by Rachael McMillan
Whether you know you want to homeschool, know you don’t want to homeschool, or haven’t made up your mind yet, you have to admit that it’s nice to have the option.
Even better, should you choose to go the homeschool route, plenty of options for support exist in the Champaign-Urbana area.
Maya Gouliard, the membership coordinator and playgroup facilitator for local homeschool group “C-U HOUSE,” talked with chambanamoms.com about the ins and outs of the practice, and she also shared some tips on making the upcoming “home”school year a success.
What is C-U HOUSE?
HOUSE stands for Home Oriented Unique Schooling Experience. We are a non-sectarian, member-run homeschool support group. Our families get together for fun and learning.
What advice would you have for a family that is considering homeschooling, but may have lingering doubts or fears about the arrangement?
Find other homeschoolers and talk with them. Everyone has doubts and fears about big decisions, and how to educate your children may be the most important decision any parent makes.
I have made a ton of lists about reasons to homeschool vs. public or private school. The list for homeschool is always a mile long, and the list for public school is always two things: more time to myself, and fear that I am not succeeding. The fears are what drive you to do a good job; embrace them.
What are some of the downsides to homeschooling?
It can be hard to spend so much time with each other. Relationships are very strong in a homeschooled family — this doesn’t mean that everyone gets along all the time, just that we all know each other very well because we spend so much time together. This is a positive thing, except that parents don’t get time away when school is at home.
The other downside is how scary it can be. Parenting is scary enough without thinking you are completely responsible for how a child turns out, without the schools to use as a buffer. Educationally speaking, I think that there are no down sides; every family can find a way that works best for each student.
What is one way parents deal with the lack of “alone time” when homeschooling?
I think you have to find out the things you would want to do alone, and then learn to share them with your children. I love to read, watch movies and play board games; I can do all of these things with my kids.
What can you tell us about part-time homeschooling options?
My oldest has gone (to school) part time occasionally; it is a great way to get — as Hannah Montana would say — “the best of both worlds.” I don’t actually know about Urbana, but the middle schools and high schools in Champaign do let students attend part time. Many older homeschoolers have chosen this as an option and are very happy with it, especially those who want to play an instrument. The grade schools are not as open to this, usually they will let a child go part time but only with the long-term goal of being there a full day.
It can be overwhelming for a family to begin homeschooling. What are the top five tips you have for first timers?
1) Find a support group, such as HOUSE, Christian Homeschool Connections, Champaign-Urbana Area Homeschoolers, a co-op, or just another family doing it. You don’t have to be a homeschooling family to join many of these groups — simply considering it is enough. This can be a good way to get contacts and “try out” the arrangement to see if it is a good fit for your family.
2) Remember the freedom you have in Illinois and build a curriculum around each child.
3) Think about what you remember (the activities you enjoyed most) from your own early education.
4) Love your kids and listen to them.
5) Relax and have fun. Everyone learns more when they are having fun.
A former high school teacher who now is spending time at home with her two children, Jack and Kate, Rachael McMillan is a freelance writer and reading tutor.