How We Took Our First Step Towards Homeschool
This is how we homeschool.
No, it’s how we outsource-school.
Is it possible to be hungover from a decision? The following morning can feel sobering. Conscientiousness kicks in from the inside out. The soft familiar sounds from the kitchen and the smell of coffee from the outside world taunt your brain to wake up. Slowly you are pulled back to your reality. The events from yesterday are trickling back now, and you realize, oh wow, I just did something major yesterday.
It was now Monday. We sent our 9th grader to school while our newbie 7th grader homeschooler was moping in the kitchen. Looking back on our big decision yesterday, we had felt so much lighter for pulling that trigger. Isn’t it how it usually happens? We were helpless watching our boy’s situation become more troublesome. Yes, teachers were trying to help him get back on track. The thing is, our boy was a smart kid who didn’t want to do his work. Today’s classes are full of kids struggling to grasp concepts they should already know. And then you’ve got the other end, a group of students hanging onto every word you are saying, hungry to be pushed and challenged. That was our older son; we knew that kind of student too. What could a teacher do for a well-behaved, too smart to cause class disruptions, kid choosing to do the bare minimum? After months of fighting, grounding, and disappointment, we realized this isn’t how we motivate change. It was all in our hands now. The relief and peace of mind we felt yesterday as we had finally chosen action over helplessness was replaced with anxiety over how to tackle the beast of setting up homeschool. How were we going to get started?
I had a few friends already in the homeschool world. These parents each approached homeschooling very differently. There was no one way to do it. Oh, and this is probably a good time to tell you; I work full time, and my husband was also not in a position to become a school teacher. We had dabbled a little in the world of online education resources during Covid. This experience inspired a couple of colleagues and me to start iSPY Education. Ah, I’m getting distracted. I’m going to save that story for another post. Back to homeschool, the old way of setting up a schoolhouse in our home did not suit us.
Have you ever researched online classes, virtual schools, or digital academies for K-12? It’s pretty amazing what you’ll find. For example, during the shutdown in 2020, we had signed our kids up for a couple of online classes on Outschool, more of an interactive club experience tied to engineering. Outschool was going to be the foundation of educating our son. Much like a college catalog, Outschool gives you a diverse range of classes to choose from. Most are within what you’d expect a curriculum for a 7th grader would be. Furthermore, you can choose the subject, day, and time you are looking for, and voilà, we were on our way to filling up a school day. The Outschool classes are lecture-based. In fact, a lot of them are set up to cover one subject a class, so you can easily step into a lesson and not feel like you’ve missed something.
Science, Spanish, Grammar, Reading Comprehension, World History, STEM Club… the classes and schedule were coming together. Each Outschool class met once a week. Subscribing to the classes meant a fee (between $12–20) automatically came out of my bank account. A sense of relief was now replacing my stress stomach ache. Liam and I were now on our way to get homeschool supplies because when you start a new project, and there is nothing but lots of work to do, my first step is always to accessorize. No, we didn’t know what we were doing, BUT we were going to look like we did.
My years of producing photo shoots were starting to kick in. This, my friends, was less about homeschooling and more like project managing. Our first project was to use an extra-large whiteboard, markers, and Washi tape to create a schedule. Though Liam still seemed sad about his new (self-inflicted) situation, we were going to figure this out together.
And then the kid who only puts in enough effort to slide by appeared. His classes were not starting until tomorrow. His half-assed attempt to use the board to lay out his class schedule was starting to raise my blood pressure just like the old days. I took a deep breath and realized we had the day to figure things out. I gave him a sheet of paper and told him to draw out the best way to design his schedule. As predictable as a mopy 12 yr old can be, his first attempt was not impressive. I sent him back to the drawing board three times. He finally had created a solid plan, and my blood pressure was back to normal. Already, we were both improving. Maybe this whole thing really was a good idea.