Beginning Homeschool

My eldest daughter (I’m currently pregnant with our second) was previously attending a local preschool for children with and without special needs. Because she was significantly premature, she was at risk of having developmental delays and learning issues. Her very low birth weight categorically qualified her for early intervention services in our state, which meant a special needs public health nurse visited our home and tracked her development until she was 3 years old. She needed physical therapy from birth until she could walk; gross motor skills were her main issue. When she started half-day preschool at 2.5 years, her gross motors skills were merely borderline delayed and she was considered a typical kiddo. We appreciated the quality of care and experiences she had there. It was a good fit for her and us, and I concentrated my working hours while she was in school.

Unfortunately, the nonprofit private school is– like so many schools– facing financial difficulties, and they made a decision to cut the afternoon-only session for the 2013-2014 school year as most families prefer mornings or all-day sessions. Having enrolled our daughter in the summer session last year (with morning-only for half-day options), we quickly realized morning start times conflicted with our family circadian rhythms. We kept thinking we’d eventually get used to it, but the summer dragged on and we struggled through. Our collective productivity plummeted and– being my husband and I are both self-employed– it felt like a total disaster of a summer. This is when we realized a traditional school schedule was going to be an issue once she started her K-12 education. Even if we could go straight back to bed after dutifully taking her to school, she couldn’t. We had been looking at the school options in our area for a few years and included homeschooling in our pondering, but it wasn’t until we were faced with considering other preschools that still had afternoon sessions (to buy us another year of not making a K-12 decision) that homeschooling became the most attractive and seriously-considered option for us.

And here we are. Before school let out I joined a local, nonreligious homeschooling group that has nearly 100 members and a wide range of family homeschooling styles. Even before joining the group, we had decided to start with CoreKnowledge as our baseline, because we like that it appears to be a sound framework– some direction but room to teach as we see fit. I don’t think I could live with teaching from a textbook or predetermined scripts (our souls need creative freedom), yet starting with something thoughtfully developed is considerably less overwhelming than starting from scratch. The preschool sequence reads very much like a developmental checklist– language familiar to us given the years of intervention screenings.

And here it is July. Our daughter’s last day of preschool was in May. The last month+ has been a shift and struggle to balance childcare, work, and home. This is expected and understandable, but still difficult nonetheless. I originally planned to “start” in August, but I am writing this and beginning my blog here with the thought we need to start as soon as possible. Summer vacation (or going forward, radical—or not-so-radical—unschooling) is not sustainable for us. I work from home, and without some sort of conscious “schooling” (and conscious parenting), there’s a risk for neglecting our daughter instead of nurturing her. Work has it’s way of running over everything else, as any freelancer can probably understand. Fortunately I like what I do, because my work is also absolutely necessary to our budget and I cannot cut back anymore than I have since our daughter was born. We operate very close to the line these days, so the “making this work” aspect feels high stakes and high stress. In an attempt to manage the stress, I am currently developing our school/work/home game plan and will be posting our progress.