When it's not working...
by Kim Jaworski, Homeschool Resource Specialist
As much as you might want to homeschool, life and families can be complicated and you might need other options. Knowing your options means you can make the best choice for your family within the current circumstances. When circumstances change, you can always make another choice. There are no absolutes when it comes to education. You can be flexible.
Sometimes you just need some time for things like a pregnancy with complications, a grandpa’s heart surgery and recovery, or for medical treatment for someone in the family unit. It’s ok to take a few weeks or months off and adjust later in the year or summer. Or you can make use of videos and documentaries to cover material while you need to be occupied with other family matters.
Consider the full range of educational options and choose what’s best for you and your family:
Homeschooling usually means instruction is primarily done by a parent, but you can also shift to attending a co-op that meets once or twice a week with follow-up work done at home, if having that structure would help. You can also enlist a tutor or college student to assist with homeschool work. Some homeschool in a very structured way, others use an unschooling approach, and MANY families fall somewhere in between. Check out my resources page for lots of ideas that might fit the way you’d like to homeschool.
You also have the option of online charter schools- these are actually public schools, just without walls. With this model, the children are at home, but enrolled in an online school program with curriculum and assignments from teachers offsite. School runs Monday through Friday and you have to log in according to their schedule and have work done by the teacher’s deadlines. But as a parent, you have no responsibility to plan lessons or manage curriculum.
Charter or Magnet schools are another option. These are public schools with some kind of focus or emphasis (Math, Science, Art, Foreign Language, etc.) and children attend a physical school building with in-person instruction, Monday through Friday for the school year, which may or may not have its own schedule different from other public schools in the district. Usually class sizes are smaller than at traditional public schools. These schools may have lengthy enrollment processes, so be sure to do your homework on that.
Neighborhood Public Schools or open enrollment into another district is also an option. This is the public school experience most of us are familiar with. Larger classes, some special education services, afterschool sports and activities, Band, etc. You might have some say about which teacher your child is assigned to or advanced placement options for subjects that your child excels in. Most schools have busy websites now, so you should be able to research this option from home and fully explore the pros and cons.
Parttime enrollment in public schools is an option in most districts once your child is in middle school or high school. You can homeschool some subjects and have others completed at school. Navigating the school’s class schedule can be tricky. The 2 or 3 classes you’re interested in might not be offered back to back, but you can explore the options and then decide. Contact your local district or school principal for more info.
Private and Parochial Schools in your area are another option. Attendance here comes with a tuition cost, though most offer scholarships or financial help for qualified families. Uniforms are often required. The school might have a different schedule than the public schools, as religious holidays may also be observed.
Private Boarding Schools also still exist. These are private schools with hefty tuition that included room and board, as the children reside on the premises for the school year with some holiday and semester breaks for trips home. Be sure to research their application and selection process.
Whatever you decide, you are also free to change your mind, even during a school year. Be clear about communicating with your local district when you change educational paths to avoid any truancy issues if the school loses track of you. And whatever state you live in, be sure to understand your state’s education statutes. Homeschoolers in MN are required to submit paperwork each fall and do an annual standardized test. But 5 and 6 year olds aren’t tracked and there’s no requirement concerning hours per day of schooling or even days per week or weeks per year. You need to provide instruction in Communication skills, Math, Science, Social Studies and PhyEd, but no checklist of what to cover in each grade. Students enrolled in an accredited online school are still learning at home but you don’t have the paperwork and testing requirements to deal with. The online school handles that. It may seem overwhelming, but if you narrow down your options to 2 or 3 that you want to know more about and then dig into their websites and a statewide homeschool group you should be able to find all of the data you need to make a decision about what will work best for you.