There are plenty of families that have decided to homeschool during the pandemic because they feel like that is the best thing for their families during this time. During this time of unknown, I have seen the same questions asked multiple times. That’s ok. I had the exact same questions when I first started three years ago. I’m now homeschooling a fourth grader and a kindergartner, and I am here to tell you in Knox County, it really isn’t that difficult. We have a great homeschooling community with some amazing resources.
Here are some answers to a few of the questions that I have seen so often. I hope I can answer some of yours.
Q: How do I sign my kids up for homeschool?
A: In Knox County it is really easy. You go to the Knox County Schools official page and sign up. You sign an intent to homeschool, provide proof of parent’s education (at least a high school diploma or GED), and proof of immunizations. You will eventually get a letter in the mail confirming that your child is enrolled for homeschooling.
It is possible that the Homeschool Office may be behind this year with paperwork with so many new families that are wishing to homeschool.
You aren’t required to, but you may want to call the school your child(ren) is currently enrolled in to let them know that you will be homeschooling this year. That way they do not continue to mark your child absent and you avoid getting a phone call wondering about truancy while the proper paperwork is in transit.
If you choose to do an umbrella school, they can file the proper paperwork for you.
Q: What are the legal requirements for homeschooling?
A: In Knox County it is simple. You need at least a high school degree or GED, and you must do 4 hours a day for 180 days. The attendance form can be found here. It’s really easy to fill out. That’s it!!
Q: The Knox County Schools website asks you to choose Church Related/Online Virtual or Independent. Which one do I choose?
A: If you do an umbrella school (I’ll get to that later), you will choose church related. If you choose to do independent, you are simply registered with Knox County and not schooling with a third party’s help.
Q: What is an Umbrella School? Do I need to sign up with one?
A: An umbrella School serves to oversee your homeschooling to ensure that your family is meeting all the government educational requirements. It is up to you if you would like to sign up with an Umbrella Academy. I know many families that do so, but the legal requirements are just what I mentioned above.
Signing up with Knox County as an independent homeschooler is completely free, whereas you must pay some sort of fee for an Umbrella School.
Several families choose to use an Umbrella School for fifth grade, seventh grade, and ninth grade when all students are required to go in for testing. An umbrella school can help out with with the testing.
Q: What kind of records do I need to keep?
A: Until you are in high school when you must keep a record of grades, all you need to keep is an attendance record. The form is REALLY EASY to fill out. I usually print it out at the end of the year and revisit my calendar while I fill the attendance form.
Q: Do the four hours a day have to be at home doing worksheets and bookwork?
A: Absolutely not! You can count art, watching a documentary, cooking dinner, planting in the garden, playing with building blocks (STEM), listening to classical music, board games, reading out loud to the family, swimming (PE), Horseback Riding (PE), Hiking (PE and Biology and often times history,) karate, grocery shopping (the perfect economics lesson!) family vacations to visit a city, and visiting a farm or museum as school! The list goes on and on.
Q: What do you do with your younger kids while teaching your big ones
A: Repeat after me. Independent work is your friend. I have a five year old and a two year old. While the five year old is officially in Kindergarten, his lessons are obviously not as complex as my 9 year olds. Therefore, I try to get my 9 year old to do as much independent work as possible. Of course, that isn’t always the case and we do in fact do some one on one time almost every day. Often, my younger children like to join in.
I will give my two year old a coloring book to color in while I work on the daily calendar with my five year old. They build blocks. I make a sensory bin for them to play in. Or slime, or playdough, etc.
I made a busy box for all of them full of mazes, coloring books, magna tiles, puzzles, hidden picture magazines, and water wow books. On a good day, my children will pull out those while I am teaching another one. That isn’t always the case though. So I have a lot of educational apps and I allow them to watch educational tv shows like Wild Kratts, Daniel Tiger, etc on tv. I love PBS!
Q: I don’t have certification as I teacher. Am I qualified?
A: YES YOU ARE. Don’t ever let someone make you feel like you are not. You are your child’s parent. That makes you qualified. The only requirement Knox County has is that you have at least a high school degree or GED. That is it. You can do this. And if you feel out of your league there are so many resources and social media groups that can help you.
Q: I don’t think I have the patience to homeschool my children. How could I do this without patience?
A: I am sure there are plenty of parents out there that are ALWAYS patient with their children. I am not one of them. We do our best every day.
Q: How do you do it all? Homeschool, exercise, keep your house clean, cook meals, etc? How do you balance it?
A: You don’t. You realize that you are not going to meet all of your expectations and just know you are doing the best you can. There’s nothing wrong with that.
I hope this answered a few of your questions. If you have any more I know there are plenty of homeschool parents out there that would be happy to help. A lot of them have more experience than me! This is a wonderful journey but don’t expect homeschooling to be perfect overnight. There is a lot of adjusting and re adjusting as you learn what is best for your family. Be kind to yourself as you begin this new journey whether it is permanent or temporary.