A few years ago I used to host online webinars for prospective homeschool parents. It was a great way to build some community around the decision-making process and encourage grown ups to make custom education choices based on individual needs.
One of my favorite tools for this undertaking was one that I picked up back when I was a career adviser at UT Austin. It's called a "force field analysis," and it provides form and structure for making a decision. Kurt Lewin developed it in the 1940s. (A good overview and general how-to can be found here.)
For homeschool parents, I find that force field analyses help lay out visually where the obstacles and opportunities lie.
Here's a step-wise approach to get you started.
A Force-Field Analysis Process For Deciding Whether or Not to Homeschool
Step One: The simplest way begin is to create one is to turn a sheet of people sideways and divide it into thirds. In the middle, write your goal, "To homeschool."
Step Two: In the left column, write out what prompts you to think it's a good idea. Common forces "for" the movement to home education include frustrations with the pacing of material in the classroom, to address a learning disability, a desire to center learning at home for greater family connection, and so forth.
Step Three: In the right column, jot down your obstacles, fears, or barriers. Common forces "against" the choice to homeschool include fears about socialization, concerns about parent readiness to teach, resistance from family members, and personal worries about family income or your own career prospects being impacted.
These are all important issues to parse, and you're welcome to ask questions along these lines in the comments section below, if you'd like. Better still, message me on my Facebook page and we'll share your question anonymously with other readers.
Step Four: Go back through and score each of the entries in the left and right columns on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the least important and 5 being the most.
Step Five: Take a break from the process and double-check your lists and rankings. (I suggest leaving it over night, in case you forgot either a pro or con. Sometimes solutions miraculously pop into your head overnight, too, leading you to change a ranking on an entry.)
This break from the process is also a good chance to talk with your partner or co-parent. If he or she is resistant to homeschooling, then that obstacle should appear on your sheet of paper and talk through their fears, concerns, and reservations. Together you might consider a trial run of one semester or one year.
Step Six: Determine whether or not you personally have time, patience, energy, and resources to address the most problematic aspects. Do you need to do some more research on homeschooling, including the "how to's"? Do you need to reach out to other homeschoolers online or in real life to get a better picture about what's possible? Is it time to have a heart-to-heart with your resistant in-laws about why the education path you're choosing is valid--even if unfamiliar to them? These issues come up all the time, and writing them down and working through them is powerful stuff.
At this point in the force field analysis usually one of three things happen: Either parents decide to go another route education wise (stay in school, opt for public or charter education); or they delay the decision for another year; or they opt to come up with plans to address head on their biggest fears and concerns in a logical fashion and just go for it with homeschooling.
All three options are valid because, ultimately, your decisions about education should always be rooted in your family's unique set of needs and options.
- Pamela Price is the author of How to Work and Homeschool (GHF Press, 2014) and the founder of RedWhiteandGrew.com.