Homeschool Now! Starting Midyear

February 3–7, 2014   |   Vol. 118, Programs 41–45
Originally Aired: February 27–March 2, 2012 | Vol. 110, Programs 21–25

Are you—or someone you know—thinking about pulling your student out of public school, but not sure how to get started homeschooling in the middle of a term? This week, an HSLDA attorney and an HSLDA educational consultant join host Mike Smith on Home School Heartbeat with all the information you need to start now!

“You want to have a plan, but hold it loosely and make adjustments along the way.”—Vicki Bentley

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Have you ever wondered whether your kids would be better off if you pulled them out of school and taught them yourself? Well, other parents have too—they’re homeschoolers! Today on Home School Heartbeat with your host Mike Smith, hear from an attorney who talks to parents making that decision every day.

Mike Smith: Our guest today is one of our attorneys at Home School Legal Defense Association, Tj Schmidt. Tj, welcome!

Tj Schmidt: Thanks, Mike!

Mike: This week, we’re going to talk about some practical considerations for parents who want to withdraw their child from public school in the middle of the year. But Tj, would you tell us first, what are some of the most common reasons you hear why parents are withdrawing their children midyear?

Tj: Well, Mike, we do hear from a lot of parents who decide to pull their children out of public school in the middle of the school year. These parents often tell us that they’re frustrated with their local school system not meeting the educational or unique needs of their children. Many times, we speak to families whose children are not being challenged, they’re falling behind because they don’t learn exactly the same way as everyone else, or they have a special educational disability. When you teach your children at home, you have the flexibility to develop an individualized program with the curriculum that you want. Some parents are also discouraged by the unsafe environment of their local school system, where bullying, drugs, and violence may be present. Other parents are simply fed up with the public school system undermining their values and actively opposing their biblical worldview. At home, parents have the freedom to share their faith and build a moral foundation for their children.

Mike: Very good, Tj! As we’ll see throughout this week, HSLDA is committed to helping parents homeschool, no matter when they start. So until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: Tj, last time you mentioned several reasons why parents might chose to begin homeschooling their children in the middle of the school year. Once they’ve made that decision, what steps do they need to take to legally withdraw their child from a public school and avoid any truancy issues?

Tj Schmidt: Well, the first thing that I would suggest is that they contact HSLDA for help. We can walk them through their individual situation and help make a smooth transition from public school to home. Because each state is different, I would strongly encourage a parent to become familiar with their state’s legal requirements to teach their children at home. If they’re required to notify either local or state officials of their decision, HSLDA has forms which a parent can use to satisfy all of those requirements. One of the most important things to do is ensure that your child is officially withdrawn from the public school system, so you don’t receive a truancy notice from local school officials when the child doesn’t show up at school. Some states begin these proceedings when a child has only three unexcused absences. Finally, HSLDA has several consultants available to help parents to decide what curriculum might fit their child and family.

Mike: Well, thanks, Tj, that’s essential information. And we encourage any parents considering homeschooling to contact us and learn about the legal support that HSLDA can provide for your homeschool. And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: Today, HSLDA’s Toddlers to Tweens consultant Vicki Bentley joins us with more help for parents who are thinking about starting to homeschool midyear. Vicki, welcome to the program!

Vicki Bentley: Thanks, Mike!

Mike: Vicki, when a parent decides to withdraw a child from public school midyear, what’s the first thing they need to know, in terms of practical teaching?

Vicki: Well, Mike, think of homeschooling as a journey, and your curriculum—your course of study—is the road map, or the directions. If I called you and asked for directions, you’d probably want to know where I am, and where I wanted to go, and it’s the same with homeschooling! If you need help figuring out where your child is, our site has information on placement tests, skills checklists, and other evaluative tools. If you’re not sure where you’re headed, you can check out our article “What Should I Be Teaching?”

Besides curriculum, establishing a workable routine will give your children security. You can be somewhat flexible, but don’t compromise on basic skill subjects and Bible or character.

Also, be prepared to hear, “That’s not how my teacher did it!” and be patient with your child, and remember that this is new for him, too. Parents, when we start out, sometimes we only know to do what we experienced, so we tend to recreate school at home. But home education is more than just school at home—it’s a lifestyle choice, a relationship of mentoring and discipling our children—a lifestyle of learning.

Mike: Thanks, Vicki! That’s a great place to start! We’ll talk more about making a midyear transition to homeschooling in our very next program. And until then, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: Vicki Bentley, HSLDA’s Toddlers to Tweens consultant, is with us again today with tips for parents beginning to homeschool midyear. Vicki, how important is it to have a really formal school program if you start homeschooling in the middle of the school year?

Vicki Bentley: Well, some children coming out of a conventional school, midyear or not, may feel more secure in the familiar, structured class setting—especially at first—so you can do the desk thing, or you can relax a bit and sit at the kitchen table. But if by formal, you mean having an outlined plan, many moms feel more comfortable having some specific goals, and we all feel more secure with a routine of sorts.

Mike: Now, does that vary depending upon the age of the student, Vicki?

Vicki: Well, regardless of your kids’ ages or your homeschooling style, it’s important to have a plan—set some goals, and then select materials or activities to help meet those goals. We want to have age-appropriate and developmentally appropriate expectations. With primary students, our main goals are to give them lots of physical and creative play, experiences, discovery learning—think of it as “hooks” on which to hang their future learning. Remember, what looks like play to us is work to them! As they get older, our expectations are going to increase with their maturity. We want to continue to nurture academic excellence (along with faith and character, of course) to encourage self-motivated learners!

Mike: Well, thanks again, Vicki! This is really helpful for our listeners who may be considering homeschooling. And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: Vicki Bentley is with us again to wrap up our week on how to start homeschooling in the middle of the school year. Now, Vicki, do you have any good tips for helping a child deal with the transition from public school to homeschool in the middle of the year?

Vicki Bentley: Well, Mike, the transition is not only academic, but also emotional and spiritual. His familiar routine, his security, has changed. He may miss his friends, or activities, or even his teachers. So invest some time to become reacquainted with your child. Pay attention to his passions, his interests, his areas of strength, areas of need. You want to have a plan, but hold it loosely and make adjustments along the way. On the social front, local support groups are a big help in that area, but don’t get overwhelmed with extracurricular activities.

And by the way, not all kids are thrilled to be homeschooled—whether it’s a midyear decision or not. One of our girls, at age 14, became unhappy with our decision. She went on and graduated as a homeschooler, sent us a thank-you note for sticking with it, and now writes curriculum and homeschool blogs, and she homeschools their three little girls.

Mike: Thanks so much for your good advice, Vicki! And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Vicki Bentley

Vicki Bentley is the mother of eight daughters, foster mom of over 50, and grandma to 17 wonderful grandbabies (so far). Vicki has homeschooled 17 children since 1988, alongside her husband Jim, and led a local support group of over 250 families for 14 years. She has served on the executive board and convention committee of the Home Educators Association of Virginia and has addressed state and national conventions, university teacher organizations, and many mothers’ groups. She is the author of My Homeschool Planner, Everyday Cooking, The Everyday Family Chore System, Home Education 101: A Mentoring Program for New Homeschoolers, High School 101: Blueprint for Success, and other homeschool and homemaking helps, and coordinates HSLDA’s Toddlers to Tweens and Group Services programs. Vicki has a heart for moms, with practical wisdom and encouraging words.

Tj Schmidt

Thomas J. (Tj) Schmidt was first taught at home in the second grade by his parents in northern Vermont. For nearly all of the remaining years of his elementary and secondary education Tj was taught at home. For much of that time his family was on foreign mission fields. Tj received his J.D. while studying at home from Oak Brook College of Law and began serving as a Legal Assistant at HSLDA. Now, as an HSLDA Staff Attorney, Tj answers general legal questions and assists members across the country experiencing legal difficulties. Tj and his wife, Susan, have five children, Josiah, Suzanna, Ella, Makenna, and Jonah. They look forward to teaching all of their children at home.

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