and mistakes and setbacks are not big deals but rather valuable opportunities for growth.
  • Encourages self-directed learning: Traditional schooling tends to be teacher-centered, where students are passive recipients of information. Deschooling encourages children to take more control of their learning, explore their interests, and develop the skills needed to direct their own education.
  • Builds  intrinsic motivation: Typical schools rely on external rewards and punishments to motivate students. Deschooling helps children develop intrinsic motivation, where they are driven by their own interests, by curiosity, and for the sake of learning rather than external incentives.
  • Reconnects with the real world: Brick-and-mortar schooling can create a separation between education and the real world. Deschooling encourages children to learn through real-life experiences, allowing them to see the relevance of what they are learning to their everyday lives.
  • Develops critical thinking skills: Traditional schools often prioritize rote memorization and regurgitation of facts. Deschooling promotes critical thinking, problem-solving, and the development of a deeper understanding of subjects.
  • Emphasizes individuality: Public or private schools often treat students as a homogeneous group, with little regard for their individual strengths, weaknesses, and interests. Deschooling recognizes and celebrates the uniqueness of each child, allowing them to tailor their education to their specific needs and abilities.
  • Encourages a love for lifelong learning: Traditional schools can sometimes leave children with a negative view of education. Deschooling aims to rekindle a love for learning and instill the belief that education is a lifelong pursuit.

“What is most important and valuable about the home as a base for children’s growth into the world is not that it is a better school than the schools, but that it isn’t a school at all.”

John Holt

That’s an impressive list of benefits! 

Here are some suggestions you might consider to make sure you are deschooling during this time of transition:

*Keep learning enjoyable and stress-free. Avoid testing or grading during the deschooling period.

*Go to museums. Find local educational field trips to join with local homeschoolers. 

*Keep your bedtime routine similar, but allow kids to sleep in as long as needed.

*Focus on building good personal and family habits that support your new lifestyle

*Go on morning and/or evening walks.

*Read together.

*Play board games together.

*Visit the library. Find storytimes for younger children; ask older children to pick something they want to learn about and check out books on whatever it is.

*Visit elderly or far-away family members.

*Find homeschool park days or other social events to attend.

None of these are must-do’s for deschooling. The idea is to focus on living life together for a period of time while you get used to not living as though you were still in traditional school. When you start more formal schooling at home, you want traditional school to be a vague memory so that you are not as tempted to replicate it.

Step 4: Explore Homeschooling Methods and Curriculum

While deschooling both yourself and your student, take the time to delve into the various methods and philosophies of homeschooling, such as Charlotte Mason, unschooling, classical, Montessori. My personal list of books for learning some of the various philosophies on education include: The Call of the Wild and Free: Reclaiming the Wonder in Your Child’s Education, Modern Miss Mason, The Well-Trained Mind, Dumbing Us Down, Simplicity Parenting, and Educating the Whole-Hearted Child.

Homeschooling offers the incredible opportunity to customize your child’s education. Consider your child’s learning style, preferences, and your family’s unique needs when choosing a method. Additionally, explore available curriculum options to find the best fit. Looking at friends’ books, watching YouTube videos, or reading Cathy Duffy’s reviews are good ways to see what curriculum looks and feels like in real life.

Please remember, you do not need to rush this! You can homeschool quite a while without a curriculum at all. There are no educational emergencies; you have time to explore and make educated decisions. You also retain the freedom to change course as needed!

Step 5: Crafting a Homeschooling Plan

Surprise! You’re now the captain of your child’s educational ship. Develop a flexible homeschooling plan that outlines your daily or weekly routine. Factor in your child’s age, grade level, and learning style to structure lessons and activities. Although in my home we do not follow all of Charlotte Mason’s methods, I recommend two of her ideas to almost all new homeschoolers: short lessons, and lessons done by noon. Don’t forget to include breaks, physical activity, and time for pursuing your child’s passions and interests. Our Homeschool Refresh Workbook can help you consider personal values, set up routines, and schedule out curriculum. We walk you through making a plan that works for you.

If you need help with Step 5, check out our Homeschool Refresh Workbook.

We hold your hand through the whole process of considering your values, looking at your children’s strengths and struggles, planning routines that work for your family, and figuring out how to homeschool the kids you actually have.

Your homeschool will be as individual as you are, but we can help you refine your purpose and reduce overwhelm along the way.

Step 6: Begin Homeschooling

Once your child has comfortably embraced the idea of homeschooling and has undergone some deschooling, you can gradually introduce structured learning. Start with subjects or activities that your child is passionate about or feels comfortable with. As they become more accustomed to the homeschooling routine, gradually add more subjects and curriculum materials.

Step 7: Connect with Homeschooling Communities

You’re not alone on this journey. Homeschooling can sometimes feel isolating, but it does not need to be. It is essential to connect with other homeschooling families or support groups. My favorite way to find my people is to attend park days or social meetups, because you can get to know various parents and children and then find out directly from them what amazing groups and events are near you. Join local homeschooling co-ops or engage in online communities to access valuable resources, advice, and social opportunities for your child – and for you.

So, yes, surprise! Your family is embarking on a thrilling homeschooling adventure in the middle of the year. By understanding the legal requirements, embracing deschooling, and thoughtfully planning your homeschooling approach, you can make this transition a delightful and enriching experience. With enthusiasm and dedication, you can create an inspiring educational path for your child that truly surprises and delights.