Homeschooling: Where do you even start?

Homeschooling: Where do you even start?
Interest soars in home school options as families grapple with COVID-19 and the changing plans for public schools. (Source: WECT)

BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - For many families across our hometowns, the 2019 school year ended with students continuing their education at home.

“It’s something that many parents never imagined they would be doing,” Anne Miller, president and executive director of Home Educators Association of Virginia, said.

And it’s something many are considering to still do as COVID-19 cast a long shadow on the future of education.

“Homeschooling in Virginia is not that complicated,” Miller said. “And we encourage parents not to make it complicated.”

In Virginia, there are three things you must do with the state to home school your kids.

“Get your notice of intent ready. Prepare your description of curriculum. Send in your notification,” she explained. “And then start.”

Both documents are sent to your district superintendent.

And if you’re only planning to home school your student for a short period of time time, talk to your child’s would-be school about what it requires for students to transfer in from home education.

Next, Miller recommends connecting with other home-school families because they can help give you confidence. That’s how Angie Hoff, a Blacksburg mom, began her homeschooling experience about 7 years ago.

“She said, ‘we’re going to start homeschooling,‘” she said. “And I was a bit taken aback by that because growing up the community that home schooled in our area was very small, and they lived a different lifestyle than we did so in my narrow view, I thought home schooling only had to be that one way.”

But she quickly realized that between curriculum, schedules and learning styles, she could choose what works best for her family’s lifestyle.

“I really enjoy getting to know my kids and getting to know their interests,” she said. “And home schooling allows them to explore those interests with more time.”

Miller said it’s a myth that you have to be a teacher in order to home school. She taught her eight children over a spread of 20 years starting in the ’80s and admitted, “I don’t even like to teach.”

So she says that if she can do it, anyone can: “The president and executive director of the state home school association says she doesn’t like to teach!”

Instead, she focused on being more of a resource and a guide for her children’s education: “My goal as a home-school mom was to help my children love learning, to be independent learners.”

It’s a similar goal of Hoff’s.

“The things that I don’t know, I’ll show him where to find the answer because there’s a lot of stuff that my kid in the fifth grade already knows that I had no idea because he read it in a book,” she laughed. “So I hope that he will outgrow me. That’s the hope. That he will outgrow me because he reads so much.”

But it’s not just education that parents are often considered about.

“One of the biggest questions still is what about socialization?” Miller said.

However, five minutes with the Hoff boys and it’s evident that socializing isn’t a problem.

“Action!” one of them yells into a megaphone; then the studio marker claps shut.

“There was research done that shows the average home-school family is involved in more than five outside the home activities a week,” Miller explained.

So whether it’s for this COVID-19 season, a couple years or the rest of their education before college, Miller and Hoff both say homeschooling can work for anyone.

“We’re all trying to reinvent education here,” Hoff said. “The biggest advice I would give in any situation is to just breathe and don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

You’ll need to file a Notice of Intent by August 15, but you may begin homeschooling in Virginia any time during the year.

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