Homeschooling parents are used to fielding questions about their choice to forgo the traditional school system. One, in particular, comes up often: How will they socialize?
“What they’re asking is, ‘If you’re not in school, where are you even going to meet other children?'” says Jen Garrison Stuber, the advocacy chair for the Washington Homeschool Organization and former homeschooling parent herself.
Now, with concerns about the spread of Covid-19 relegating most Seattle classrooms to Zoom, some parents are re-examining their thoughts on alternative approaches like homeschooling—exposing, Garrison Stuber says, a slew of misconceptions. “The thing that suddenly… struck me with great horror,” she says, “is that this thing that everybody was doing at home, by themselves, with no friends"—quarantine—"is what they thought homeschooling had been all along.” In reality, most of Washington's thousands of homeschooled students spend lots of time outside the home at various activities, museums, libraries, and other field trips. Generally speaking, Garrison Stuber says, homeschooling is a “serious misnomer.”
That may be a bit different this year: Homeschooling families have been affected by realities of the pandemic, too. But if you've decided to take the plunge, consider these tips from parents with experience:
- See it as a test run, says Imani Razat, who homeschools her 11-year-old son Orion as she works toward a master’s degree: "If you homeschool your child for a year and it doesn't go well, now you know.”
- Connect with people through organizations like the Seattle Homeschool Group or the Washington Homeschool Organization, says Gina Gallaway, whose 11-year-old son, Whittaker, has been homeschooled all his life. Speaking with parents of older kids, especially, helps allay fears about your child’s future.
- Let go of the stress of trying to keep up with testing and requirements for a while, says Gina’s husband, Brad Gallaway (a good tip for anyone parenting school-age kids during a pandemic).
If you’re still nervous about homeschooling, though, you’re not alone. “That’s homeschooling’s dirty little secret,” says Garrison Stuber. “We’re all completely terrified that in choosing this thing for our kids they’re going to end up jobless or homeless or friendless, or just less.”
It takes time to trust yourself, she says. That fear doesn’t mean you’re failing. “If you’re scared,” says Garrison Stuber, “that’s going to keep you on track.”