By Jaime Jo Wright, Crosswalk.com
Homeschooling is daunting. I found this out after my rookie year as a homeschooling mom. I have new empathy for my own mom, who homeschooled me from Kindergarten through my Senior year of high school.
Once you get past the all-consuming choosing of a curriculum (and it never seems that there is a one-size, one-package fits-all), then you are faced with the monumental task of setting up expectations with your children, gaining their cooperation, and mapping out disciplines. Then the day comes when you begin, at which point you may feel a bit like a fish out of water. Especially that first time your child comes to you with a question you simply don’t know the answer to. Or when you’re required to—as in my case—teach mathematics. Okay, yes, there are a lot of resources out there, but in the end, it’s me they come to with their questions.
But I’ve also learned a broad scope of talented individuals around me who can help. No, no, I’m not suggesting sluffing off on my personal responsibilities. Nor am I recommending burdening people with a feeling of obligation or guilting them into contributing to my children’s education. However, there are ways many of these people can and want to contribute.
Here are a few ways to involve others in your homeschool:
1. Identify “Experts on Call”
It’s not unlike the game show’s phone-a-friend. It’s no secret that my weak area is math and science. I will inevitably run into a problem, equation, or concept that I cannot conquer. Let alone then teach to my child.
I’ve identified two different experts in my homeschool arsenal. The first is one my kids love to talk to as well. They find her funny and interesting, and she has a great way with kids. So, in a pinch, I can give her a ring, put her on speakerphone for five minutes, and she helps us resolve our problem and move on with confidence.
The second is an individual that I can contact myself—a retired teacher from church who loves to help teach me how to explain certain concepts. In the end, they may give me a half-hour of their time in a month, but that half-hour is invaluable. They’ve also expressed to me how much they enjoy being a reference for me in my time of motherly-teacher crisis.
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2. Involve the Grandparents
This isn’t an option for everyone, but if you have parents who love to be involved with their grandkids, then maximize on that! This year, my dad has taken the kids under his wing to teach American history (a passion of his). One day a week, they focus on history, history projects, and history investigation (old book research, Internet surfing, etc.) with my dad. He’s nearing eighty, so his energy isn’t high, but his sense of purpose has skyrocketed.
The other benefits are the memories being created and also the legacy being passed on to my children. Learning American history through an agreed-upon curriculum that meets the standards we need for homeschooling and giving my dad the freedom to draw on his personal resources and ingenuity has become a fabulous equation.
My kids get a break from me. They get input from a different teacher. They get lots of “Poppy-time.” It’s a win-win. Maybe the grandparents in your children’s world aren’t the teaching type. But are they artistic? Crafty? Good at shop? Can Gramma teach sewing, baking, or home skills? Can Grandpa teach woodworking, nature/biology, or outdoor skills? Or vice versa?
Encouraging and organizing concentrated time segments with the grandparents that can be incorporated into your homeschooling can be a real game-changer.
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Many homeschoolers are involved in homeschool coops in various forms, from monthly field trips to social events for the kids, etc. But when I mean co-schooling, I am being very literal. This is something we’re doing this year on a much smaller scale than a coop.
Working with another close family of friends—who live in another state—we’ve begun holding weekly Creative Writing classes via Zoom. This means that we converge in a virtual classroom at a designated day and time and co-teach the kids. This draws on my writing skills and the other mother’s skills of whipping the kids into shape and getting them to do projects. It also brings an element of socialization into their school week, and the kids learn to complete writing projects together via alternatively scheduled “project periods.��
This method is super popular with our kids for obvious reasons. If you’re lucky enough to have friends who homeschool and live close to you, this can even be done in person. But don’t underestimate the value of Zoom, or Google Meets, or the other virtual ways to connect. It’s especially valuable if you have one parent who excels in one subject and another who prefers a different subject. It gives your kids fresh teacher perspectives and helps ease the burden of carrying the full teaching load.
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4. Become Involved in the Community
One danger point I’ve noticed with homeschooling is we tend to stay at home—a lot. I would encourage you to change this. Look into your community for the riches and wealth of options that some groups within your area are craving to bestow on you.
We have a local historical society that loves it when I bring the kids. They’ve held archaeology classes, tours of local historical resources, classes on the history of the local Indigenous People, and more. All of that is offered for a minimal membership fee (under $50), and the kids are exposed to so much information. We also have a local food pantry. The kids become involved in community service and gain the opportunity to work alongside people who teach them valuable skills that they can take into their futures. People skills, volunteer skills, work ethic, and even other elements like weighing products, organizing inventory, and working with the underprivileged in the community. And don’t forget other key places most communities have, such as the local library, art museums, community days, a Chamber of Commerce that knows all sorts of scheduled events that can be utilized throughout the year, and more!
Homeschooling is an adventure. There is no doubt of that. But it doesn’t need to be a solitary one. Not for you or your children. There are so many creative ways to involve others in your school without burdening them or feeling like you’re taking advantage of them. Once you identify these people that can be unique to you and your family, you’ll discover a wealth of richness offered to your kids.
You cannot beat the investment of others in your children’s lives. While you may have a wealth of information to teach them and a precise syllabus you want to follow, remember that they will also benefit from the healthy influence of other special people in your lives. It will encourage your children to grow, to learn from different communicators, to filter other ideas through the lens of your family’s beliefs, and to be adept at conversing and interacting with others.
I am thrilled not to be homeschooling alone. While I may bear the bulk of the responsibility, it sure is great to have others surrounding me and ready to help when I need them.
Jaime Jo Wright is the winner of the Carol, Daphne du Maurier, and INSPY Awards. She's also the Publishers Weekly and ECPA bestselling author of three novellas. The Christy Award-Winning author of “The House on Foster Hill”, Jaime Jo Wright resides in the hills of Wisconsin writing suspenseful mysteries stained with history's secrets. Jaime lives in dreamland, exists in reality, and invites you to join her adventures at jaimewrightbooks.com!