With the uncertainty of COVID-19 and our kids adjusting to what school may look like this year, there has been a huge increase in interest for all things homeschooling. Now, when you think about a homeschool family, I’m sure there are a handful of stereotypes that come to mind. I am going to let you fill in the gaps because I’ve heard them all a million times!
As a homeschool family going on our 8th year of non-traditional schooling, we’ve learned and experienced many things along the way!
Each family and child is different. Therefore, we strive to create a community that supports all schooling decisions!
For example, for two years my oldest, who is now a junior in high school, was attending a traditional charter school here in Albuquerque while I homeschooled our younger two. There is no perfect formula. Traditional homeschool, online school, charter school, or public school are all OK. And we support everyone where they need to be, especially during these crazy times!
Now that I’ve said my piece, let’s dive into becoming a homeschool family here in New Mexico. I’ll walk you through the top 5 things that you’ll need to guide you through your new homeschooling adventure.
Notifying the State and Disenrolling
As a homeschool family in NM, we are required to notify the NM Public Education Department when we decide to homeschool. A new homeschool family is required to notify the state within 30 days of deciding to homeschool or disenrolling your child. If you are choosing to homeschool mid-school year (which none of us are at this point), you will need to disenroll your student from their current school. This is as easy as sending a letter to the school letting them know that your child will not be returning and that you’ve chosen to homeschool. If you are starting this journey after a school year has ended and before a new school year has started (yes, that is currently everyone), technically, you do not need to disenroll your child. However, if it is common courtesy to notify the school that they previously attended that they will not be returning.
What is required?
The state of New Mexico has a few simple requirements to ensure that we are in compliance with our homeschooling standards.
- First, you only need to notify the state for children who are 5 years old by September 1st. Any child younger than this age requirement does not need to be registered as a homeschooled child.
- The lead teacher in your homeschool must have their GED or high school diploma. It is preferred that the lead teacher be a parent of the child. But you are allowed to deem another adult as the lead teacher for your child if need be.
- We are required to “school” for 180 days each year. We will get into what that looks like a little bit later.
- Just like attending a public school, you are also required to keep a copy of your child’s immunization records or objection to immunization waiver form in your own files.
- That’s it in a nutshell! You can read the full requirements here.
One of the biggest questions that new homeschooling families get stuck on is what type of curriculum they should use for their child. The first thing I would suggest would be to get connected with other homeschool families to pick their brains and take a peek at the curriculum that they’ve used over the years. We have a huge support system here in NM for our homeschool families, starting with Homeschool Homies as well as a variety of Facebook groups for regions throughout the state. Another great resource is reading through the reviews on the Cathy Duffy Reviews website. Cathy and her team have taken the time to review and provide descriptions for almost all of the homeschool curriculum out there. Careful, this is a time trap and you will get sucked in!
With that piece out of the way, I want to keep it real! Curriculum is great and will help to provide a structure and cohesiveness to your school day. But it is important to realize that schooling at home goes way beyond the workbooks and charts. It’s so very important to remember that life is learning! Your children will learn from the curriculum that you spent blood, sweat, and tears to choose. But they will also learn from helping you to meal prep and grocery shop. They’ll learn from doing math in the kitchen. They’ll learn from playing games and reading the news. And they’ll learn from having conversations with you about topics that truly interest them! They’ll even learn from the hard days. And YES there will be hard days. But we continue to show them that we push through and keep on truckin!
It’s Not A Marathon!
Remember to be easy on yourself. This homeschooling thing isn’t a marathon. It does take time to find your ebb and flow. And when there are “off” days, it’s ok to stop and breathe and truly take those days off from formal schooling. Enjoy your kids! Go for a walk down by the river. Take a day fishing trip somewhere. Dive into an art project that everyone is excited about. Then pick back up where you left off the following day. Be sure to still count that day in your 180-day requirement because life is learning! No one is there to judge and no one ever would. We’ve all been there!
It Takes A Village
A common misconception when it comes to homeschooling is that the huge burden of weight that sits on your shoulders is for you and only you to carry! WRONG! I know we’ve all heard the saying, “It takes a village to raise our children.” Well, it’s totally true! As a mom who works a full-time job and has since my oldest was born and homeschools as well, I’d be lost without my community of support. There are co-ops to join, paid classes to take, park days, online classes, camps to participate in, college classes for the older ones (FREE by the way . . . that’s a whole other topic). You do not, I repeat DO NOT, have to be the one and only. Let that weight be shared with the village and try to enjoy the new adventure!
Originally published July 2020.
About Our Guest Blogger, Sarah Candelaria
Sarah Candelaria here! I’m a wife and mom to 3 amazing kiddos, but that barely scratches the surface of who I really am! A mom of 20, as we host high school exchange students each year and they all call me “mom!” As an urban farmer, my mornings start with tending to the garden, feeding the animals, and milking the cow. I’m also the Youth Program Director for New Mexico Wildlife Federation (Nature Ninos) and of course, last but not least, homeschool teacher of 8 years! The many hats I wear play into all of my interests in life: traveling, farming, community support, spending time in nature, and my family!
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