In March 2020, schools around the country shut down due to COVID-19 and parents everywhere were thrown into a new role as full time teachers. This put a strain on several parents that I know but some seemed to find joy in teaching their children that they had never had before.
My children are grown, in their 20s, so you would think I would not have had to deal with this situation. However, I have a stepdaughter who just turned 10. When the shutdown happened she was in third grade. We navigated the end of her third grade year with the school but my fellow co-parents and I decided that we felt safer homeschooling her for the 2020-2021 school year as well.
We spent hours researching what requirements were needed to homeschool a child in Missouri, as each state has their own laws regarding homeschooling.
The Missouri Department of Education does not regulate or monitor home education in the state, and no state registration is required to begin homeschooling.
However, if your child has previously been registered in a public school, you will need to send an official letter of withdrawal to avoid truancy issues. Examples of withdrawal letters can be found on several homeschooling websites and you can (as we did) join homeschooling groups on facebook for guidance.
The state of Missouri does also have some specific requirements for homeschooling parents and students. Compulsory age for schooling in Missouri begins at seven. Any family homeschooling a child aged 7 through graduation must:
- Keep samples of each homeschooled student’s work.
- Keep a record of periodic assessments.
- Provide documentation of at least 1,000 hours of instruction during their annual school term. 600 hours of which should be core subjects, and 400 hours of which should be electives.
Now after a year of doing this there are other things that I have determined based on my experiences. These are things I have learned about myself, my co parents and about my stepdaughter.
First off, my stepdaughter is very smart. Smarter than her grades in public school reflected. Not that she did poorly in school, but she has thrived in a one on one setting in a way that is both surprising and satisfying. She has grown to like subjects she hated in school and has realized that her hatred of the subjects was based on the fact that she didn’t quite understand the materials being taught.
I don’t blame her teachers or her school for this. She attended a great school and had active, wonderful teachers. I don’t blame her for this either. She was doing the best she could. So it was no one’s fault, it just was. Since homeschooling began, she has found a new confidence and feels smarter. That is so important for her self esteem and for us as her parents. We want her to feel confident, and proud of her achievements.
The second thing I have learned is homeschooling is difficult, and made even more difficult in a split custody arrangement. Co-parents have to work together in a way that is unlike the typical joint custody arrangements when your child is attending public school. We have to be in constant communication, have to be on the same page as far as lesson plans and most importantly we have to respect the way each of us teach her. This was not only a learning experience for her but for the four of us as well.
Each of us brings a different skill level and passion to subjects, and figuring that out was a process. It was not easy to figure out but it was worth it.
The third thing I have learned through this process is I enjoy teaching her, I enjoy working with her dad (my partner) and her mom and stepdad.
The most important aspect of homeschooling her, for me, is the time that I spend with her. As a stepmom, I enjoy spending time with her, teaching her about history and other subjects and making it fun for her. Too many times we spend family time, watching T.V. or with our attention on our phones and not focused on each other. Homeschooling has brought us together as a family. This is priceless.
We have decided to continue this homeschooling adventure for her fifth grade year.
All five of us, both sets of parents and our wonderful student are continuing to learn and to grow and isn’t that the whole point of life?