What is Homeschooling to Us?
Yup… we’re those people…. but I promise it’s not what you think it is. Homeschooling has come a long way since the days of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Please tell you you’ve read Little House on the Prairie. This is what most people think of when they hear homeschooling. Being a homeschool kid in New York City opens up a expansive door that many kids around the country, and even in our own city, don’t have access to.
During the summer we complete a simple for that our city considers our annual Letter of Intent (LOI) to homeschool for the upcoming school year. Every year we are required to submit an Individual Home Instruction Plan (IHIP) to the NYC DOE which must be approved. The deadline is August 15th. Facebook groups are a great way to find guidance and assistance with regards to the process because all homeschooling parents are/were in the same boat as you at some point. The process is straightforward and eventually you will receive a notice letter approving your plan or requesting changes. Once it has been approved you should also receive a MetroCard for your student(s). This is the only support you will receive from the NYC DOE even though they state that they spend over $37,000 per student.
Submit your quarterly reports and End of Year assessment and you’re done. This is the boring part all things considered. You do not need to have your student take any standardized testing (students in public school can opt out as well). Some students thrive in a traditional, homogeneous classroom, but we’ve found that a customized learning environment allows us to explore and expound upon the strengths of our future leaders.
Each day is truly different for us, but there are many things that remain steadfast in our daily routines. We cover all of our required subjects on a regular basis, but with a little less structure than the traditionally educated counterparts. There are many times throughout the week we use the library as a way to socialize and meet with our homeschooling collective. You’ll also find us at museums far more often than the average patron. Where many people see a trip to the zoo, museum or outdoor activity as a field trip, this is just a normal school day.
A Sample of Our Homeschool Day
Keep in mind that this is a day for us. There are some parents and children that find enjoy mirroring a traditional classroom experience. We have standards and protocols in place to ensure that we cover what needs to be covered, just differently.
The start to our days are usually similar. We look out the window and welcoming the day, listening to birds, watching squirrels play and taking in the sun or watching clouds pass. Breakfast orders are made and my daughter will either help with breakfast or pick a book for us to read. As a current second grader she enjoys books like The Owl Diaries. Once breakfast is done we choose a topic to discuss; science, math or history. We go with history and watch a video discussing the original inhabitants of New York. Then we discuss what we learned about the video, how the story made us feel and how it impacted our life today. After breakfast we brush our teeth, decide how fashionable we want to dress and head to the library for ‘library school.’
Most days we will stay at the library so that my daughter can use the computer to code, use educational apps or spend some time with friends playing games together. There is also homework help offered and she will take the time to complete worksheets under the helpful watch or the tutors. She’s motivated by learning, but also the promise of a snack once she has completed her assigned work.
MoMA PS1 has recently become a great place for us to enjoy art, make art (music) and engage with others. The subway ride from The Bronx to Queens isn’t too bad. When we travel with friends it’s even better. The girls will enjoy snacks and laugh as we traverse three boroughs to our destination. The hour long journey breezes by and we usually have a couple hours to take enjoy the museum.
On the way back to the subway we’ll pop into Trader Joe’s for a snack or seltzer water for me. Then back to The Bronx we go. Talking about what we saw, what new things we learned or experienced and how it made us feel. Some days we will stop in Manhattan or venture off to another location before heading home. It’s so simple in reality, while also being so impactful. The simplicity of everything allows the kids to create their own experiences and give them the opportunity to have an impactful input in what they will learn or do on any given day.
On ‘lazy days’, which may or may not fall on a weekend, we may look up a recipe for bread to bake, paint whatever flows onto the paper or go to the park and make a baking soda volcano. There is an endless number of ideas that a kid can come up with that falls within the realm of learning. You can also make playtime activities education. For example, discussing the life cycle of plants during autumn as you walk through a park and see the leaves changing colors. Pack a piece of paper and some crayons and make leaf rubbings with the leaves you pick up. You can take the leaves home and press them in books and use them for other projects.
Our nights close our with anime, dinner and lots of hugs and positive affirmations. We’ll read a bit more from whichever Owl Diaries book we are currently immersed in. Good night hugs and cuddles as we talk about what our next adventure will be on our journey. That’s our day. Not your typical 8am-4pm shift packed inside of a building where you can’t alter your schedule as you please.
Finding Your Tribe
Years ago I ran into another mother in my area. Over the years we would chat and go our separate ways. More recently we have found that we are each others support system. While her daughter is slightly older, they mesh well together and have a beautiful bond. They are a part of out tribe.
When we make plans it has become seconds nature to include and/or invite each other to activities that are happening. The girls can almost sense when the other is nearby and it’s wonderful to hear one call out for the other when we are out. You would be surprised at how many homeschoolers may exist in your community. There are at least a half dozen that actively meet up in our group on a regular basis and another half dozen that we outside of our group.
If there isn’t a group already at your local library consider visiting the library during traditional school hours to see who is there doing school work. The library provides a space to connect and also an environment outside the home where your child may be able to better focus. If you are looking to facilitate or connect with other parents there may be a community board where you can place a flyer to reach out to other parents, just ask your head librarian on the process.
Everyone won’t have the same learning style or goals as you, but there are other ways that you can work together. Maybe there is an activity that children of different ages can all participate in. You’d be surprised at how close your tribe could be and how much more impactful they will make your homeschooling journey.
Never judge a book by its cover. We are reminded that every day as we homeschool in NYC.