Parker Family School Transition to Homeschool

*Yes, I’m TERRIBLY behind on blogging – this post is written present-day August 2023*

I am an information gatherer. A slow processor. The type of person who over-thinks. Considers all options. Researches. Asks advice. Tries to look from all angles while focusing on the big picture. How decisions I make will impact the long-term.

For me, decision-making is a PROCESS. It takes time and it gets revisited again and again. My mind can’t stop going round and round about any decision that I’m making.

But once I make it? I typically stay pretty firmly set on that path. I do all the thinking upfront so once a decision IS made, I don’t look back. I don’t reconsider. I don’t seek alternatives. I stay the course!

There are advantages and disadvantages to all ways of thinking and decision-making. As I’ve gotten older and have become a person who loves self-growth and learning from others and hearing different outlooks and perspectives, I’ve experienced several “breakthrough” kinda moments that make me change course from where I’d originally intended to stay locked in.

For example, I read Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover and it changed our entire family from a budget perspective. When I am in, I am ALL IN.

Zach and I restructured everything about our family finances and I’ve been hardcore Dave Ramsey and implementing his teachings for YEARS.

Then I read Rich Dad Poor Dad. It was a different perspective on finances. One which also very much so resonated with me and “clicked.”

I realized that we can be SO hardcore on something, so SET on a path that we can miss opportunities that may be better for us. Or may just be something to blend with that which we’re already doing.

I’ve noticed the more I grow in my spiritual and personal walk, the more I am sponge-like. Less “hardcore” about something being THE thing for me or our family and more trusting of God to lead. More willing to take leaps of faith and more of seeing how, through those faith walks, the big picture is blessed too.

We don’t always have to have it all figured out before we even begin! I don’t have to follow a plan exactly. I don’t have to be married to every decision I make.

Life isn’t set in stone.

It’s okay to change things up. Switch gears. Try things out!

An example of this was our decision to adopt. It wasn’t part of our plan. It wasn’t what we’d mapped out for the big picture for our family. But I felt God leading us to it, and look how He lead us to Spear and how perfectly he completes our family.

Recently I read another one of those life-changing books. Take Back Your Family resonated with Zach and I in a big way on so many levels.

From Zach’s perspective, he has been raised in generations of close family and has been bonding with his cousins recently regarding creating a more concrete family legacy. From my perspective, I didn’t have a close family unit and I want to build our family in a way where it won’t be broken. A forever bond, generations away!

This book was perfect timing for us as this idea and concept is something we’d both been feeling but didn’t quite understand how to create steps in order to make it a reality.

We have become hyper-focused on Team Parker. What is best for our family. Big picture, long-term. Our kids as individuals as well as the family unit as a whole.

And this thinking has led us to be more open to other perspectives and ideas. The way our culture views family is so different (and flawed in many ways) from the way the rest of the world views it. And our goal is to be in the world but not of it.

So often we do what we do because we’ve always done it. It’s just the way it is. How it is. And we don’t question it or consider it or even recognize it.

All of our kids attended a private half-day preschool program and when Kye was going through the program the school offered a half-day kindergarten. We decided to go that path for him and during that year I did all of my Emily-analyzing to help Zach and I decide the path in which we’d go for the following school year and beyond for Kye, as well as our future children.

Naturally, I blogged about all of these decisions…here’s my post about our decision to send Kye to preschool. And here’s my post about our decision on which path to take for “big kid” school.

We have been a public school family since Kye entered 1st grade. I have no issues, I have no baggage, I have no complaints or problems or drama regarding the public school path we have taken.

However, hindsight being what it is and all if I could go back (as I just re-read my blog post about the big school decision) I’d look at schooling as a child-by-child, case-by-case, year-by-year decision. It didn’t need to be some big grand long term set-in-stone decision.

But that’s the way I made it feel for myself and therefore once the decision was made, we NEVER revisited it. We’ve never considered or explored any other paths than the one we’ve been on regarding school.

I’m not getting caught up in the past or what decisions I would have done differently because all those choices led us to the now.

Our kids are great kids and great students! They have all done well academically and have had positive school experiences overall. This is NOT a bashing on public school nor has ANYTHING happened at school to cause us to consider our options.

Truly this is a situation where we felt a tugging towards change, read that book, had a more defined focus for our family, and had a more open mindset to see options and opportunities.

Sometimes so many things come together at just the right time in just the right way and that’s how things have been regarding our family unit and our overall goals looking towards the future.

Kye has always been a model student. He is the type of kid who should LOVE school. But over his middle school career more and more seemed to be added to his plate. He is too young to be so stressed all the time.

When I went to tour the high school it was a big light bulb moment for me. I realized this stress train he’s boarded in middle school? It will just keep on rolling. Picking up more and more steam in high school. Then even more if he attends college. When. Does. It. Stop.

We add more stress. And more stress. All in the name of good intentions in prepping us for the “real world” and then what does that create? An adulthood, a LIFE, of STRESS.

I see it because I live it. Kye and I are so much alike. We add too much to our plates. We struggle to slow down. That train is always rolling at full speed.

Why do we all stay so stressed and so busy? It’s not what God desires for us. It’s not our purpose. We are meant for more. And maybe in order to achieve that more? We need to do a whole lot LESS.

At the same time I was going through all of this thought process I had a friend who decided to transition her kids from their school setting to online school. Online school?

This was a new concept to me. I know during Covid there was virtual school and my sister-in-law did an online teaching thing for a while where she taught kids in other countries how to speak English. But I didn’t know that there were so many online school programs. A world of options I’d never even known existed.

When we’d initially explored schooling options back when Kye was in kindergarten I’d been quick to dismiss any thought of homeschooling. Type-A? Easily stressed? ME? Homeschooling? No way.

But in learning more about this online school situation I realized it’s not homeschooling. There isn’t pressure on ME to teach. It’s also not virtual school. It’s not a login at a set time of the day and sit and listen to a teacher like you’re in class with them.

It’s something totally different. Video lessons are broken up into segments with tests and quizzes throughout to help ensure the material is learned. It’s completely go-at-your-own pace. Students can work through things as quickly or slowly as they need or want to.

Learning about this option was a light bulb kinda moment for me. I relate it to that day I felt called to adopt. I had NO CLUE what adoption looked like or where that path would lead – I just felt strongly that God was leading us that way and I fully trusted HIM through it.

Same with this. It’s literally THE worst timing to be even considering veering from a course we’d decided on so long ago. We’re in the middle (I mean can we please say we’re at the END) of building a custom home. Zach has many work-related transitions taking place. We have a LOT of balls in the air (in which I feel like I’m dropping left and right because I’m so overwhelmed by it all).

Why would I choose to make THIS kind of HUGE decision NOW?

It’s soooo unlike me. Yet I feel SO MUCH PEACE about it. God has lead us to it, He will lead us through it, right? I have that full trust and faith the same exact way that I had it with our adoption journey.

Faith needs to be followed by action. I’m not nervous about it. I don’t feel overwhelmed by it. I haven’t overthought about it. I haven’t overly researched it.

I’m seeing this as an opportunity to clear the plate. Start completely fresh. Add back in what WE, as a family, want to add back.

Zach and I are very much aligned in this decision (we have our marital faults just like any couple but the big stuff we have always been on the same page) as it just makes sense for what we desire for our family.

The freedom it allows for our children to focus on their paths. The time it allows them for life lessons, life skills. Time for them to focus on areas of interest. To truly put their energy towards areas that they desire to learn more about and have interest and/or talents in.

It also gives the gift of TIME as a whole. Time to rest. Play. Be together. Not be in such a rush to grow up while also not being bombarded with busyness.

We are not big believers in the idea that college is the best path for everyone. Through this route, the kids can choose to take required college-prep courses or they can choose not to.

Zach and I both graduated from college. Zach does not need a degree for his line of work and I didn’t need mine either. When I look back on my own college experience I eyeroll at myself because I took it SO SERIOUSLY and worked SO hard to get all these great grades…for whhhhhat?!? I wish I’d been a “C’s get degrees” kinda person!

We don’t believe in college for the “college experience” (colleges are a business that have done a fantastic marketing job at making us all believe we NEED that experience right?!) but totally support our kids if they desire a college education or need a degree for their desired career path.

Kye is very much in line with the Team Parker way of thinking. He wants to be part of that legacy with what Zach and his cousins and Uncle are working to build from a business perspective. It aligns very much with Kye’s talents, skills and interests so he is planning to use his time to start learning those businesses and what he can bring to the Parkstone table.

When this concept of online school became something that made sense for us – we initially were just thinking about Kye.

While he’s a model student and loves being involved in school-related activities, Kye has been very lonely at school. It’s tough to find like-minded kids and he is very picky about his friendships. He made ONE really good friend in middle school and that friend is going to a private school for high school. So they wouldn’t be together at school anyway.

He is ALL ABOUT the online school path. He earned several high school credits in 8th grade for his AP courses so he’s technically in 10th grade level for several classes and through this path can do dual enrollment if he desires or can even graduate early – really it’s truly all self-guided and self-led and he can decide!

Another great option is through the Dexter Mosley Act which allows students to take 1 class at their public school and then they are able to participate in the clubs and sports at that school. The only downside is that you have to be homeschooled for 1 full school year prior to being able to take advantage of the act.

We also don’t mind this rule! The first year will be a year of figuring things out, seeing what Kye wants to do and then if he wants to, he can take 1 class at the high school next fall and participate in those clubs and sports, etc.

We are also not overly concerned about socialization. We have church. We have tons of family and cousins. A large focus for us already has been local youth group involvement and we will continue to have him plugged in as many area youth events as possible.

And, again, we trust God will open doors. And He already has!

Kye’s friend, Evan, who is going to a private school this year invited Kye to participate as his fishing partner in multiple bass fishing tournaments. He’ll go to 1 tournament a month with Evan.

This checks every box in a big way for us in what we’d want for Kye. Time with a good friend, being outdoors, learning a new skill, finding something that he can enjoy as an adult, having a hobby just for him, competition, a bit of freedom and independence and FUN!

They will also be fishing with the high school team so he’ll still get to see and spend time with other kids! It’s perfect for this year that he’s not yet able to participate in the school sports and we’ll see where it leads. I can see him loving this and not wanting to do the 1 class a day or I can see him getting into tennis and using this year as a chance to build on those skills so he can go out for the high school tennis team next year!

At 14 Kye is also able to work and we are considering options for him to have a job as well. He is eager to earn his own money and I think it’ll be good for him to be that model employee the way he was a model student.

When I asked Kye what he’d miss about regular school he said the only thing he’s going to miss is all the compliments from teachers ๐Ÿ™‚

Of course, this entire school plan is also flexible. If we try it and Kye misses school or wants to go back, he can! Unlike our original decision-making for school when he was in 1st grade, this is not something “set in stone.” We are going to try it and see how we like it and go from there!

In our discussions about the switch to online school and how it makes so much sense for Kye, Britt was also given the option. It’s the perfect timing for them both to switch gears since Kye is heading to high school and Britt is heading to middle school.

They are both old enough to handle things on their own and I was SHOCKED that Britt was so quick to want to be part of this experience. Britt has ALWAYS been so social and my kid who makes friends everywhere she goes.

When she toured the middle school I was SURE she’d change her mind and want to go to the public middle school but she said nope. She’s ALL IN for online schooling!

The reality is for Britt that middle school would be tough involvement-wise. It was great for Kye to have all the clubs to be part-of and there just aren’t a lot of options that align with her interests.

She LOVES sports but around here the way sports are is that you have to do travel ball in order to even make the middle school team. It’s INTENSE.

She will be able to continue playing in the same volleyball league she’s played in through elementary school and is also learning how to play tennis. She and Kye can hit balls and I’ve been finding lots of tennis competitive options as well.

She is not overly concerned regarding the social side of things either. Again, we have church and cousins and she will make friends at volleyball. She is VERY happy that she’ll be home when Tess gets home from school every day and that they will be able to spend more time together now that they wouldn’t be at the same school together anyway this school year.

Both Spear and Tess will stay in elementary school for this school year. Online school for older kids makes sense but I still know myself and my limitations. I’m not a teacher. I do not feel equip or lead to teach my babies! All of our kids have thrived in our local elementary school and we don’t see any reason to change that course.

The older kids will be able to follow along with their studies without my help but the littles would need a lot of teaching from ME and I feel more comfortable with them continuing on where they are.

Again, we have no issues with our kids schools or the teachers or anything like that! Tess WANTS to do online school so I told her we will see how this goes with Kye and Britt this year and can revisit it before 5th grade.

If I had to say our long-term plan I’d say it’s to pull the kids from public school in 6th and then online school until graduation. But we’ll see! It’s not set in stone! We’re truly just wiping the slate clean and figuring things out as they go and trusting God to lead our family where we’re meant to be.

As always I hope people reading this know my heart and that my intention is to simply share from it. We’re all striving to do what we deem best for our babies and families and I never want anyone to think I’m saying my decision-making is RIGHT or that I’m in any way judging others decisions.

I tried to explain things in a way that would answer most of the questions I’d assumed I’d get but I’m going to answer as many questions as I can below and will come back and answer more as I get them – I’m sure there will be many!

Online School Program We’re Using

I’m keeping this simple. I know there are a BILLION options out there. For now, we’re going with Power Homeschool, it’s through Acellus.

It’s a $25 monthly fee to access the video lessons. We get to choose what classes they take and they can work through them as quickly, or slowly, as desired. They can be enrolled in up to 7 classes at one time.

Additional Programs We’re Using

Neither Zach nor I entered adulthood with a solid understanding of budgeting or money and it’s important to us both to give our kids as much knowledge on that topic as possible.

I’m purchasing Dave Ramsey’s Foundations in Personal Finance for Kye as his economics course (and may just have Britt take it with him!)

I don’t want to do too much at one time. So we’re starting here and then will very likely add in additional materials along the way!

Obviously, as Christians our main foundation should be in God and His Word so I’m hoping to find some materials to use to help them learn Bible fundamentals as well.

I also want each of them to choose a topic of interest for themselves and want to focus on that for them. Britt really wants to learn more about cosmetology!

I plan to discuss the options available to our local technical college regarding at what age she’d be able to do any sort of dual enrollment and see about getting her certification.

For now, I’ve purchased her a doll head and plan to find instructional videos for her to learn basic skills!

Again, my first intent is to wipe the slate. See how things go, slowly add in, making sure we keep PEACE at the forefront!

I’m sure we will supplement, add in, and swap out additional materials as we learn and go.

What’s the Difference between Online School vs Home School?

Technically, from what I have learned so far, there is a “virtual school” where kids attend school – just not in the school building. With virtual school, students log on at a set time each day to participate in the given class and coursework.

Online school, at least the program we are using, is not a live teacher in a live classroom. It’s a series of previously recorded video content and curriculum that students work through at their own pace.

In reality, online school IS home school. I had to submit a declaration of intent with the state when I unenrolled Kye and Britt from the public school system. They fall under the “homeschool” umbrella.

However, I feel like it’s disrespectful to homeschool parents by saying having my kids take classes online is the same thing as a homeschooled parent who truly performs AS the teacher for their children.

Yes, I teach my kids all sorts of things all the time. Yes, I’m intentional in my parenting and pour into them. But I will not be sitting side by side with them and trying to explain the ins and outs of algebra or chemistry. I’d rather leave that to people much more knowledgeable on those topics!

What About Socialization?

With the people we’ve spoken to so far about our decision to transition to online school the most frequently asked question is if something happened negatively within the school system to cause us to leave – that answer (which I hope I already made clear) is NO! We’ve had fantastic experiences at both of the public schools our kids have attended.

The second question is about socialization.

And I’ll admit – it was Zach’s biggest hang-up at first as well and one that also, still, gives me pause about the decision.

The reality is homeschool has often had a stigma about it and that notion of what homeschooling is or looks like is NOT what it actually is anymore (or probably ever truly was either!).

We’re not hiding away from society and keeping our kids in some sort of bubble.

We already live very full lives with lots of experiences in which we meet all sorts of people. We are very active in our local congregation and church home as well as with other local churches. We’re very close to our large family circle. We have a large circle of friends and our children will remain active in sports as well as other activities.

I already have kids with great social skills and I don’t foresee this decision causing any of that to change. If anything I believe it will broaden our circles in allow for deeper connections with people because we will be able to be more intentional in those relationships.

How Our Days Will Be Structured

As a Babywise Mom you know I have to have a schedule. We had planned to be wellllll moved in our new house by now so it’s frustrating having to start this while living in chaos.

However, the rough schedule is for little kids to head to school, big kids get up and get themselves breakfast, do their school work for the day (should take 2-3 hours), do their additional material for the day (Kye the Dave Ramsey stuff, Britt whatever hair stuff we find), have outdoor time (choice of walking, swimming, work out routine, practicing sport, etc), eat lunch then have the afternoon free until the little kids get home at 3:00ish

My intent (once we move in and are settled) is to use my mornings to work while they work! We’ll meet up at lunchtime ๐Ÿ™‚ I love doing a morning walk and they will be encouraged to join me if/when desired too so we can have some quality time together.

I’m hoping to arrange any appointments, lessons, etc for noon and later to keep our mornings focused. The main overall goal is to leave lots of white space on all of our plates.

Britt wants to continue playing volleyball. Kye has decided to do the fishing. So those will be their two “things.” It’s also very important to us to have them as active and involved in as many youth-related church events as possible!

When the younger kids get home in the afternoons we’ll have some solid downtime before any activities really get rolling. If Britt, for example, were to go to the public middle school her bus wouldn’t drop off until close to 5!

I have never been a fan of the public school system’s attendance policies and am thankful for the freedom and flexibility this plan will allow us as a family too.

I’m sure we’ll sneak away to Disney a bit or plan for other fun “field trips” here and there too! ๐Ÿ˜‰

What About Tess and Spear?

Right now Tess and Spear are both in elementary school. I know many moms homeschool their kids all the way through and I know there are online options that could be a good fit for the younger kids as well.

Yall. I’m all about minimizing the plate right now – and bringing ALL FOUR kids home? Whew. That would be toooooo much for me to even attempt to handle at this point!

I’ve heard from SO many resources that it takes TIME to adjust to homeschool life and it makes the most sense to do this transition with the older two who are so independent and capable of handling things on their own and who can provide me with feedback and help navigate it all.

I’m not saying we won’t at some point decide to go this route with Spear and Tess too! Just not right now. I like knowing they are learning ALL the core basics in school! School at their ages is also FUN!

Britt and Kye are at the point where school isn’t NEARLY as fun anymore so why not be home and get through the schoolwork part of the day in a couple of hours, right?

My “plan” right now is to keep Spear and Tess in elementary school and then transition them to home with us when they reach middle school age. But we’ll see where this path leads! Nothing is set in stone!

What About School Milestones? Prom? Graduation?

Ugh yes, thinking about these sorts of school milestones does give me a bit of a punch in the gut regarding this decision.

However. If Covid taught me anything it taught me we don’t know what we don’t experience. I felt SO SAD that Kye missed out on the best parts of his 5th-grade year. I remember 5th grade and getting to be “top dog” and all the fun exciting moments. He didn’t get any of that.

And guess what? He didn’t miss it either. He doesn’t know what he didn’t have.

And just because an experience I had was special to me, doesn’t mean it would be the same for them either.

I also don’t even know how we, as parents, would navigate school dances anyway. Our loose plan was to actually host events at our house for all the kids to come over the same night as the dance. Maybe get dressed up for pictures, go to dinner, then come hang out and play games and such!

And even though our kids aren’t attending a local school – doesn’t mean they won’t be invited to the dances and events. We all know bringing a date from another school is like the ultimate flex ๐Ÿ˜‰

Kye will very likely be taking one class at the high school his sophomore year which would also, I believe, include him in the dances and activities should he desire.

I’m not sure how graduation itself will work – yall know me and you KNOW I’ll make sure it’s special and meaningful and we’ll do it big and celebrate however we end up doing it! I don’t know if they participate in the Dexter Mosley Act if they’d be allowed to walk at graduation or not – but I mean I’m not overly concerned about that. Let’s be real. It’s HOT at graduation and it’s LONG and boring for everyone haha

Reservations/Concerns I Have Beginning This Journey

As mentioned, I truly do trust God to lead us on this path so I don’t feel super concerned about it because I know it’ll all work out!

I think my biggest concern is probably finding that balance of having enough for the kids to do, learn, and be active while preserving that downtime.

It’s my nature to FILL THE PLATE so it’s going to be a constant effort on my part to resist doing that. Just because there may be an option to do things doesn’t mean we HAVE to do them or that doing them is what is best.

I think this mindset shift is going to take time to adjust for us all. It feels weird to be aiming for LESS to do when so much of our lives is adding more, more, more ya know?

I am also a bit concerned about the day-to-day until we get into a solid rhythm and routine. My goal is to have our “typical day” be me working while they do their stuff from 8-12 and I think it’s going to take awhile to get into that grove and figure out what works best for us.

My big-picture long-term concern is that the kids will resent me for this decision. My root, deep down, core fear always comes back to that rejection mindset. The fear that I’m not loveable and that my children will grow up to be adults and when they are able to choose whether or not to have a relationship with me or “love” me that they will choose to have nothing to do with me.

I pray (and feel strongly) that this decision will only bring our family closer together but I do have that deep-rooted fear that this will in some way cause them to eventually not want to be in my life. I know that fear is from Satan so I’m not dwelling on it but I do want to be fully transparent and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t there!

Advice and Insight

I would be honored to learn about others’ experiences! If you’re in the local Valdosta area and are on a similar schooling journey I’d also love to connect as it’d be great to add in a new circle of friends to our crew!

As always I am an open book in sharing our personal experiences and am also open to learning about others and eager to gain wisdom and insight and recommendations from those who have walked similar paths before ours!

5 Comments

  1. Katie Fowler
    August 7, 2023 / 9:22 pm

    I remember reading your blog post about school decisions for Kye in 1st grade back when you posted it! This is such an exciting change & I love hearing your thought process! Praying for Team Parker in the new year of transition.

    -Katie

  2. August 8, 2023 / 5:01 pm

    Homeschooling is wonderful! I’ll never regret more time with my child. From a fellow adoptive mum and homeschooler ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Heidi
    September 3, 2023 / 9:08 pm

    Homeschooling allows for amazing family connections and experiences. The freedom and flexibility are wonderful. Do give yourselves time to adjust, and the grace to make changes as you go along. Good luck!

  4. Elisabeth
    September 24, 2023 / 2:33 pm

    I’ve followed your blog for over a decade. I homeschool my four kids and I think you are going to do an awesome job and you will love it! In this age there are so many incredible resources and opportunities for homeschooled kids. The freedom to pursue their own interests at their own speed is just the best. If you’re still worried about the social side of things, check out homeschool groups in your area. We’re part of a group that hosts all kinds of events, offers drama, choir, phys ed, and so much more. Again, I think you’re the kind of mom who is going to shine in this venture and your children are going to thrive! best of luck

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