It’s that time of year again: I’m getting e-mails and calls from friends wanting to know about this homeschooling thing. I have a lot to say about homeschooling, but here’s the first: It isn’t what it used to be or what you might think it is.
My son and daughter started off in school. We loved the school, the teachers, the classmates, but my kids had needs that weren’t being met, so we decided to take a year off and try homeschooling. I’ll admit it: I was worried. I totally bought into the myth that all homeschoolers are the Duggars from 19 Kids and Counting. I was sure we wouldn’t fit in and doubtful we’d make it through unscathed. Maybe I was about to doom my kids to a life of wandering the earth, friendless and socially inept.
Luckily, I was completely, 100 percent wrong. We jumped in, then looked around and found ourselves surrounded by homeschooling families who are, on the whole, very…normal. Now that I’m here myself, what do I wish I had known from the beginning?
What About Socialization?
This is the number one question every homeschooler gets asked—over and over and over. Here’s the deal: Socializing happens as much or as little as you choose. We’re out there daily for park day, game day, art class, dance class, sports, and every kind of field trip you can imagine. The homeschool groups we’re active in (more on that later) organize holiday and birthday parties, teen hangouts, and even dances. Richmond is aswarm with homeschoolers—more than four thousand strong, according to the Virginia Department of Education—and social opportunities. The real problem is saying no before you max out your calendar.
But What About Education? How Will They Learn?
There’s an amazing amount of curricula out there for every kind of homeschooler, but our learning isn’t limited by our curricula. We also leave plenty of time to learn what the kids are interested in learning. My friend Jeanne calls this child-led learning “going down the rabbit hole.” If children are interested in learning something, I promise you there are no limits to how much they absorb. That’s when true education takes over.
But I Could Never Do That!
Here’s where I offer the caveat: Homeschooling is not for everybody. It’s a tough job, and you never really clock out. Bringing your children home and being with them—really being with them, day in and day out—is a huge undertaking. Making sure everyone is learning what they need and getting to the next destination can make you feel more cruise director than mom: “And to your left, you see the French Revolution…” It’s tough, tiring and often chaotic, but if you love learning new things and sharing them with your children, if you’re up for adventures, the unexpected and that supernova light in their eyes when they get it, you just may be a homeschooling mom in the making.
I Want to Learn More, But I’m Clueless and Totally Overwhelmed!
Join the club. We’ve all been there, and you’re not alone. If you take away only one thing from my rambles, let it be this: Join homeschooling groups to find folks for you and your children to connect with. South of the James Homeschoolers is my family’s personal favorite. I have to go sappy on you for a sec: These women keep me going. They answer every silly question I have; their children are my kids’ buds; they are my friends for life. They are some of the strongest, wisest women I have ever met.
Curious? That’s how it always starts…
Links to the Homeschooling Rabbit Hole
Here are some groups I currently belong to; most are on Yahoo!:
South Of the James—Find their group contact at http://www.homeschoolrichmond.com/groups/groups.htm
Richmond Area Homeschoolers (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Richmond_Area_Homeschoolers/messages)
Chesterfield Home Educators of Virginia (CHEVA) (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CHEVA/?yguid=301411311)
Homeschool Mom’s Social Club (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/HMSC/)—I love these gals, but since baby came I have yet to break away to hang out. I miss them!
There are also numerous co-ops and classes out there, and the benefits are multi-fold: My kids choose classes on subjects they love and meet new people, and we all get a little break from each other. Co-ops and classes are also great to cover subjects I’m not comfortable teaching or feel like the kids would be better served learning from someone else. Here are a few:
Westminster Academy (http://www.westminsteracad.org/index.html)
Chesterfield Christian Academy ( http://www.cca4u.org/)
The Athenian Academy (http://theathenianacademy.com/Home.html)
ArtHaus (http://www.arthausrichmond.com/)—We love their great homeschooling classes)
Marr Science (http://www.marrscience.com/Marr_Science/Welcome.html)—My daughter can’t get enough of Sandra’s fun teaching style and hands on classes!
Mathnasium (http://www.mathnasium.com/midlothian)—The extra tutoring is a life-saver when math is over my head!
These are just the tip of the iceberg. To delve into the sea of opportunities, you’ll want to check out Virginia’s statewide homeschool organizations:
- The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers (VaHomeschoolers) (http://www.vahomeschoolers.org)
- Home Educators Association of Virginia (HEAV) (www.heav.org).
Their sites abound with information on homeschooling and both offer annual conferences in Richmond. HEAV’s conference is upon us this weekend (June 7-9); VaHomeschoolers’ next conference is March 22-23, 2013.