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Do You Need to Be Organized and Detoxified to Begin Homeschooling?

The Big Getting-Ready-to-Homeschool Question

Homeschool Detox NecessaryWell over a decade ago, when we lived in Florida, a friend (whose kids were in public school) called in desperation. Two of them were tanking in school and, given the environment, feeling worse and worse with each passing day.

She wanted to pull them out at the end of the semester, right after Christmas, but was wondering if she should leave them in school until the end of the year.

“If they stay in school until the end of the semester, what will they learn? What good will come of it?” I asked.

“Nothing,” she responded.

“Then why not pull them out tomorrow?” 

She did and never looked back. Sometimes there is a good reason to stay in school. But few people consider homeschooling if they see ample positive results from public school.

Yesterday in a homeschooling Facebook group, a woman said she wanted to start homeschooling right away, but her husband wanted her to wait until she was “organized and ready.” She asked for opinions on the situation. She also asked, “How much detox was required, if any?”

From what I’ve seen in the last 19 years, neither is required to begin homeschooling successfully. So I responded:

I don’t necessarily think they need a detox because honestly, I don’t know what that means. I see no reason why a kid who leaves school needs to (as is usually implied) sit around for X weeks doing nothing. I don’t think it helps them feel better.

On the other hand, I don’t think missing a month of “school” matters all that much. It’s a month. Schools get almost nothing done in a given month.

If your kids are hating school and doing terribly, staying there doesn’t do them an ounce of good. No need to keep them there for any reason.

Let them come home, help plan out what you are going to do, go to the library, read, draw, sing, stuff like that.  Then work your way into whatever you are going to try first. And leave room to adjust as you figure out what works for you.

Within an hour, a woman using the name “Megan Keller” responded thusly:

Your post was rude and highly offensive. If you don’t know what something means. Try not to comment and offend people.

I don’t know anyone named Megan Keller, she doesn’t show up in the group list, and I was unable to respond to her objection. The bottom of the message had this notice:

You cannot reply to this conversation. Either the recipient's account was disabled or its privacy settings don't allow replies.

Apparently “Megan” was using a fake name to give a cowardly slapdown followed by closing the account. Either that or she sent the insult and then blocked me to avoid any kind of real conversation. Either way, apparently she found it highly objectionable that someone would be of the opinion that detox (or prior organization?) might not be necessary. I found that notion interesting and worth discussing.

Do You Need to Be Organized to Homeschool Successfully?

Anyone who knows me at all, knows I am freakish about organization. I teach classes about it, I write about it, and I like doing it more than almost anything. Ultimately, yes, I do think “we live better and learn better with organization than with chaos,” as I say in my Organized Homsechool conference speech. (Yes, I also speak about it!)

But that’s not really the question at hand. What the woman asked was if she needed to wait to homeschool until she was organized and ready. And to that question, I almost universally say, “No!”

In my personal experience, every single time a parent asks if they should pull their kids out of school mid-year, the child’s school experience is so negative that staying in school (for any length of time) will do more harm than good. And if that’s the case, why bother?

While it’s good to be “organized and ready,” there is no reason your child should be in a negative, harmful environment while you get there. As I said in my (rude and highly offensive) response, there is plenty of positive — even educational stuff— your child can do while you are organizing and readying, including helping you get organized and ready.

Do You Need to Detox to Homeschool Successfully?

In the homeschooling world, “detox” is one of those generally nebulous words. It’s defined only to the point that it serves a purpose, but then becomes undefined when it requires explanation or clarification. Kind of like “unschooling.”

Most of the time, however, it’s used to mean some kind of “adjustment period” where kids can’t possible be asked to do anything that look, smells, or feels like “school” because they are so toxified by anything educational that it will cause them to implode.

So, yes, “Megan,” I do “know what something means,” I just don’t think the term is used consistently or logically. And I think both those things hurt homeschoolers, particularly new homeschoolers.

What I tend to see, instead, is that what the kids need to be doing right after they leave public school is pretty much what they’d need to be doing a year or two or three later. Reading, learning, finding out what’s interesting, and (even) figuring out why something is required and how it could be useful.

In other words — unless you’ve actually got a child with drug or serious mental health problems — if anyone needs detoxing, it’s probably the parents who think public school is the one and only right way to be educated.

How organized and “ready” were you when you began homeschooling. (Can you ever be ready?) Did you employ some kind of “detox” before you began?

{ 7 comments… add one }

  • Rebecca Hatch November 1, 2013, 10:08 am

    If I waited to be organized I still wouldn’t be homeschooling. Organization comes easier to some than to others. It’s an ongoing process. As for detoxifying, I think that is an on going process as well, kind of like repenting. You can still move forward while you are detoxing. Something that everyone should know and keep reminding themselves is that there will always be people who take offense to something you say. They live in waiting to pounce when anything could possibly be twisted to be offensive. It’s easiest to just decide now how you will be, offended or not. We will all at some time in our lives say things that are thoughtless, but that should be the exception and not the rule. I am rarely offended because I am not looking for it.
    ” Megan” had issues that had nothing to do with you or what you said. Thanks for all the great posts, keep them coming.

  • Alison Moore Smith November 1, 2013, 10:25 am

    Rebecca, that’s a great point. We organize and detox as we move along in the journey. :)

    Your position — of not being offended because you aren’t looking for offense — is a good one. I figure there is enough real, blatant, in-your-face offense that we don’t need to create more drama for ourselves. Eh?

    Most of the time, I just find human behavior interesting and curious. I do sometimes get offended or hurt by people I love, because of the relationship. But I almost never get offended by people I don’t know. And pretty much never by fake people. :)
    Alison Moore Smith wants to school you about Ethnic Halloween Costumes – Honor or Offense?My Profile

  • Clorinda Madsen November 1, 2013, 10:53 am

    We pulled my oldest out after kindergarten. I ended up pregnant with a difficult pregnancy, moving in the middle of it, more difficulties, two bouts of unemployment, more moves, and finally another pregnancy. Simply the act of getting the kids to and from school daily would have been EXTREMELY hard. Having to shift schools so many times in just a few years would have made it harder. I was not quite on bed rest but close, and I had health problems in between. I still don’t use a set curriculum and haven’t had much chance to invest in much. However, my kids beg me to show them something, teach them things, read to them, etc. They haven’t suffered. They push for their own education. Sure we’re probably behind a little in some subjects but they catch on quickly. Organization is NOT necessary. If it were, they’d still be in school, three years later.

  • Kingpin November 1, 2013, 12:32 pm

    Detox is one of those things homeschoolers talk about a lot without really thinking about. They parrot what they’ve heard, but can’t tell you what they mean. (Like Saxon math. I’m with you on that one!)

    Sure, kids who aren’t doing well in school need to do something else. But they don’t need to go into a rubber room and be medicated. They just need…to do something else. Coming home from school IS something else.

    I don’t know if we’re on the same fb groups or not, but I couldn’t find “Megan Keller,” either. I think it was just some crazy off their meds looking for someone to pounce on. Weird.

  • MKS November 1, 2013, 1:19 pm

    I think it helps to be organized (yes I have been to your great class three times!!!!!) but I don’t think she meant home organization, I think she meant having lesson plans ready.

  • Joyce Kinmont November 1, 2013, 8:33 pm

    “Healing” is a better word than “detox.” I suggest that moms who bring children home from a bad school experience spend the rest of the year doing things together, like camping, gardening, etc. I suggest that the moms read to the family, any age, from good books and upgrade their viewing habits. And drop math for a while, if that was the problem. Basically, do nothing that feels like school, but spend your time well.

    My favorite experience was with a mom whose 12 yr old son was failing math and hating school. I asked if there was anything he liked doing with her. She said he liked to garden, so they gardened. Six weeks later she called to tell me he had his own lawn mowing business. That courageous mom saved her son.

  • Melissa Danner November 3, 2013, 5:33 pm

    I couldn’t agree more with you in regards to detox after public school. It’s really about teaching the child to love learning again. I pulled my daughter after 5th grade due to severe bullying issues that were not being addressed. We just winged it at first. I got to say the first year crazy but we learned as we went. We definitely were not organized but we found through time what worked for us. When we brought her home she HATED reading now we can’t keep her away from books. For 2 years she read novels for language arts, reading over 200 in that time period. They weren’t the 150 page ones either. Her state testing scores have gone from 30-40% to 90%, I consider that a success.

    As for Megan, she is in a few other groups I’m a part of. I know she has an autistic son & sometimes those of us with special needs children can get offended easily. I wasn’t offended by any means but maybe your words reminded her of what someone else had previously said.
    I truly have enjoyed a few of your blogs. It’s nice to read another persons point of view.

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