I homeschool because: it’s everything I want for my kids and more
Melissa didn't dream of homeschooling – she was busy climbing her corporate America ladder, but one day her family needed a new plan.
Editor’s note: This interview is part of our
I homeschool because
article series. The purpose of these articles is to showcase unique and differing first-hand experiences and approaches to homeschooling.
The goal is not to be prescriptive or to say this is the “right way” to homeschool or that this is the only valid approach. We hope this series inspires you to find what works best for your family.
Meet Melissa: homeschool mom, Outschooler, and teacher
Melissa is a contractor with Outschool’s Supply Operations team and a Copywriter for Outschool’s Marketing team. When not working for Outschool or homeschooling her own kids, Melissa teaches IEW (Institute for Excellence in Writing) curriculum for students from 3rd to 8th grade.
Melissa and her family live in the Metro Atlanta area. She has two kids; one is in high school, and the other is in middle school. Both are homeschooled using hybrid learning, a mix of in-school learning twice a week and at-home learning for the other three days.
Melissa is one of those moms whose original plan did not include homeschooling.
In a previous life, Melissa worked full-time in corporate America, chasing what she believed was the American dream. Like Cassie O, another homeschooling mom, Melissa grew up in the public school system and did not plan to homeschool her own kids. And then, one day, it all changed.
About six years ago, it wasn’t working for us. It was not a good fit for our family. It didn’t work out for a lot of reasons. After that summer, I just kind of bit the bullet and said, ‘You know, I’m going to pull them out,’ and we started homeschooling.
Six years later and she couldn’t imagine having it any other way.
Homeschooling versus “school at home”
Like many homeschooling families, there was not one specific moment that caused Melissa to decide to homeschool. Instead, it was a culmination of multiple issues over the years.
There was definitely a learning curve for everyone in the family, and many mistakes were made during the transition. Unfamiliar with how homeschooling works, Melissa attempted to turn her home into a school.
I think we made the same mistake that a lot of homeschoolers who are transitioning from public to homeschooling do.
We took what we knew and tried to apply it at home, which is common when you try to make school at home instead of understanding homeschool.
Over time and with the help of friends in the homeschool community, Melissa’s family started to get the hang of homeschooling after transitioning out of the public school system instead of trying to emulate schooling at home.
After much trial and error trying to fit in learning within a set time or within the boundaries of traditional school, Melissa and her children were eventually able to figure out how to fit school into multiple areas of their everyday lives.
You can’t fail as a homeschooler
As Melissa discovered, one of the biggest struggles when transitioning to homeschooling is letting go of any preconceived ideas of what you think school should look like. That includes what you think your role as a teacher should be.
Melissa, a self-proclaimed box-checking, type A personality, says she can remember panicking any time that homeschooling didn’t go according to her plan:
“Not intentionally, but if you’re a type A, there’s a massive sense of control, and to lose that control when your child’s learning is really a struggle.”
Did this mean that she failed, gave up, and walked away from homeschooling forever?
No! Melissa mentioned that much of her success came from being constantly reminded that we, as parents, know that we are their first teachers. We are the ones who introduce them to language and love, our home culture, and we are the ones who decide what to expose them to from the minute we bring them home.
“You know your kids better than anybody else. And there’s always somebody to reach out to for help.”
It’s okay to ask for help…and you should!
One of the most important things Melissa mentioned, especially for new homeschooling families, is that it is okay to ask for help.
For some, homeschooling is a completely new idea and unlike traditional schooling. Walking into the unknown can be a scary feeling, but the good news is that you’re not the first to homeschool, and you’re not alone!
Talking to a homeschooling friend is a great place to start. However, if you’re new to homeschooling, be sure to check out these resources created by the Outschool team for families just like yours!
You don’t have to do everything
Another struggle Melissa mentioned was the need to do “everything,” another common misconception of new homeschoolers.
Because she was transitioning from working full-time outside the office to learning how to homeschool and work at home, there was a constant battle for balance at the beginning of her journey.
I can’t control everything, and I really, really want to. Throughout our time at home, my kids have humbled me more often than not, especially as they get older, because they want to do it.
I constantly hear them tell me, ‘Mom, I’ve got this. You know it’s fine. You don’t need to make a list like we’ll check it off.’ But mentally, I’m over here with notebooks and lists because I can’t let go.
Thankfully, there are resources everywhere to help you along the way. As Melissa mentioned, co-ops, Facebook groups, and resources like those on Outschool’s homeschool blog are great places to start.
Melissa, a writing instructor, may be able to conjugate verbs, write a 5-page paper, and analyze classic literature, but she openly admits that math is not her strongest subject. Thankfully, Outschool offers tutoring and math classes for those areas where her kids need extra help that she may not be able to provide.
Co-ops, hybrid learning, and online resources are integral to helping her kids reach their potential academically.
You don’t have to check every box
When it comes to homeschooling, instead of worrying about checking off the boxes, consider adjusting your thinking. While every child is different, many will thrive when striving for a goal beyond traditional learning.
Achieve mastery and core competencies
One tool Melissa uses in her home is teaching mastery. Instead of learning a topic and moving on, her family focuses on mastering the topic before introducing another one. It’s especially helpful in subjects like math and science, where foundational skills build on knowledge.
Play to their individual needs and strengths
If you have more than one child, you know they can be complete opposites, even if they’re twins. One child may do better with learner-center homeschooling, while another child might thrive in a Montessori environment.
Whether your child prefers a more traditional school environment in a designated learning space or prefers to spread out a blanket outside, there is no right or wrong way to learn.
Give them options and opportunities for their future
Thanks to modern technology, college is not the only way to access higher education these days.
As long as you understand how to learn you will always be able to go into something else.
So for me, I think that’s why college has become a box that parents check because we feel like it is required. But if you decide you want to go to culinary school. If you want to become a developer, go to boot camp.
There are so many ways to do things now that I don’t want to limit them to just a degree, which is really funny because when we were growing up, we were asked what we wanted to be in high school. I look at my kids–I have a high schooler, and I think, no way would I have known who I was going to be today at fourteen.
Be flexible with your homeschooling
There will be days when a box doesn’t get checked, a lesson causes tears and frustration, and everyone just wants to throw their hands in the air and call it a day. Guess what? With homeschooling, you can!
While Melissa admitted that these days might be stressful, knowing that you can walk away when things get hard and come back refreshed the next day takes some of the burden and stress out of learning.
Don’t be too hard on yourself. You might mess up. Your kids might mess up.
At the end of the day, even if you don’t open a textbook or solve multiple math problems, you’re showing your children the importance of how to handle hard situations.
As we say in my house, ‘There are never bad days, only bad moments.’ We can all overcome those challenges with a positive attitude and flexibility.
How to build resilience and independence in your kids
When you’re at home with your kids, day in and day out, you’re given the opportunity to do things that you may not have been able to if they were away from home for most of the day. Because of this, teaching life skills, something many teachers on Outschool offer, can be utilized as a part of the daily curriculum.
In Melissa’s house, life skills are just as important as the academic subjects her kids are learning.
Critical life skills in her house include cooking, laundry, and study skills. Or learning about the importance of saving and finance, time management, and organization. Both of Melissa’s kids are also involved in local area extracurricular activities that allow them the opportunity to socialize and find like-minded people.
Does it all go perfectly every single time?
According to Melissa, the answer is a resounding no. But that’s the beauty of homeschooling. The goal is to learn and grow, or as Melissa tells her students, “We always choose progress over perfection.”
Another life skill that Melissa talked about is the importance of learning to learn.
While there are all kinds of curricula available, learning is not restricted to the pages of a textbook. According to Melissa, learning how to learn is what opens the door to new opportunities, and it’s what she tries to encourage her kids to do on their own.
Knowing how to learn is one of the most important skills a person can have. Once they’re out on their own, I want to know that if they have a problem, no matter how big or small, they will be able to figure it out on their own or find someone who can help them.
The big stuff
At the end of the day, Melissa says the most important thing about homeschooling is the time she gets to spend with her kids. While homeschooling was not the original plan, she admits it is one of the best decisions she has ever made.
I spend all my time with my kids, which is amazing because they leave in four and six years. It has changed the way I think, and it’s changed the way we do things as a family. My kids have thrived. I cannot imagine not homeschooling.
So why does Melissa homeschool?
“I homeschool because it’s everything I want for my kids and more.”
For more information on how to homeschool, check out Outschool’s How to Homeschool eBook, your one-stop resource to help you start homeschooling today.