I successfully completed over 100 instructional days as a credentialed homeschool teacher. It was a steep learning curve in the beginning, but now it’s officially in the books. It’s Spring Break now, a natural time to reflect about my favorite parts of homeschool education so far.
Flexibility for All
Life without a bell schedule is a game changer. Now I understand how much anxiety and emotion was attached to the sound of a school bell and how it impacted my day. It signaled when to take a break, whether overdue or not long enough. It literally told me when it was okay to use the bathroom and when I could drink a higher quantity of water at once. That bell, which actually sounded more like a “you’re out of luck and out of time” kind of buzzer, indicated whether my classroom full of young humans and I were going to be able to finish a task and switch over to a completely new one, ready or not. This routine brought structure, yes. But over time, it just wasn’t sustainable for me.
Homeschool flexibility allows for adjustments and changes to be made including the time and location of when and where the work gets done. And it’s kind of amazing to pretty much take a potty and snack break whenever you want.
Inclusivity and Differentiation + FUN!
In the world of homeschool education, inclusivity and differentiation are not just buzz words. What happens when you take away the 4 walls of a classroom? Students and their families are seen and included across many spaces. Their stories and personal values are shared more openly and their identities are not as heavily clouded by biases. Learning takes place in their sacred spaces, their homes. I’ve made so many strong connections with families already, and I’ve learned so much from them too.
Parents are the ones who choose curriculum and learning materials based on the way their children learn. They may need a more hands-on or play based approach. Online and digital learning may be a better fit. A hybrid or a blend of both? Absolutely possible. Pacing of lessons and assignments is fluid based on where the student is on their own path to success.
Families and students also hold a lot more creative control over elective classes and P.E. options too. These additional areas help me to see and appreciate more of my students’ personal identities and interests, even at the elementary level. Many of my students have done extensive studies in culinary arts, agricultural studies, mountain biking, gymnastics, coding and engineering, just to name a few. The days of me directing 25+ students through the same session to produce the exact same art project or requiring students to complete a P.E. unit from beginning to end even if they highly dislike the sport or activity are over.
I love being able provide support by delivering teaching points in very customized ways during family meetings or weekly Zoom classes without feeling conflicted about not serving every type of learner in the same room. Choosing from my own personal collection of best practices and all-time favorite resources, books, lessons, and activities based on students’ true strengths and interests is not only effective, but it keeps it fun.
The school I work for has a lot of tasks and deadlines that parents and teachers have to meet to stay aligned with state standards and requirements. Meetings and communications and assessments are tracked digitally across many platforms. All parties involved are held highly accountable. Systems are very detail-oriented and if you’re new to the scene, it takes a while to learn how to navigate through them fluently and efficiently. The most important pieces of the puzzle are centered around student attendance and engagement, and of course, evidence of academic progress.
But there’s time to get it done.
When questions or concerns arise, there’s almost always a place where you can find the answer in a timely way because of how the internal systems are set up. This cuts down on wasted time. In my experience so far, if a situation calls for problem-solving of any kind, there’s usually a very efficient and supportive team to provide next steps and solutions.
Leadership and Support
Transitioning from a classroom teacher to a homeschool educator has given me one of the biggest confidence boosts in 18 years. I was hired because I have years of experience supporting students, I still enjoy teaching, and I’m still up for learning new best practices. Not only do parents look to me for expertise and guidance, but my colleagues and administrators do too. It’s been refreshing and empowering to work with leaders of an organization who are experts at their roles and provide guidance and support in professional and uplifting ways. I feel like I’ve broken a vicious cycle of years of work-life stress. I am still being challenged as a professional, but I feel respected and valued.
I have met so many co-workers staff members who have been at my school and the homeschool world for years and their level of work life balance and happiness is real. It’s not just my imagination; my co-workers smile a lot and they have a certain glow about them that I think is only achieved if you truly enjoy your job.
Homeschooling isn’t for everyone, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the benefits so far. I work part of the time in person and partly from home myself. It’s an amazing balance that I am so thankful for. And although my own children are still attending traditional seat-based schools, I am more available and involved and mentally present for them now. This has been the most important impact of my decision to change. I’ve discovered a new layer of what it means to be happy at home and happy at school.
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