It's that time of year where we have to make decisions about NEXT year, and sometimes it feels unfair that we're already forced with big decisions when all we really want is a break.
One of these decisions that our family faces this time of year is regarding homeschool enrichment programs. We have typically spent one day a week outside the home in a charter school program. But some years, it has worked out better than others. Whether you're exploring a charter school, private school, or co-op, I've gathered some helpful guidelines for choosing a program that's right for you.
1. Does the program align with your values and homeschool philosophy?
We once joined a homeschool community that on paper sounded like just what we wanted, but then when we got there, it wasn't at all what we thought. Although it was fun for my daughter, it didn't actually enrich her learning. Instead, it felt like we were giving up a day of valuable learning time. When searching for a homeschool program, make sure that it fits so well into your life regarding values and philosophy that it feels like you aren't sacrificing anything to get there.
2. Is the program well-organized?
A good teacher should be well-organized, but a good principal should be extremely well-organized. If the leader of your homeschool program isn't well organized, it will show. No one wants to drop their kid off to chaos, or stick around and witness it all day. Scope out the level of organization in the program, and don't dismiss it as just a small issue.
3. How's the timing?
Like many other activities we do, if the timing doesn't work out, then this will just not work out. Don't try to cram it in there and make it fit like a spatially unaware toddler playing with a shape-sorting toy. If it doesn't fit, it doesn't fit.
4. What are the extra commitments like?
Will you be asked to volunteer? Are there a lot of extra activities to join in, or responsibilities you'll have to pick up surrounding this homeschool program? Sometimes, these things can sneak up on you, so it's best to ask first.
One year, the homeschool program we did requested 20 volunteer hours! That's quite a bit for a one-day-a-week program! I had to bring two little boys with me to make copy after copy of worksheets, only to realize that loading kids up on worksheets is my least favorite teaching style! In a way, spending more time in the classroom like this taught me that it wasn't a good fit!
5. Who else is doing this program?
If you're going to be at the program weekly, or send your children there weekly, you'll want to know the other families. Unless it's a brand new program, a good amount of families is an indication that the program is healthy and thriving. A smaller program also might be the perfect fit, but it's also possible that it will get cancelled more often, have trouble lining up volunteers and teachers, etc.
We are so blessed to live in a time when there is an abundance of homeschooling options, and I hope that this helps the decisions that come with that blessing a little bit easier on you!