By Amanda Huffman
Last summer, when COVID-19 was changing what schools looked like, I struggled with the choice of what to do. Should I send my oldest of two back to school in person, should I opt for distance learning or should I try out homeschooling. My choice? Homeschool. It seemed like a crazy idea. I was busy running a business and had relied on school and preschool to help me find the time I needed to be both mom and business owner. But life did not look the same and I wondered if I could make it work and knew if things did not go well, I could always consider a different option as the year went on.
I knew from the experience of the last two months of the 2019-2020 school year — completed under distance learning — that did not work well for my soon-to-be 2nd grader. I had worked with him to complete the weekly packets sent home by the school and had actually enjoyed watching him learn. Since my youngest still wasn’t in school yet, my focus would only be on my second grader.
What I learned was, not only could I do it, I actually enjoyed it. Before COVID-19 came to the U.S., I would have never considered homeschooling. But COVID-19 opened a door of possibility and I began a path I never expected.
What I discovered about homeschooling was that I loved it. Of course, there were aspects of my new teaching role that were challenging, and some days where I wanted a break from the responsibility of being both mom and teacher. But I loved helping my kids learn at home. I loved getting to spend extra time with them and finding ways to learn outside of the traditional route. I loved what I was learning alongside them. And was amazed at the ability to work with both kids throughout the day on various aspects of learning. It was a great fit for us.
But the thing I loved most about homeschooling — and why I decided long before I knew what the 2021-2022 school year would look like that I would be homeschooling again (at the time I made my choice I thought the new year school year would bring back a sense of normalcy) — was the flexibility it provided. And flexibility goes long past me deciding what curriculum we would follow and what subjects we would focus on. Though, homeschooling offers that, too.
The benefit of our flexibility showed up in other ways, too. For example, in the fall last year my husband began working a new schedule where our “weekends” were constantly shifting, as he often didn’t have the normal Saturday and Sunday off. Not being tied to a school schedule gave us the flexibility to move school to the days dad wasn’t at home and get out to explore or just spend time together watching a movie on a Tuesday afternoon.
And with 2021 opening up the door for traveling again and with it likely being the last year at our current location, the flexibility homeschooling provides gives us the option to explore more places and make up for lost time during 2020. Our bucket list of vacations would not be able to fit in the typical school holidays. Homeschooling now gives us the options and the flexibility to add travel to our school schedule. And the best part is school can come with us or be incorporated to the different locations we visit. Historic battle sites like Gettysburg and Bull Run give us a chance to learn about the history of the Civil War. Or a trip to Boston can teach us about the Revolutionary War. Even a trip to Disney World can be an educational experience at Epcot learning about countries around the world or spending a day at Animal Kingdom learning about animals.
And maybe this last one is more for me than the kids. But we currently live near DC and we haven’t visited the Nation’s Capital as much as I had hoped when we moved here. But now with another year of homeschooling and kids who are older, I have a number of field trips planned over the next year that I’ll explore with my kids so we can learn about the history of America, check out the museums like the Spy Museum and Smithsonian, and other day trips just for fun.
One thing I have learned about beginning this homeschool journey is that homeschooling doesn’t have to be a long-term commitment. And you don’t have to decide what you are doing next year or even next semester until you are ready to. For us, we are taking it one day at a time. And though life doesn’t look how I expected it to when my kindergartner started school, I’m excited about what the new school year will bring.
Have you considered homeschooling for you and your family? What are the freedoms you have found homeschooling gives you?
Amanda is a military veteran who served in the Air Force for six years as a Civil Engineer who served on a combat deployment with the Army in Afghanistan. She traded in her combat boots for a diaper bag to stay home with her two boys and follow her husband’s military career in the Space Force. Amanda is the host of the Women of the Military podcast. There she shares the stories of women who have served or are serving in the military. The podcast has over 200 episodes and over 100K downloads. Amanda is also an author and has published two books. Her first book, Women of the Military tells the stories of 28 military women who served in the military. Her second book, A Girl’s Guide to Military Service, is the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Gold Winner for Teen Non Fiction. It is a guide for high school girls considering military service to help them build a strong foundation for their future career. She also works as a freelance writer and has been featured in a number of military publications including The War Horse, Military.com, Military Families Magazine, Clearance Jobs, Military Spouse Magazine, and more.