Here are the final two chapters of my book “Rise Above School“
Since you are making the most important decision of your child’s or children’s lives, you should have a purposeful and thoughtful plan of action. You can take any course you like, but I recommend making it somewhat formal. Understand that you may be doing the hard work of reversing your own indoctrination and your spouse’s as well. Listed below are steps I can recommend.
Read some books critical of school
Buy a few books on the history and purpose of school. Read them. They are interesting stuff even if you decide to stay in the public school system. John Taylor Gatto’s “Dumbing Us Down” is great at examining the system. (I list some books in the appendix.) The more and more you know and the more comfortable you are with the ideas, the better and more confident you will feel.
Read some books about home education
Same as above, but instead of just learning why school is bad, learn how home education and child freedom is wonderful. Peter Gray and John Holt come to mind, as does Grace Llewellyn’s The Teenage Liberation Handbook.
Watch some YouTube
Like this five hour whopper with John Taylor Gatto: www.tragedyandhope.com/th-films/the-ultimate-history-lesson/
And some podcasts
Brett Veinotte’s series at School Sucks Project are great: www.schoolsucksproject.com.
Visit homeschooling discussion boards
Read the threads and post questions. Homeschoolers love to write about anything and are open to discuss with new members and people who are curious.
Join a homeschooling Facebook group
Just like the forums, homeschoolers on Facebook are happy to answer questions. You can find them with different themes (secular, religious, unschooling, etc.) and usually local ones.
Learn about different styles
These are different disciplines or approaches to homeschooling. Classical, Waldorf, eclectic and unschooling are the most discussed.
Research home schooling products, services and resources
There’s tons of stuff out there, from pre-made curricula, school-like workbooks, video series, maps, reference books, tutors, online teaching platforms, online educational content (e.g., Khan Academy), software etc. Even though my family chose to unschool, we felt more comfortable knowing that we could access resources if we needed them.
Attend a park day or meet up
Find your local group and ask to meet up on a park day, meet up or play date. Whether you bring your kids with you or go alone, homeschoolers will be happy to explain what they do and what works for them.
Plus, you can experience that it is real. It’s great seeing a bunch of kids playing in a play yard knowing all the other poor children are stuck bored sitting in a desk in a cinder block school room.
The home school people can often be fringe as something went off in their minds to change their personal status quo. Even though the Christians, Hippies and Anarchists you will meet don’t see eye to eye on everything, they typically get along well in discussing educational topics.
Visit a home schooling conference
I’ve yet to do this, but you would get to visit vendors, meet other families and attend speeches/panels.
Research the local state law
This is key and can be difficult to start. I found that it took me a couple times reading it through. I also went to third-party sites that helped explain it. Where I live, in South Carolina, the law is only a page long and requires families to register through an accountability service, essentially an organization that collects a fee and maintains paperwork. These organizations can help explain the law, with some even offering counseling. In Michigan, for example, there are no real laws to follow. You simply don’t go to school. Another example, Massachusetts, requires a rather onerous process of meeting with the school district’s Super Intendant.
Some people skip being in compliance with the law. If you’ve moved or if your children are home schooling right from the start, the school system probably doesn’t know you and your children exist. Plus, the truancy officer is probably busy with actual truant school kids (if they do anything at all.)
Go to a school
If you haven’t been lately, check out a public school with your new view of education. Look at the desks, look at the hallways, look at the rooms. Take in the smell. See the motorized changing of classrooms as the bell rings. Look at the buses.
Public school makes its own case against itself.
Talk with your kids
Explain what you’re thinking about and talk it through with them. Listen to what they have to say. Does the idea of not going to school intrigue them? Does it excite them? Or do they want to remain in school?
Imagine being your kids
Imagine that you are them and you have to go through their school grind. How do you feel? Do you feel empathy for their situation?
Interview other school kids
I do this constantly with the neighborhood school children: I ask them if they like school. Every single one rolls their eyes and says that nobody likes school.
Begin bringing your spouse along on the decision journey
Start with some exploratory, calm, speculative, guarded discussion about the possibility of home education. Then start them through the tasks listed here, like starting with some books. Be gentle and take it slowly. It could take months or a year even.
Get your logistics in order
It’s very difficult, if not near impossible, to home educate young children if there is not at least one parent home with the children. If homeschooling is a priority (and it should be) two-income families might have to analyze how they could live with one income or with someone changing to a work-at-home job. This might involve some tough decisions about living with less money (and what it buys) than the two-income situation.
As you approach this, think about your general family time and your familial development. If both mom and dad work and the kids are ported off to school, are you really getting to experience being family in a healthful and happy way?
Envision your new life
Start planning what your days and weeks will look like with the children around. Imagine everything from waking up later to what you’ll play together and places you might go when other families are grinding out the school day. If you feel like it, write some of the new aspects of your life down on paper (or computer) and read it over. Begin to collect ideas for your new life. See if they interest or excite you.
Set a transition date
Ideally, it can be nice to have a tidy transition date if you are leaving public school. For example, if there is an end of semester or school year or a move to a different city or the like which makes for an elegant transition out of the school system.
This will give you a date to focus on moving to your new life as free, home educators.
But, this said, if you suddenly feel an urgent need to pull them out, go ahead and do it immediately in a lawful way (e.g., have whatever paper work you’ll need to keep the truancy officer at bay.) There’s no reason to suffer additional schooling because of the calendar.
Go ahead and buy some of your home schooling supplies, be they books or art supplies or online subscriptions, etc. Get organized and prepared!
Set up your learning space at home (if you want one)
We have a dedicated table and room where our kids use their computers and a giant closet full of books and art supplies. If you imagine having a special learning place in the house, get it set up, equipped and ready for use.
Pull the switch – make it happen
File the paperwork if you need to. Set the date you’ll be starting. Unplug the kids’ alarm clock the night before you start – they won’t need an alarm anymore.
Do it. Start. Get it going.
The largest decision of your child’s life is in your hands. The 15,000-hour whopper. Are you going to spend less than five minutes on it, like I first did? Or will you put some serious investment and time into making the best choice for you, your kids and your family?
School by its nature is a creature of force, coercion, conformity and obedience to authority. Don’t be fooled by its supposed and marketed “educational value.” The institution of school, like any institution, must constantly survive and grow. Its first mission is to protect itself from scrutiny or abandonment, and therefore its first defense is to control how children think and to scare parents into compliance and enforcement.
But there’s an escape that most people think is crazy. It’s home education and it’s helping families and children flourish with freedom, intrinsic learning and happiness.
It’s really not hard to do once you start. But starting is the hard part, and it starts with the decision to do it.
Now it’s up to you.