Google The Unplanned Homeschooler: 2020

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

How is virtual school going?

 Hey there! I see you, parents of newly virtual schooling kids. I know a whole lot of you, maybe most of you, would have never chosen this option for your children's education if not for the pandemic. Maybe you are doing virtual school because that is all that is offered right now in your district, or maybe because your family has one or more high risk members you want to protect. Perhaps you are out of work, or working from home, and you just wanted to give this whole school-at-home thing a try. Or maybe you've been toying with the idea of homeschooling for a while, and this seemed like a good way to see if it might be a fit for you and your kids without committing to doing everything on your own.

Whatever the reason you've chosen virtual school, I hope you and your kids have a fantastic school year!

Our family has never done virtual school, although believe me, I was tempted by the idea of it when we first decided to homeschool. One of the main reasons I decided to do traditional homeschooling instead of virtual public school was that my older two kids were still quite young. I didn't think teaching first grade to my twins would be so tough, and at that time I really only expected to homeschool for a couple of years, until my youngest could start pre-K. 

Another factor was our slow and unreliable internet at that time. Rural areas and small towns really are so far behind when it comes to internet service, and that is a huge hurdle, I think, to providing a quality virtual school experience to students across the board. 

Anyway, we made the decision to homeschool instead, so I have never actually had the experience of virtual school. I have a good friend who is an experienced virtual school teacher, and know many families who have been happily virtual schooling for years, so I know it can work well. I've also known families who had poor experiences with different virtual school platforms, so I realize it doesn't always work well for every student.

If you have chosen virtual school for your kids, I really do hope that you have a great experience. If it is not what you had hoped, I do have a couple of suggestions, having worked with hundreds of homeschooling and virtual schooling families over the years. 


It is extremely important that you communicate regularly with your virtual instructors, and that you communicate well. Be specific about issues you are having, and don't wait until the last minte to reach out. If you are not able to form a cooperative relationship with your child's instructor, and you feel that your child's education is at risk, please reach out to someone higher up the chain. You may be able to switch instructors, or even enroll in a different virtual school or switch to homeschooling if problems cannot be resolved.

Define your goals

It is important, when deciding which path to take, that you carefully define your goals. I am, obviously, very much in favor of homeschooling. But it is not the right path for every family. If your goal is to get back into the neighborhood school classroom as soon as possible, particularly if your child will be in high school in the coming year, homeschooling may actually throw them behind, because many high schools refuse to accept homeschool credits from students who are transferring.

If your goal is to preserve your child's eligibility to participate in their local school's extracurricular activities, you may want to carefully look at whether switching to a different virtual school would take away those opportunities. Be aware, though, that there are often homeschool sports, music and other extracurricular options available if you should decide to leave the virtual school, and in some states, homeschooled kids must still be allowed to participate in extracurriculars at their local public school. 

Your goal may be to simply provide the best education possible for your child, regardless of the format. In this case, homeschooling may be an awesome option for your family if you find that virtual school is too limited or too demanding of screen time, or just isn't a good fit for whatever reason.

Virtual school isn't homeschool

Be aware that in most cases, virtual public school is not considered homeschool, even though it is done in the same place and may use many of the same resources. This is true regardless of whether you are doing virtual school through your local school district or through an online public charter school. Both virtual public school and homeschool are valid educational alternatives, but families have very different rights and responsibilities depending on which they choose.

For those who are embarking on your first semester of virtual school, I wish you the best. I hope your children have skilled teachers who are able to adapt to the format easily, and that they are able to enjoy each and every one of their classes. 

If that is not the case, and you do find yourself considering homeschooling, either for the year or forever, please reach out to experienced homeschoolers online or in your community for support. And check out my book, The Unplanned Homeschooler: My Disorganized Path to Homeschooling Success, available free for a limited time on Amazon. You do not have to take on this venture alone.   

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Get my book, FREE for a limited time!

Raise your hand if you didn't exactly plan to be doing school at home.

You might guess from the title of my blog, and my first book, my journey into homeschooling wasn't a planned excursion, either. No, my family wasn't pushed out of the classroom by a global pandemic, but we did end up homeschooling largely due to circumstances beyond our control. From the overcrowded local elementary schools and the abysmal lunchtime policies to the fact that public school just wasn't meeting my children's educational needs, we found ourselves embarking into strange territory.

You are not alone. And right now, for a very limited time, you can get my book, The Unplanned Homeschooler: My Disorganized Path to Homeschooling Success for free! Read about my trials, my errors, the tears, the laughter, and some of the amazing learning adventures that convinced me homeschooling was the right choice for my kids. 

I won't say that because we did it, you can too. But if you are thinking about homeschooling, and you're maybe a little scared or nervous about wading in, get my book now and see what those first years were like for us. Click here to get your copy today!

Monday, August 31, 2020

Raising up resilience

It has been a while since I've written anything for my blog. The stories I wanted to write didn't seem like all mine to tell. Such is often the case when you are writing about the lives and experiences of your children, especially if your childen have disabilities. Although the things my kids were going through affected me as well, it still didn't feel right to talk about publicly unless and until they seemed ready to share. But like many homeschooling moms, I've discovered that in spite of challenges, I have been raising amazing, resilient young people and they are excited to pursue their goals in whatever manner they can.

I have three children. My twins, 18, and their little sister, who will be 13 this month. Yes, I am about to be a mom of three teens! This is an exciting time in our lives. The twins are seniors this year. They started concurrent enrollment classes at the local university last semester, and are taking more classes there this fall as we concentrate on applying for admission and scholarships for their freshman year. My son is leaning toward a career in the medical field, and my daughter is interested in finding her niche in the entertainment industry. My youngest is entering middle school and has interests as varied as any you might imagine. 

Dealing with the pandemic

This year has not been too difficult for us, as far as dealing with the pandemic is concerned. Homeschooling had already prepared us well for learning successfully at home, and although we all missed some of the social aspects of our routine, at least the educational components of our lives weren't thrown suddenly into chaos. 

Actually, taking the extra precautions we've needed to take, primarily due to my younger daughter's heart condition, has given us something of a season of rest. You see, before Covid-19 arrived on the scene, we were exceedingly busy. We had appointments scheduled multiple days each week, many of which were more than an hour away because we live in a small town. Some appointments took us hours away from home, and all had to be scheduled around the twins' college classes. 

Facing tough diagnoses

The last couple of years were spent in what seemed like a rolling snowball of of doctors and tests. My kids, all three of them, were preemies and had been dealing with mysterious issues since they were born. The twins qualified for speech, occupational and physical therapy in preschool, but we didn't know the underlying reason for their challenges. I've spent their whole lives looking for answers, but it wasn't until they were in their teens that things started to come together. Without going too much into their diagnoses, I will simply say after seeing two geneticists and multiple other specialists, we finally had definitive answers, and they were discouraging. 

It is not easy to receive life-altering diagnoses, not as the patient and not as their parent. I think having an imposed break in all the appointments, due to the pandemic, gave us all time to catch our breath. The kids' medical conditions aren't going to go away, and whatever poking and prodding and physical therapy and other work needs to be done will still be waiting when we're ready to resume. But for now, it is good to have time to focus on other things, like their college applications and dreams for the future.

Still chasing their dreams

Homeschooling has helped me to raise overcomers. My older daughter has spent a lot of time researching different jobs in the film industry, and various paths to the type of career she wants. She's spent time thinking about the limitations she might face, whether due to her mobility or tolerance of heat or cold, for instance. The flexibility she has experienced as a homeschooler has given her the ability to envision different ways to accomplish her goals.

My son's diagnoses seemed to light a fire under him. I'd done my best to open as many doors as possible throughout his education, making sure that he learned the basics and had plenty of opportunities to study subjects of interest, but he'd been pretty committed to "Undeclared" as his major until this year. Recently he has started to take a hard look at the type of career he really wants, and what sort of labor he will be able to physically do over the long haul, and he's working hard to make a plan and go for it.

My little one, who was born with a heart defect and has dealt with overcoming disability her entire life, is watching her older siblings as they deal with the challenges they face now and those that will come. She won't be tested for the same disorder until she is older and can consent on her own. Part of me just wants to know now, but I understand that it needs to be her decision. Whatever happens, she's one of the most resilient people I have ever known, and I have no doubt she will find her way.

Homeschooling made a difference

I'm not sure if my kids would have been as ready to face their challenges if I had left them in public school. By the time they finished kindergarten, the twins were already dealing with setbacks. My daughter felt like a failure on the playground, and was going hungry from the limited time she had to eat lunch. My son was drowning in a classroom that was so mismatched to his learning style he seemed doomed to fall through the cracks. Homeschooling allowed them to learn in ways that suited them, and to succeed in ways that they might never have discovered in an overcrowded school.

If you are reading this, you are probably already considering homeschooling. I encourage you to give it some serious thought, especially if you are dealing with a medically complex child. Every child has dreams, even if some of them may come with limitations. Homeschooling may be just the thing to help your child build a legacy of success and gain the courage to explore all the possibilities that await them.