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Sentimental Senior and Family Photographer based in Glen Allen, VA

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About a month ago, we withdrew our son from public school. It’s still hard for me to grasp we made this decision. Getting to this point was a stressful, tearful experience. We’d always pictured Noah having the public school experience Tim and I had. One month later, we have no regrets and we’re realizing he has so many more opportunities in front of him now. Homeschooling is an option for education I’ve known about for a long time. We’ve known Noah wasn’t a “traditional” learner, but I never thought we’d have to use the homeschool route. Until 6th grade…

I could detail all the reasons why we have chosen homeschool, as many, many of you have asked, but I’ll afford my son some privacy and just say it was for multiple reasons, both personal and education related. Noah is a brilliant child, far more intelligent than Tim or me. His level of achievement or behavior had nothing to do with our decision. Actually, his grades were excellent at the time of his withdrawal and he has always been well-liked by his peers and teachers.

I’ve had a lot of questions about what we are doing, why, how, and the occasional off-the-wall comment. Over the last month, I’ve realized how little others know about homeschool and about all the myths and misconceptions. We’re asked by strangers if he’s skipping school almost every time we’re out during “traditional school hours” and I can’t help but laugh a little. Noah happily says “Nope, I homeschool!” to their intrigued faces. Noah’s friends and their parents have been so supportive and it’s no secret he’s not attending public school anymore. Therefore, we thought we’d share a few things we’ve learned over the course of the last month.

Did we force homeschool on Noah?

Absolutely not. Noah chose it! We allow him to make some decisions for himself at this age with our guidance. He was presented a number of choices given the circumstances and after weeks of thought, he chose homeschool. He actually emailed his “Notice of Intent to Homeschool” to the county superintendent himself. He felt this would be the best option for his education at this time and we agreed.

homeschool, Laura Matthews, glen allen, richmond, school, middle school, acellus, online learning, home

So many cuddles, and now we have enough time.

How did I withdraw him from public school?

This process was WAY easier than I thought. I researched my options at HEAV.org and found the process very straightforward. Basically, I filled out a one page form and attached the curriculum he would be studying. I also attached a copy of my Bachelors Degree (at least a high school education is required to homeschool your child) just in case they denied my curriculum. (Although I found out they rarely question your curriculum.) I scanned the form, Noah emailed it to the Homeschool Office, and we received a notice of acceptance about a hour later. Other than returning Noah’s laptop and a library book to school, that was it! Virginia has very supportive homeschool laws!

Am I worried about socialization?

Not at all. Have you met my son? He’s extremely friendly, outgoing, and well-mannered. He’s the first one to say hello and start a conversation with someone he meets. He has friends of all ages. He plays multiple sports, we keep in touch with his friends, live next door to his cousins, and we’ve been in touch with a few homeschool groups to join after the holiday craziness. We’ve also found out there are many kids we know who are now doing homeschool! I’m much less worried about his social life now than when he was being physically and emotionally bullied in public school, hearing goodness-knows-what on the bus, and being forced to sit with kids he didn’t know at lunch.

Do you worry he will miss out?

Yes and no. This was the part of public school I didn’t want him to leave. When I was a student, I enjoyed all the extracurricular activities, sports, student life, etc. But the more I learn and get involved with the homeschool community, the more I see he has more opportunities in front of him. There are homeschool sports teams, recreation leagues, group outings, music and more! He gets to socialize with kids from many areas of our community AND do it outside of a school setting.

What does our school day look like?

So far, we’ve found Noah does best with online learning. He’s technologically driven but also likes seeing a teacher’s face. We’re currently using Acellus as our main curriculum and the courses are phenomenal! They’re taught by amazing instructors and he gets very engrossed in his lessons. We usually start our school day with a quick devotion, then work on multiple subject lessons for a few hours. He is currently taking 6th grade Math and Language Arts, which are both revised versions and relate content to real-life situations. Awesome!! He’s also taking Life Science, Ancient Civilizations, and Introduction to Coding. We then have free time for reading, STEM projects, exercise or outings. I’ve also added character trait and goal setting lessons which we do together. He isn’t allowed any screen time until after 3pm and he doesn’t usually argue with me. In fact, he often forgoes video games or TV and instead works on building something out LEGOs, putting together his robot, or modifying his remote control cars while listening to music for a large chunk of his day. We’ve been working on house projects and homemade Christmas gifts. There is no “busy” work, so formal lessons take much less time. Most likely, he will finish 6th grade in early May. He may do a 7th grade elective next summer.

homeschool, Laura Matthews, glen allen, richmond, school, middle school, acellus, online learning, home

Try this in public school.

Is it hard for me to be his teacher?

At first, yes, very. This decision came right in the middle of my busiest time of the year, while I’ve been doing physical therapy for my knee, and while planning for the upcoming year. Since I run my business solo, I had to find an online option that I could supplement with my own content. It was tough to set it all up and monitor at first, but since we’ve developed a routine, it’s much better.

I plan his instructional week on Saturday or Sunday. This consists of assigning his subjects for each weekday, planning a few fun activities, and adding in the character trait or goal-setting lessons. It takes me 30 minutes, tops. I think our type of homeschooling could be an option for parents who work outside the home. There’s nothing that says school has to be done during traditional hours. Noah has done school on an iPhone while waiting for me at a doctor’s appointment!

I can also foresee us taking homeschool on the road in the future. No longer will we be tied down to only taking summer vacations. As long as we have a wireless connection, Noah can attend school! This will allow so much flexibility, something Tim and I truly desire. We both have very demanding careers and having options for when we can relax and travel is a huge plus!

Do I think it’s the right thing for him? Will he ever go back to public school?

Judging by his lack of anxiety and his renewed love for learning, without a doubt! There is so much less stress in our home! I have no idea how long Noah will homeschool. Right now he says he loves what he’s doing. He may decide to return to public school next year, or in high school, or never. I know whatever he decides, he will be prepared.

homeschool, Laura Matthews, glen allen, richmond, school, middle school, acellus, online learning, home

Can he go to college?

Absolutely! Homeschoolers are just as, if not more prepared for college after high school. In fact, many colleges seek out homeschool students because they are often independent thinkers and ahead of their peers in terms of academics and test scores. There are so many myths about homeschool from the past. Check the recent information and statistics! This article was exceptionally interesting.

Does Noah receive grades?

Yes. He takes quizzes and tests in all subjects. We use the standard grading scale and I document all his lessons, scores, attendance, and physical activity hours. I have to turn in evidence of progress at the end of the year in order to continue homeschooling and I will administer a basic achievement test as well. I don’t think we’ll have any problems. So far, he’s still making honor roll!

Does he do homework?

Only if he doesn’t finish a lesson or has trouble with a concept. But we mostly involve him in tasks such as auto maintenance, cooking, cleaning, and animal care in the evenings. Several nights a week he has Tae Kwon Do or basketball. He’s also continuing his music education with private electric bass lessons.

I’m so sad for Noah!

Oh, please don’t be! He’s thrilled and thriving! We really appreciate supportive folks who are happy with his progress.

homeschool, Laura Matthews, glen allen, richmond, school, middle school, acellus, online learning, home

“Laura! I never pinned you for a crunchy mom!”

Ha! People say the darndest things. I had to look up “crunchy mom” to understand that one. The short answer is no. The long answer is I happen to have an open mind and am not afraid to consider multiple options for things that will benefit my family. I mean, I left my nursing job to pursue a photography business so I could accommodate a better family schedule! My kid has a smart phone, is allowed to play video games, and listens to music of his choice (within reason). He eats pop tarts from time to time, we buy our granola bars from the store, I dislike wearing skirts, and no, I don’t have time to bake my own bread. But we do recycle, Noah was cloth-diapered, and I have been trying out natural deodorants lately. 🙂

Since our decision to homeschool, I’ve heard lots of stories similar to Noah’s. What is so incredible though, were the homeschool families and friends who have come into our lives in just the last few weeks! I’ve even had high school senior clients who are homeschooled! These friends have provided a wealth of information and I will forever be grateful. Homeschool families are a fast growing part of the population and they come from various race, religious, and economic backgrounds. There are many modern celebrities who were homeschooled; Michelle Kwan, Hayden Panettiere, Justin Timberlake, Bethany Hamilton, and Emma Watson. And they weren’t just homeschooled because of demanding schedules.

Whether it’s the school environment, bullying, learning differences, or other obstacles, please know the there are other options. You don’t have to fight an aging school system or the nay-sayers. At the end of the day, you have to trust YOU know what’s best for your child. Staying true to those instincts has never led me astray. I feel we’ve struggled so many years trying to “fit” our child in somewhere he couldn’t fully thrive. I’m so glad we’ve found homeschool and it found us!

Links we’ve found helpful so far:


For more information on the myths of homeschool, this article is fabulous: https://www.workingmother.com/10-biggest-myths-about-homeschooling-moms

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