When our kids are small, we might do all of their instruction on our own in our home. We get to choose the schedule. We get to adapt as needed. But also, we have to do all the work! Finding balance as they get older takes a bit more time and intention!
When our homeschool students approach the high school years, many families consider outsourcing some of the instruction. That might mean taking online classes – either live or self-paces – or it might mean signing up for in-person classes such as those at a co-op or even dual enrollment at a local community college.
These are all great options that certainly offer big advantages because they take a significant amount of work off of your plate as homeschool teacher. But, like any options we choose, they come with corresponding challenges. Let's look at what some of those challenges are and how we can balance them wisely.
The Outsourcing and Flexibility Trade Off
When our kids were smaller, we could take time off from homeschooling pretty much whenever we wanted. We could attend extended family vacation in October. We could travel in May. We had complete control over our own schedule.
But now with high schoolers in co-op classes we have less flexibility and it can be harder to find times when the whole family is available to do something together!
Accepting the Changes in Family Life
To a certain extent, the answer is that we just have to come to terms with the changes that happen in family life as our kids get older. In addition to co-op classes, my oldest two are working jobs and this also affects our family's schedule.
It can be a tough transition as we watch our kids move into a new phase of life and have less availability for activities the family used to do altogether. While this change is inevitable, often any model of homeschool outsourcing still leaves more freedom and flexibility than the typical traditional school schedule.
Flexible Options for Outsourcing
Finding balance can also consist of considering the varying levels of flexibility inherent in different homeschool outsourcing options. For example, taking a dual-enrollment class at a local community college will likely require fairly strict attendance in order to earn college credit for classwork.
On the other hand, a self-paced online course offers nearly as much flexibility as mom-taught classes. Depending on the structure of the class, however, this may not offload as much of the work from your plate. For example, if the self-paced class doesn't include self-graded tests and quizzes, you will still need to check and grade your student's work. Also, the buck will stop with you when it comes to making sure your student stays on track and completes work as and when expected.
If you are considering a live online class or a co-op class, ask about attendance policies. Can your student watch a video recording of the class later if they aren't available at the time of the live class? Will attendance be a part of their grade?
Our homeschool co-op is intentionally designed to support the flexibility of a homeschool family lifestyle, so we are still able to plan activities on a co-op day if we need to, though obviously we want to take advantage of as much of the instruction we have paid for as possible.
Competition for Mom's Expectations
One of the things that can be exhausting about homeschooling is the constant struggle to get kids to stay on task, get their work done, and be accountable for assignments. One of the advantages of outsourcing classes is that someone else takes on that responsibility of making and grading assignments and keeping our kids accountable for them. Hooray!
It isn't unusual that kids will often feel more driven to complete assignments promptly for someone else than they might be for mom. That didn't surprise me. The thing I didn't expect, however, was that when you outsource some but not all of the high school classes, you have competition for your teens' attention!
“Mom, I can't do history with you right now! I have to study for my geometry test!”
“I'm sorry, I didn't do that reading yet. I've been working on this assignment for Chemistry!”
Finding Balance by Outsourcing it All!
So, what do you do about this dilemma? Well, you have three basic choices. First, you could choose to outsource all of the high school classes. Then the teachers can all compete for attention amongst themselves. Haha!
Of course, depending on your budget, this might not be financially feasible. And, of course, the more you outsource, the less flexibility you have in your family schedule.
Consequences for Incomplete Assignments
The consequences for late or incomplete assignments for an out-of-house teacher would be lower grades. This makes sense because a classroom teacher has to move on to the next subject and the next assignment for the sake of the rest of the class. But that dynamic doesn't really make sense if you only have one student. Why move on from an incomplete portion of learning?
So one option would be to set up – and clearly communicate – some sort of consequences for not completing work. Perhaps weekend activities are contingent on homeschool assignments for mom completed to mom's satisfaction. Finding balance means that what worked previously, might need to be re negotiated!
Finding Balance can mean Matching the Level of Schedule and Routine
But a third option is to create more structure around the in-home classes you are still teaching. If you are going to compete with other classes that have a regular meeting time and due dates, you'll need to create the same boundaries for the classes you are teaching your teen.
It might be enough to schedule a regular daily or weekly meeting time with assignments due at the next class period. Or, it may mean that you need to schedule both a time for instruction, and a time for completing the assignments for that subject.
Hint: Google Calendar is a great way to manage these schedules with your teen!
Know Your Teen, Build Lifelong Skills
At the end of the day, while it is important to find a way to make sure in-house homeschooling get's done, the big picture is that you are teaching life-long skills. Knowing how to prioritize different expectations and requirements for different areas of life is a skill needed in adult life, too!
For example, I have one child who is somewhat of a perfectionist and would never miss a deadline. For that student, requiring that she does the work she owes me first is best because I know (and she knows) that she'll make sure the other work gets done one way or another.
Another child of mine is more anxious and it's hard for her to focus on anything else until she takes care of the assignments she owes other teachers. Thankfully, as a homeschool mom, I'm free to manage things differently for different students to meet their individual needs and help them to learn their own task-management best practice!
Do you use a mix of in-house homeschooling and outsourcing? How do you balance the various schedules and expectations?
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